Coping

Information

Medical Examination

    • A medical examination is also recommended for cases of sexual assault regardless of whether or not injuries were sustained. It is recommended for cases of sexual assault especially where injuries have resulted from an incident of intimate partner abuse/domestic violence. A medical examination can occur at a doctor’s office, hospital or health clinic.
    • If you are uncertain about whether or not you want to report what has occurred, you can still get evidence collected. In cases of sexual assault or severe injuries, the police will be called by the hospital. The survivor can decide if they want to speak with the police at that time to officially report what has happened.
    • While evidence may be collected anonymously (i.e. without the survivor's name attached to it) and/or when there is no report made to police, these cases are handled differently. A discussion about the merit of collecting evidence "anonymously" and in instances where the survivor does not want to report, should be discussed with medical personnel and/or an advocate.
    • At local emergency departments, the evidence collection exam may be performed by a doctor, a nurse or a specially trained nurse: a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). In cases of sexual assault, within the first 96 hours of an assault is the best time for evidence to be collected. Under certain circumstances, it may be collected after this time frame. It is not necessary for evidence to be collected in order for a case to be reported. It is easier to investigate and prosecute cases that have physical evidence but it is not impossible to go forward without it.
    • If an individual wants to get evidence collected, it is best not to bathe and to take the clothes that they were wearing at the time of the assault to the hospital with them. It is also recommended to avoid eating, drinking, and going to the bathroom. However, a lot of people do all of these things before going to the hospital and evidence can still be collected.
    • The sexual assault evidence collection exam is paid for by a fund within the State Attorney General's Office. In some instances, assistance with additional medical bills may be provided through accessing Victims of Crime Compensation &/or through the Sexual Violence Assistance Fund. For more information about these options, you can go to the Key to Legal Action module.

Physical Examination:

    • During a physical examination, a healthcare provider will document any cuts or bruises on your body. The most commonly injured areas include the breasts, external genitals, vagina, anus, and rectum; these areas will be carefully examined, swabbed, and cultured. With your permission, these areas may be photographed. A friend, family member, or crisis counselor may be present during the physical examination if you wish.
    • In addition, fingernail scrapings and clippings, pubic and head hair samples, and blood and saliva samples are usually obtained. These samples are labeled, packaged, and sealed, along with your clothing and any other evidence, in an evidence collection kit. This kit must be given directly to a police officer or stored in a secured and locked location to ensure that no one tampers with this evidence. If you have family or friends present you may want to ask them to bring clothing as yours will have been collected for evidence.

Preventive treatments:

    • There is a small risk of becoming infected or pregnant as a result of sexual assault. The risk that a woman will become infected with HIV after a single episode of consensual vaginal intercourse (not sexual assault) with an HIV infected man is estimated at 0.1 percent, and from a single episode of consensual anal intercourse at 2 percent. The risk of developing HIV from a sexual assault may be higher, especially if your skin is torn or cut, if there was bleeding, or if there were multiple assailants.
    • Testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomonas, hepatitis B, and HIV is recommended if you have signs or symptoms of one of these infections. However, testing for these infections in the days following the assault will only confirm prior infection, not an infection as a result of the assault.
    • If you tested for sexually transmitted infections (STI) during the evaluation, it is important to understand that the results will become part of your medical record and will be available to the assailant's attorney if the case goes to trail. Thus, the information could potentiality be used to try to discredit you. For these reasons, some victims choose to avoid STI testing at this time and receive prophylactic treatment for STI's. To locate a clinic that provides anonymous HIV testing in the United States, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or check http://aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/prevention/hiv-testing/hiv-test-locations/.
    • If you are female, you may have a blood or urine pregnancy test during your evaluation; testing within five days after sexual assault can tell if you were pregnant at the time of the assault, but does not indicate if you will become pregnant as a result of the assault. The risk of becoming pregnant after assault depends upon several factors, including the timing of your menstrual cycle. A pregnancy test is recommended at the follow-up visit to determine if you became pregnant as a result of the rape.
    • A blood and urine test to test for drugs (eg, Rohypnol or GHB, benzodiazepines) that can affect your level of consciousness are recommended if you have difficulty remembering events during or after the assault. However, it is important for you to understand that these tests can also provide evidence of drug or alcohol use. The assailant's attorney will have access to these results, and could potentially use this information to try to discredit you. Discuss the risks and benefits of drug testing with an experienced healthcare provider or sexual assault counselor.