Nova Scotia

SANE program for sexual assault victims expands to Sydney

Victims of sexual assault in Sydney will soon have new treatment services available to them. Launched by the Every Woman's Centre, the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program starts on Monday.
The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program will be facilitated through the Cape Breton Regional Hospital.

Victims of sexual assault in Sydney, N.S., will have new treatment services available to them beginning Monday.

The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program, also known as SANE, is being expanded to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. It is being launched by the Every Woman's Centre.

"It's important to victims of sexual assault to know that their health and well-being will be supported ... that they will be believed and that they're treated with dignity and respect," said Louise Smith-MacDonald, centre co-ordinator.

Smith-MacDonald said she hopes the availability of the SANE program will encourage more victims to seek help after an assault.

"It's about making sure that victims are treated and they learn that the program is something that they can trust."

Trained nurses on call 24/7

Twelve registered nurses will be on call 24/7 to assist anyone over the age of 13 who has experienced a recent sexual assault. 

When victims go to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, one of the SANE nurses will be called. 

While they wait, victims will be given a private, quiet room within the emergency department. 

Louise Smith-MacDonald is the co-ordinator of the Every Women's Centre in Sydney. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

The SANE program is currently offered in Antigonish and the Strait and Port Hawkesbury areas.

Last week, Premier Stephen McNeil said the program should be made available in Truro, after a young sexual assault victim sought help from the Colchester East Hants Health Centre but was given pamphlets and turned away.  

Sexual assault nurse examiners are trained to collect evidence, a practice commonly called a rape kit exam. They are also trained on how to send victims on for further services to help them recover. 

More choices

Smith-MacDonald said the program also gives victims the option to have any forensic evidence frozen, allowing them up to six months to lay charges. 

"In our program, a victim won't have to make that decision immediately," she said. "They can decide during those six months whether to go forward with a charge or not."

Sexual assault victims can call the toll-free number 1-844-858-8036 and then be connected to a SANE program nurse. 

"This is a community response to a horrendous issue that is gentler and takes into account the victim more," said Smith-MacDonald. 

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From people around the corner to those around the world, Norma Jean MacPhee has more than a decade of experience telling their stories on the radio, TV and online. Reach Norma Jean at