Receiving Medical Attention
In the immediate aftermath of a sexual assault, the most important thing is for the victim to get to a safe place. Whether it be the victim’s home, a friend’s home or with a family member, immediate safety is what matters most.
When a feeling of safety has been achieved, it is vital for the victim to receive medical attention, regardless of his or her decision to report the crime to the police. For the victim’s health and self-protection, it is important to be checked and treated for possible injuries, even if none are visible.
This includes testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as well as receiving preventative treatments that may be available, depending upon the local response and resources. For instance, medications to prevent STIs and pregnancy and protect against HIV transmission may be offered.1
In addition to receiving medical attention, victims are encouraged to receive a forensic examination. This exam is important because preserving DNA evidence can be key to identifying the perpetrator in a sexual assault case, especially those in which the offender is a stranger. DNA evidence is an integral part of a law enforcement investigation that can build a strong case to show that a sexual assault occurred and to show that the defendant is the source of biological material left on the victim’s body. Victims have the right to accept or decline any or all parts of the exam, however, it is important to remember that critical evidence may be missed if not collected or analyzed.
Victims should make every effort to save anything that might contain the perpetrator’s DNA, therefore a victim should not:1
- Bathe or shower
- Use the restroom
- Change clothes
- Comb hair
- Clean up the crime scene
- Move anything the offender may have touched
Even if the victim has not yet decided to report the crime, receiving a forensic medical exam and keeping the evidence safe from damage will improve the chances that the police can access and test the stored evidence at a later date.
NOTE: To find a local hospital or healthcare facility that is equipped to collect forensic evidence, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE). The hotline will connect callers to their local rape crisis center, which can provide information on the nearest medical facility, and in some instances, send an advocate to accompany victims through the evidence collection process.
Learn more about the effects of sexual assault.