The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office recognizes that all parts of society, including individuals, families, and communities, must come together and work to end sexual violence, which can have lasting, harmful effects on victims, their families and communities.
That is why during National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Victim Assistance Program with the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office held a mock trial for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE).
The event was held on Friday April 20, 2018 at the Multnomah County Circuit Courthouse and the Honorable Eric J. Bergstrom presided.
SANEs are registered nurses who have specialized training and clinical experience in providing forensic examinations of sexual assault victims. These individuals work closely with law enforcement officers, forensic lab staff, child protective services, prosecutors, sexual assault advocates, and crisis programs.
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office has been holding a mock sexual assault trial for the last 10 years.
“Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners are often among the first to see the victim and to document that person’s injuries,” said Kendra Bonetti, a sexual assault victim advocate coordinator for the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office. “It’s extremely important that they have the ability to articulate what they documented in their reports. The information they testify to could potentially become the most deciding part of a trial.”
This year’s mock sexual assault trial came from a real-world case that the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office prosecuted. The names and some details were altered for the protection of the victim. The mock trial included jury selection, opening statements and then the SANE was called to the witness stand. The SANE volunteer was subject to questioning from a deputy district attorney and an attorney playing the role as a criminal defense attorney. Afterwards, the group had a debrief with Judge Bergstrom.
“We wanted to make this as realistic as possible,” Bonetti said. “It’s not uncommon for a SANE nurse to issue their reports and then a significant amount of time to potentially pass before a trial occurs. Many of the SANE nurses may go years without ever being called as a witness in a criminal trial. This experience can help them prepare and also take the fear out of being called as a witness.”
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office is proud to host these mock trials for SANE professionals.
“A victim will come into contact with several different people and agencies during the initial reporting process and eventual prosecution,” said Julie Jacobs, a victim advocate with the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office. “It’s nice to have this coordination and to see that it works well. Our focus is on the person making the report and to make it a less intrusive situation.”
To provide around the clock coverage for a “rapid response” approach towards responding to an incident of sexual violence, most SANE professionals are contracted through an organization that schedules them to be on call to respond to six counties in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Some hospitals in the metro are now staffing SANE professionals to be available on site 24 hours a day.
“During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we want to do everything we can to raise awareness of sexual violence,” said Jacobs. “We also want to do everything we can to continue to educate Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners to help prepare them and to introduce them into the criminal justice system.”
Contact: Brent Weisberg, Communications Director