Lauren Acosta, Ph.D., RN, SANE-A is a dedicated forensic sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) with a passion for supporting survivors of sexual assault as they begin their paths to healing.
With extensive training in nursing, Lauren has made a significant impact in the field as an educator and mentor focused on post-sexual assault experiences for marginalized communities. As a SANE, Lauren possesses additional and specific training within her nursing specialty.
“Forensic nurses take care of patients at the intersection of the legal system and the health care system,” said Lauren.
“When someone discloses that they’ve experienced a sexual assault and would like specialized care, a SACASA advocate dispatches us and we go in and take care of the patient by conducting a comprehensive and holistic exam,” she said.
The medical forensic exam is entirely optional but can be helpful in starting the healing process, identifying health needs, and is also how evidence is collected. The average exam takes between one to two hours and is offered out of Banner- University Medical Center and Tucson Medical Center hospitals. Lauren documents injuries, helps to ensure that survivors receive appropriate care and that vital evidence is collected and preserved for potential legal proceedings (should a survivor choose to pursue that option). These exams are offered at no cost to the patient.
Lauren documents injuries, helps to ensure that survivors receive appropriate care and that vital evidence is collected and preserved for potential legal proceedings (should a survivor choose to pursue that option).
“We will examine the body systems but also look for injuries and evidence to pay close attention to as we proceed head to toe,” she said.
Lauren is part of a team of 14 sexual assault nurses who work around the clock to care for the community.
“We offer survivors a sense of support during an incredibly difficult time in their lives… We are the first step in their healing process.”
“The health care system can be overwhelming, and we are that warm, caring person needed in that moment that takes them out of the chaos where we are focused just on them and on their needs,” she said.
Medical forensic exams require exceptional attention to detail, and they are just one piece of a collaborative process to support survivors.
SANEs work alongside other agencies and the legal system by ensuring the proper handling of evidence, providing detailed documentation and expert testimony in court and work closely with SACASA advocates to ensure a coordinated response to sexual assault cases.
“I think we are part of the transition from this life-changing event that just happened to let me help you start to heal. Let me be that bridge that you need.”
Lauren also serves as a faculty member at the University of Arizona which allows her to engage in community outreach, bridging the gap between her work as a SANE and the wider community.
When asked about how the community and systems can better support survivors, Lauren stresses the need to reduce barriers to care, not only within the hospital systems, but also within the communities themselves. She advocates for more awareness and referrals to community resources, reducing the stigma surrounding sexual assault, and creating an environment where survivors can safely disclose their experiences.
Lauren's inspiration to continue this important work comes from the camaraderie with her dedicated team and the profound impact she has on survivors' lives. She cherishes the moments when survivors and their families express their gratitude for her care and support, reminding her of the positive difference she is making.
Lauren's commitment to the field of forensic nursing makes her an invaluable asset in helping survivors on their path to healing.
“Words cannot describe how grateful I am that Lauren has chosen SANE work as a part of her career path, as she has undoubtedly been a driving force for recovery for many survivors. The compassion, advocacy and mentorship that she contributes to the SACASA team are immeasurable, and I am so proud to celebrate her during National Forensic Nurses Week,” said SACASA Director Katlyn Monje.