There are more than 196,000 registered nurses in Illinois. Only 32 nurses in the state are certified by the International Association of Forensic Nurses to work with adult sexual assault patients. Twelve of these sexual assault nurse examiners, known as SANE or forensic nurses, are certified to treat children.
Nearly 4,500 patients were seen in emergency rooms in the state for alleged, suspected or confirmed sexual abuse or rape in 2016, the most recent year the Illinois Department of Public Health has data available. And not every victim goes to a hospital. Last year, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority data recorded almost 10,000 people who received services from state-funded rape crisis centers.
Despite health and government officials’ recommendations that sexual assault patients be treated by nurses trained to recognize trauma and collect evidence, many nurses receive no such training.
This month, the attorney general’s office said it is working with Illinois lawmakers to draft legislation that would require hospitals have a specially trained medical provider present within 90 minutes of a sexual assault patient’s arrival. Hospitals would be required to implement this by 2023.
In a statement, the Illinois Health and Hospital Association said the group supports SANE programs but that training so many nurses, in a specialty the group says few pursue or complete, is not feasible within that time frame.