Sexual assaults occur at a high rate in low income and high crime neighborhoods in Chicago and Cook County. In the last five years, there were nearly 8,000 sexual assault cases reported in the city of Chicago. Cook County Health (CCH) hospitals see a significant number of sexual assault victims each year, and it is believed many other victims fail to report the nature of their injuries at hospital admission. The National Research Council estimates that as much as 80% of sexual assaults in the country go unreported to the police.

A needs assessment conducted by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority found there was a massive state-wide shortage of medical staff who are prepared and trained to work with survivors of sexual assault. Health workers in Illinois who provide care to survivors of sexual assault often lack training in sexual violence and forensic evidence collection. In an effort to mitigate this problem, the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Office has incorporated the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program into its initiatives. The program will increase the number of SANEs working in Illinois by providing high quality, consistent education and support for registered nurses and other professionals servicing sexual assault survivors. Survivors will be assured of receiving quality patient care; full, fair and accurate forensic evaluations; and a multidisciplinary approach that holds offenders accountable for these horrific crimes.

CCH will have 12 nurses trained per year for the next three years, totaling 36 SANE nurses by September 2022. CCH will offer a multitude of professional development opportunities for nurses engaged with the SANE program as well as continuing education opportunities. In addition, all nurses will be encouraged to participate in community engagement activities such as attending and presenting at community lectures, local and national conferences related to the SANE program and working with sexual assault survivors.