CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) — The state of North Carolina has launched a new program to train 50 nurses to serve as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) in hospitals across the state.

SANE nurses help victims of sexual assault and collect evidence in the immediate aftermath of an assault.

Attorney General Josh Stein announced the program during a visit to the Survivors Resource Center in Charlotte, which is a place where victims can go to get help and resources.

“These sexual assault nurse examiners, SANE nurses, are so critical. Both from a law enforcement perspective to get the evidence, and for compassion for the victim,” said Stein.

SANE nurses are trained to approach victims with compassion and collect physical and forensic evidence.

Lauren Ratcliffe, herself a sexual assault survivor, joined Stein at the announcement.

“So often survivors are afraid of their stories,” said Ratcliffe. “There’s a lot of shame that comes for a lot of survivors.”

Ratcliffe, who has since become an advocate for sexual assault victims, says she is now thriving nearly eight years after her assault.

“That is in large part due to the community I had that wrapped their arms around me that allowed me to pick up the pieces of my life. On a timetable that was my own,” Ratcliffe said.

Stein says his eventual goal is to have a SANE nurse in every hospital in the state. Rural communities in particular often lack resources for victims and survivors.

Ratcliffe believes the new program will help survivors and law enforcement.

“Whether that reduces wait times for someone like me. Or it provides someone who’s trained in empathy and also in collecting evidence in rural communities,” said Ratcliffe. “It’s a big deal.”