Guidance Document on Considerations for Photographic Documentation in Sexual Assault Cases

Guidance Document on Considerations for Photographic Documentation in Sexual Assault Cases


Updated: March 2024 
Original: August 2022 


Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) are medical professionals with specialized training and expertise in medicine, psychology, and forensic science and are qualified to conduct sexual assault medical forensic examinations (SAMFEs). During the SAMFE, SANEs may document their observations of injuries associated with a sexual assault through photography. Photographs provide a permanent record of injuries sustained by the patient and may also be used for court proceedings, if the patient decides to engage with the criminal justice system. Although not exhaustive, this document presents insights on photographic techniques, available camera and accessory options suitable for SAMFEs, and considerations for ensuring the process of photographing patients remains trauma-informed and victim-centered. This document also highlights the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to both SAMFEs and subsequent investigations, which involves professionals including SANEs, victim advocates, law enforcement investigators, forensic science service providers, and prosecutors. 

SANEs are a valuable resource within the [sexual assault response team] because they assume the role of photographer and care provider during the sexual assault medical forensic examination. Their expertise should be acknowledged and supported by having access to funding and training opportunities to sustain their specialization in the medical field and to ensure they are well-equipped to take high-quality photographs throughout the country.

—Marya Simmons | Founder and CEO, Shift in Notion Consulting, LLC

This report was updated in March 2024 to incorporate minor terminology revisions to the original August 2022 publication, including a transition from the use of multidisciplinary team to sexual assault response team and sexual assault forensic examination to sexual assault medical forensic examination to better align with language used within national protocols and best practice guidance documents. 

Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence report was provided by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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