Washington, D.C.—Today, President Biden signed into law the Supporting Access to Nurse Exams (SANE) Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Congresswoman Deborah Ross (NC-02) and Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14), which passed the House and Senate as part of the government funding bill, H.R. 2471. Included in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), this legislation will address the nationwide shortage of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs), who are instrumental in providing medical care to survivors of sexual assault and collecting forensic evidence. VAWA also includes a Ross amendment that will open funding opportunities for the development of databases detailing where SANEs are located, a pressing issue in North Carolina.

“This week, we took long-overdue action to assist and protect survivors of domestic violence by finally reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act,” said Congresswoman Ross. “I’m excited that this package includes the Supporting Access to Nurse Exams Act, which will enable more survivors of sexual assault to receive timely, trauma-informed care. Nurses with specialized expertise can play a crucial role in providing survivors the care and justice they deserve, but many health care facilities do not have the resources necessary to train and retain SANE-certified nurses. Our legislation will address this nationwide shortage and improve vital care for survivors. I’m glad we could accomplish this in a bipartisan way for survivors in North Carolina and across the country. ”

“As a former prosecutor, I know how traumatic it can be for survivors of sexual violence to report their assault to medical professionals and law enforcement,” said Congressman Joyce. “That’s why I introduced the SANE Act to address the nation-wide shortage of certified sexual assault nurse examiners and ensure survivors don’t face unnecessary hurdles to receive an exam from nurses trained to detect, treat, and document injuries caused by an assault. I thank Congresswoman Ross for joining me in this important effort and am glad Congress acted quickly to get it passed. With our bill now signed into law, we can get to work increasing access to SANE-certified nurses in our communities and improving care for survivors of sexual violence.”

“We applaud the House for passing the bipartisan FY22 omnibus package, which includes the Supporting Access to Nurse Exams Act and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act,” said Samantha Cadet, director of federal affairs, appropriations, and national coalitions for RAINN. “Both pieces of legislation will help expand critical access to medical and legal services for survivors of sexual assault, especially those in marginalized and underserved communities. We are grateful to Congressman Joyce and Congresswoman Ross for their efforts to advance these essential bills and are very glad to see them signed into law by the President.”

SANEs are registered nurses who have completed additional education and training to provide comprehensive medical and emotional care, as well as legal support, to survivors of sexual assault. SANEs are specifically trained to properly collect DNA samples and take notes on testimony that can later be invaluable during a criminal case. A 2016 study conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found not only that there is a critical shortage of SANE-certified nurses, but also that victims of sexual violence who were seen by a SANE following an assault were significantly more likely to see their perpetrator successfully prosecuted.

Specifically, the bipartisan legislation will amend the DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act of 2004 to ensure the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam Grant Program is dedicated to the training, procurement, and retention of SANE-certified nurses. The Sexual Assault Forensic Exam grants could be used in the following ways: 

  • to establish qualified regional SANE training programs;
  • to provide full and part time salaries for SANEs, including pediatric SANEs; and
  • to increase access to SANEs by otherwise providing training, education, or technical assistance relating to the collection, preservation, analysis, and use of DNA samples and DNA evidence collected by SANEs.

Additionally, the legislation will require the Attorney General to prioritize grants requested by qualified entities that would increase the local and regional availability of full and part time SANEs in rural and tribal areas, and in areas where there is a health professional shortage or an underserved population.

VAWA and Congresswoman Ross’ legislation were signed into law as part of the bipartisan government funding package. Learn about her other priorities included in the bill by clicking here.