Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program
Emergency Care

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) are registered nurses who have completed specialized education and clinical preparation in medical forensic care for patients who have experienced sexual assault or abuse. Delivered through contracted service providers, on-call SANE nurses provide immediate care within five days of a sexual assault to people who would like supportive care, including medical attention, information about resources, as well as the option to have forensic evidence collected. 

The SANE program provides response, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and offers the following options:

  • Medical examination
  • Forensic examination
  • Expert testimony in a court of law
  • Supportive care and follow-up for victims
  • Collection and storage of forensic evidence (up to six months) if the victim/survivor is unable or not ready to proceed with a police investigation immediately but would like to consider the option to do so later 
  • Telephone response line for immediate sexual assault information and support

Location of emergency departments and health centres that offer SANE response through this program

Note:  Please check our temporary closures page to make sure the facility you want to reach is available.

Aberdeen Hospital (New Glasgow)
835 East River Road

Cape Breton Regional Hospital (Sydney)
1482 George Street

Cobequid Community Health Centre (Lower Sackville)
40 Freer Lane

Dartmouth General Hospital (Dartmouth)
325 Pleasant Street

Halifax Infirmary (QEII, Halifax)
1799 Robie Street

IWK Health Centre (Halifax)
5980 University Ave (Emergency Entrance is on the South Street Side)

Lindsay’s Health Centre for Women (Antigonish)
204 Kirk Place, 219 Main Street

St. Francis Xavier University Health Centre  (Antigonish)
Bloomfield Centre 305

St. Martha’s Regional Hospital (Antigonish)
25 Bay Street

Strait Richmond Hospital (Cleveland, Richmond Co.)
138 Hospital Road, Evanston

Valley Regional Hospital (Kentville)
150 Exhibition Street, Kentville

Yarmouth Regional Hospital (Yarmouth)
60 Vancouver Street


How do I access this program?

SANE services are supportive, nonjudgement and confidential. SANE care can be provided to you by doing one of the following:

  1. Go to any open emergency department. At those centres where SANE Program response is provided, the staff will call the SANE. At other locations, staff will coordinate care or provide information regarding nearest SANE response site.
  2. Call local police or RCMP
  3. Through your primary health care provider
  4. SANE 24 hour response line:
  • Annapolis Valley Area: 1-833-577-SANE(7263)
  • Halifax area: 902-425-0122
  • Guysborough, Antigonish, Pictou and Richmond Counties: 1-877-880-SANE(7263)
  • Sydney area: 1-844-858-8036
  • Yarmouth area: 1-833-577-SANE(7263)

What is the medical examination?

The medical examination conducted by a SANE may involve:

  • Taking a medical history
  • Collecting and documenting details of the assault/abuse to help identify potential infections, injuries and/or treatment required
  • Taking blood and urine samples to test for pregnancy and/or infections (follow-up testing may also be recommended)
  • A general physical exam
  • An internal exam may also by performed at this time

The victim/survivor can stop the medical or forensic examinations at any time.

What is a forensic examination?

A forensic examination may be conducted if the victim/survivor chooses, within the first few days following an assault.

It is preferable, but not mandatory, for the victim/survivor not to shower, bathe, douche, use the washroom, change clothes, eat/drink, or clean teeth until the time of the exam if evidence is being collected to maintain any potential evidence, should the person choose this option. However, evidence collection is still possible following these activities and should not deter anyone from seeking these options.  Bringing a change of clothing to the hospital and/or the clothing worn at the time of the assault may be beneficial, in the event clothing collection is recommended as part of the evidence collection procedure.

A forensic examination conducted by a SANE may involve:

  • Collecting clothing for evidence
  • A head to toe visual exam
  • Taking photographs of injuries
  • Taking swabs from different areas of the body for possible evidence
  • Collecting blood and/or urine samples for toxicology

This process may take about two hours to complete. Only the SANE nurse(s) and other emergency department personnel need to be present during this exam. Other emergency department personnel will be involved only as necessary in some aspects of care (during triage/admission, for special tests which may be required, etc) although usually brief and not generally for the exam itself. The victim/survivor may wish a support person to be present as well (i.e. a friend or advocate). The police are not present during the exam. 

The victim/survivor can stop the medical or forensic examinations at any time.

What happens to the evidence collected by the SANE at the examination?

It is up to the victim/survivor to decide what they want to do with forensic evidence. There are two options:

  1. Immediately report the assault to the police. If the victim/survivor chooses this, the police will be notified and forensic evidence will be handed over to them at that time.
  2. Have the forensic evidence collected and stored by the SANE Program for up to six months. If the victim/survivor decides not to file a report with the police right away, they can still have a forensic examination to collect evidence.  If the victim/survivor decides to report the sexual assault within the six month period, they will need to contact the SANE coordinator and provide consent to do so. The SANE coordinator will then transfer the forensic evidence to police and police will continue with the investigation.

Learn more