At the request of law enforcement and/or Child Protective Services, a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) helps Children’s Advocacy Center of Hidalgo and Starr Counties (CACHSC) by providing a medical evaluation for a child victim of abuse. This sexual assault examination is important because it observes the child’s physical and mental well-being after suspected sexual abuse.

Today we’ll go more in depth about what the SANE Program entails, the purpose of the exam, and frequently asked questions.

The Purpose of a SANE Exam

If your child has been a victim of sexual abuse, a SANE Exam is a critical step in ensuring the child is mentally and physically healthy. 

A nurse with advanced training in sexual assault exams will perform a medical examination with your child to:

  1. Help assess whether your child has injuries that need to be treated.
  2. Answer any questions you or your child have.
  3. Provide reassurance that your child’s body is healthy and their body is normal.
  4. Screen your child for sexually transmitted diseases.
  5. Gather DNA evidence as part of the investigative process.

What to Expect in a SANE Exam

A SANE exam may seem like a process that may hurt your child, but it is a process that we conduct in a very safe, delicate manner. In these exams, the nurse will often have a conversation with you and your child to allow you both to feel more comfortable. At this point the nurse will get your child’s medical history and any information regarding the reason for the exam. 

The nurse will then perform a head to toe physical exam of your child to check their health. Afterwards, the nurse examines the child’s area that was affected in the sexual assault to find out if they have any injuries or illnesses that needs to be treated.

This part of the exam is done with an SDFI (high-powered magnification lense) which lets the nurse see tiny details that can be documented as evidence. If required, the evidence will be collected, and the nurse will draw blood or take swabs of the child’s bodily fluids to screen for infections.

FAQs About the SANE Exam

Will a SANE exam harm my child?

No. The child’s well-being is our number one priority in a SANE exam, and in the vast majority of cases, the exam won’t hurt your child.

Is a SANE exam similar to a woman’s pelvic exam?

No. In SANE exams, the nurse will only do a visual exam of the child’s private area in a non-invasive manner. 

Will the SANE exam upset my child?

In most cases, no. Nurses who perform SANE exams are specially trained on how to conduct the exam in a way that is child sensitive and reduces any discomfort to the child.

Common Myths Regarding SANE exams

Many medical and non-medical personnel think that children who allege sexual abuse will have evidence of abuse during the SANE exam. The reality is, however, that a large amount (over 94%) of children who are sexually abused have no notable proof of injury upon examination. The reasons behind this are:

  • Children generally do not tell right away after they’ve experienced abuse because they typically know their abuser and have been manipulated to let the abuse happen by someone they thought they knew/loved/trusted.
  • They had been threatened that if they tell, they or their family members will get hurt. This delay happens more often than not and causes a time period where injuries that may have been sustained would heal to the point where it’s hardly visible.
  • The tissue surrounding the private parts in their bottom and groin area does not injure easily. Injuries that do happen frequently heal at a fast rate and without residual scarring.
  • Many cases of child sexual assault involve coercion and intimidation rather than physical force by the alleged perpetrator, limiting the chance of a child sustaining a physical injury that can be identified on examination.

It’s never too late to help children recover from their trauma. If you suspect a child is being abused, call your local law enforcement at 9-1-1 or reach out to the Child Protective Services hotline at 1-800-252-5400. This number is toll free and available 24/7.

Start the healing process today. Support us as we continue our efforts to spread awareness and build hope and resilience for all children and family members affected