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Las Vegas facing shortage of sexual assault nurse examiners

Posted at 11:41 AM, May 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-20 14:41:33-04

Every year, hundreds of adults are sexually assaulted in Las Vegas, but if they want to gather evidence to put their abuser in jail there are few resources for them. 

A special nurse known as a "sexual assault nurse examiner" or "SANE nurse" is needed to perform rape kits on victims of sexual assault. 

In Las Vegas, University Medical Center is the only hospital where a SANE nurse is available for victims over the age of 12. There's only one primary SANE nurse at UMC and one other nurse who can relieve her. 

Dr. Dale Carrison oversees the SANE program at UMC. He tells us the hospital completes 60-80 sexual assault exams per month.

He maintains that patient wait times aren't an issue. 

"Occasionally we are [busy] because we have two or three that come in within an hour," he said. 

But a victim of sexual assault who went through the sexual assault exam felt the repercussions of the lack of resources.

The victim asked to remain anonymous. She tells us she was raped by her child's father. DNA evidence helped put him behind bars.

"I was waiting for a long time. I wasn't the only person. I had to wait a long time for the bed, and the whole time as I was waiting, I don't know, I just felt gross," she said. 

13 Action News asked Dr. Carrison why there aren't more SANE nurses on staff at UMC. He said it's been difficult finding nurses who are certified for the job. 

"In addition to being trained in the collection and preservation of evidence, they have to be trained in how to go to court and how to testify," he said. "It's a very complex process." 

Advocates, like Susan Meuschke of the Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, think more resources are necessary for victims in the Las Vegas valley. It's something the coalition plans to focus on fixing this year. 

"To have that conversation, to understand why we have so few, how we can support the development of more and what will that look like" Meuschke said. 

The victim we talked to thinks the system isn't ideal, but she said she would go through it again if it means putting her abuser in jail. 

"You're going to feel what you feel and you have to just press through it if you want that person to be  held accountable," she said.