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Forensic Nurse Examiners versus Doctors for the Forensic Examination of Rape and Sexual Assault Complainants: A Systematic Review

NCJ Number
Clare Toon; Kurinchi Gurusamy
Date Published
May 2014
56 pages

The authors of this research review aimed to compare the reliability and efficacy of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners/Forensic Nurse Examiners with that of non-SANE health professionals in the conduct of the forensic medical examination and the collection of forensic evidence (rape kit) from the complainants of rape and sexual assault.


Sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) or Forensic nurse examiners (FNE) are fully qualified nurses, trained to gather forensic evidence in rape and sexual assault cases. The authors note that FNE/SANE are less expensive than their doctor counterparts, and this review compares the reliability and efficacy of FNE/SANE health professionals with that of doctors. Treatment by forensic nurses results in better outcomes than treatment by doctors in a number of cases. Complainants receive better medical care: they are more likely to have a forensic examination (rape kit) and to have it documented, and they are more likely to receive STI and pregnancy prophylaxis than those in the non-SANE group. More rape kits in the SANE group were admissible as evidence in court from complainants handled by forensic nurses than doctors, however no difference was found in conviction or prosecution rates. The following outcomes were used to quantify the efficacy of the SANEs: complainant quality of life, conviction and prosecution rates, complainant mortality within 30 days, time from complaint to examination, provision of STI, pregnancy and HIV prophylaxis, collection and documentation of rape kits and forensic examination, number of rape kits admissible as evidence, and the average cost per case. There was no data available on the complainants’ quality of life. The authors conclude that more research is needed, as the evidence base is weak. Publisher Abstract Provided