ecause SANE programs follow cases from the initial evidence collection through prosecution, they often gather valuable data on the results of the evidence collected. Data can include information such as the likelihood of finding sperm at a specific site at a specific time and the likelihood of a sexual assault victim being injured during the
assault.16 Such data can aid law enforcement and prosecution efforts. For example, the above information can help prosecutors who need to explain that the lack of injuries or the absence of sperm does not mean that a woman was not raped.17
Data that SANEs collect can also help build a more accurate picture of the nature of specific types of victimization (e.g., drug-facilitated assaults), victims' health care needs, and reasons why victims report or do not report to law enforcement.
The Memphis, Tennessee, Sexual Assault Resource Center has kept frequency data on cases since its inception 25 years ago. Recognizing the importance of this information to ongoing improvement in community response to victims, staff members (which include SANEs, legal advocates, and counselors) are involved in several collaborative research and data-sharing projects. Through a U.S. Department of Justice grant, a community task force is examining situations where adolescent girls are sexually assaulted by an acquaintance after getting into or being forced into the offender's vehicle. The purpose of the project is to identify risk factors and to develop interventions. Another research project through the University of Memphis, Center for Research on Women, is using center data to look more broadly at sexual assault victimization. Center staff members also participate in weekly multidisciplinary case reviews of child sexual abuse cases. The review meetings ensure that all investigative data on each case are considered and have facilitated more cases being accepted by prosecutors and more plea bargains.18
Given the recent emergence of SANE programs, it is important to gather qualitative and quantitative data to ensure the efficacy of the SANE evidence collection model and victim satisfaction with the quality of care and treatment received. Such data could be useful in garnering support to continue SANE programs and to facilitate ongoing improvements in the SANE response.
The Sexual Assault Resource Service (SARS), a SANE program based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, worked with the State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in 1996 to complete an audit of rape kits sent to their laboratory for analysis from jurisdictions around the state. Of the 97 kits analyzed, SANEs from SARS completed 24 kits and non-SANEs completed 73 kits (SARS was the only SANE program in the state at the time). SANE kits were significantly more complete and better documented. They maintained the proper chain of evidence more consistently than kits completed by other nurses or physicians. Also, SANEs made no major errors that threatened the integrity of the evidence collected. Evidence from 13 of the 73 kits collected by non-SANEs, however, would not be admissible in court because it was impossible to identify the person who collected the evidence.19
In addition, SARS periodically conducts patient-satisfaction surveys in conjunction with other studies of treatment outcome. A 1996 study asked 34 patients to rate their satisfaction with the care they received by the police, hospital staff, and SANE on a 5-point Likert scale. The 29 patients (85 percent) who responded rated their satisfaction with the police at 3.4, with hospital staff at 4.0, and with SANEs at 4.4.20