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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.

Learn more about the importance of preserving and collecting forensic evidence and the importance of DNA in a sexual assault case.

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.

  1. DNA & Crime Victims: What Victims Need to Know. The National Center for Victims of Crime. 2008.
This product was supported by grant number 2009-D1-BX-KO23 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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