Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) Program

The Sexual Assault Reform Act (SARA) became effective in February, 2001. The law requires the establishment of sexual assault forensic examiner (SAFE) programs in hospitals designated as 24-hour centers of excellence.

As a result of this legislation, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) developed standards for approving SAFE hospital programs, approving programs that train individual SAFE examiners, and certifying individual SAFE examiners.

DOH-approved SAFE programs and specifically trained health professionals will ensure that victims of sexual assault are provided with competent, compassionate and prompt care, while providing the most advanced technology associated with DNA and other sexual assault forensic evidence collection and preservation.

The SAFE program philosophy is based upon the belief that providing a specialized standard of medical care and evidence collection to victims of sexual assault will support recovery and prevent further injury or illness arising from victimization, and may increase the successful prosecution of sex offenders for victims who choose to report crimes to law enforcement.

The goals of the SAFE program are to:

  1. provide timely, compassionate, patient-centered care in private settings that provide emotional support and reduces further trauma to the patient;
  2. provide quality medical care to patients who report sexual assault, including evaluation, treatment, referral and follow-up;
  3. ensure the quality of collection, documentation, preservation and custody of physical evidence by utilizing a trained and New York State Department of Health (DOH)-certified sexual assault forensic examiner to perform exams;
  4. utilize an interdisciplinary approach by working with rape crisis centers and other service providers, law enforcement and prosecutors' offices to effectively meet the needs of sexual assault victims and the community;
  5. provide expert testimony when needed if patients choose to report crimes to law enforcement; and,
  6. improve and standardize data regarding the incidence of sexual assault victims seeking treatment in hospital emergency departments.

The DOH-approved SAFE program is an interdisciplinary collaborative effort involving hospital-based SAFE programs, rape crisis centers, law enforcement, prosecutors' offices and other appropriate service agencies. These organizations provide a coordinated response that not only effectively meets the needs of sexual assault survivors, but can also improve the overall community response to sexual assault.

SAFE 24-hour Centers of Excellence

The Department is required to designate SAFE 24-hour Centers of Excellence in urban, suburban and rural areas of the state to give as many state residents as possible ready access to SAFE programs. Applications from any general hospital licensed under Article 28 with an emergency department are considered. Hospitals with existing programs must apply for Department of Health designation as a SAFE Center of Excellence. Hospitals are required to provide a private room in or near the emergency department with access to a shower and accessible for the disabled. There are reporting and equipment requirements for hospital programs.

Individual SAFE Examiners

Every DOH-approved SAFE program is required to have specially trained examiners who are certified by the Department of Health and credentialed according to the individual institution's procedures to provide forensic examination to sexual assault victims in accordance with Section 2805-I of Article 28 of Public Health Law. The Department has developed standards for sexual assault forensic examiners. The Department will certify individual sexual assault forensic examiners who meet these standards. Individuals who may seek certification include those with current licensure as a registered nurse, nurse practitioner, physician, or physician assistant. The Department will also re-certify sexual assault forensic examiners every three years. SARA requires that the SAFE meet the patient within 60 minutes of arriving at the hospital.

Training Programs

In accordance with the SAFE standards established by the Department, a forty hour didactic and clinical training course must be provided to individual examiners through a training program approved by the New York State Department of Health. Only training programs which demonstrate to the Department the ability to provide training that meets the minimum standards and requirements and enter into a formal agreement with the Department can provide training related to the Department's issuance of certificates of qualifications. At least one faculty member must be an active DOH-certified SAFE examiner.

If you as an individual, or if your hospital is interested in being designated by the Department as a SAFE professional or SAFE Center of Excellence, or if you are interested in establishing a DOH approved Training Program, please complete the appropriate application and mail it, with required documentation, to:

NYS Department of Health Rape Crisis Program
Bureau of Women, Infant & Adolescent Health
Corning Tower, Room 821
Empire State Plaza
Albany, New York 12237-0621

For further information contact:

Rape Crisis Program
Bureau of Women, Infant & Adolescent Health
New York State Department of Health
Corning Tower, Room 821
Empire State Plaza
Albany, New York 12237-0621
Phone: (518) 474-3368

Additional Information