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Ms. Debra S. Holbrook
May 14, 2002
Good morning Chairman Biden and members of the Committee. Thank you for asking
me to be here today. As a Registered Nurse and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner
(SANE) in the Emergency Department at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford,
DE, I coordinate a team of forensic nurses who are specially trained to care for
sexual assault and violence victims of all ages. We are on call at all times to
collect DNA, trace and photographic evidence, assure advocacy and testify in
court. Forensic nurses are the only specialty that have answered healthcare's
call to care for victims of sexual assault. We provide a vital link in the
Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) between healthcare the law enforcement.
For years, nurses across the country have witnessed patients being re-victimized
when they came to ERs, waiting for hours in crowded public waiting areas,
telling their stories countless times, and being traumatized by judgmental
practitioners without forensic training, ruining vital DNA. Shockingly enough,
this is still the level of care that 8 out of 10 victims receive at any given
time in the United States.
Senator Biden and DE House Representative Tina Fallon have been instrumental in
helping our Program become the Model for Delaware and throughout the country,
but we share many of the same problems as the rest of the nation. Kits may sit
on shelves for years while perpetrators rape again and again. Running these kits
and entering them in CODIS databanks would, undoubtedly, link perpetrators to
many unsolved sex crimes. We are in need of Gas Chromatic Mass Spectrometer
machines to be made available in every state to analyze specimens for victims of
drug facilitated rape and equipment that stores images and communicates to other
teams for second opinion. We need federal mandates that victims of all ages be
taken to trained and regulated SANE teams with a team approach, and funding for
salaries and education to keep these programs viable. Forensics in this country
is mandated for dead victims, but not required for those we treat who are very
The International Association of Forensic Nursing serves as a clearinghouse and
international resource for SANEs. IAFN sets standards of care and nursing
practice, provides training and education, and through its Forensic Nurse
Certification Board, tests and certifies practicing SANEs.
SANE teams across the country are in jeopardy of closing due to a lack of both
funding and cooperation from law enforcement. Many prosecutors do not understand
how crucial we are to pulling together cases that yield convictions. Melanie
Withers, Deputy Attorney General in Georgetown, Delaware stated, " SANE programs
are the best thing I've seen to benefit victims since I've been a prosecutor."
How do I tell the mother of a 3 year old that because she initially took her
child to an ER that did not have a SANE team, it's too late to collect the
evidence? Or a 20 year old given Ecstasy without her knowledge that we can't
test for it in our state? How do we tell countless rape victims that their kits
are useless because untrained personnel allowed wet swabs to mold, or that the
kits were not even opened?
This legislation has the power to forever change the scenario for these victims.
By mandating that the SART Team approach be utilized with SANEs providing the
forensic healthcare, victims will never have to fear playing "hit or miss" with
their judicial outcome. Increased numbers of perpetrators will be convicted,
states will have standardization in equipment, funding and accountability, and
properly collected DNA evidence will be analyzed, logged in CODIS and shared via
On behalf of the millions who are raped annually, I thank you for your
consideration of this legislation.