Your first instinct might be to take a shower or bath to wash away what has happened to you. However, doing this could get rid of physical evidence that could be used if you want to press charges.
It is extremely important, whether you think you have any physical or emotional injuries or not, that you see a medical professional as soon as possible.
WHY WOULD YOU GO TO THE HOSPITAL?
To obtain medical care aimed at treating any injuries, preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, making a plan for your health care after returning home, and offering emotional support around the sexual assault. Making the decision to go to the hospital does not mean that you have to go to the police.
Call a friend, family member, or rape crisis advocate to accompany you to the hospital if you don’t feel comfortable going to the hospital alone.
IS MEDICAL CARE STRICTLY VOLUNTARY?
Yes, definitely. You may refuse any exam or treatment that is offered. If you choose to have a rape kit done, you can refuse any part of that kit you don’t feel comfortable with. If any evidence or other information is given to police officers, you will be asked to sign an authorization to release info to law enforcement agencies.
QUESTIONS YOU MIGHT BE ASKED
Your caregivers will ask you questions about what happened. They will concentrate on how the events may have hurt you either physically or emotionally.
THE PHYSICAL EXAM
A general exam should be done where the doctor/SANE nurse will look for obvious and subtle signs of trauma (bruises, lacerations, abrasions, scratches). She/he should write down the details of your injuries in the medical record. If injuries need to be photographed, a law enforcement person can do that for you. Lastly, there will be a brief pelvic (or gyn) exam, including a speculum exam.
For your personal health, the following tests should be done:
- a blood test to detect syphilis
- a urine test to determine pregnancy
- a swab test of the cervix to detect gonorrhea and sometimes chlamydia
COLLECTION OF SAMPLES/Rape Kit
If you decide to have legal evidence collected in case you choose to later prosecute the perpetrator, a rape kit will be done. This involves the following:
- you will be asked to undress standing on a sheet
- clothes will be put in separate paper bags
- an ultraviolet light will be shined on your skin looking for semen
- a blood test to determine your blood type
- head hairs will be collected (some may be plucked from your scalp)
- a saliva sample will be collected on filter paper
- a nasal mucous sample will be collected by blowing your nose into a paper
- fingernail scrapings and clippings will be collected with an orange stick and nail clippers
- dried secretions will be swabbed with a moist gauze
- pubic hair will be combed and collected (some will be plucked)
- swabs will be taken of secretions from vagina, anus and mouth
Not all of the above samples are taken from every patient. It depends on the sort of attack you have experienced. For example – anal swabs would not be taken from a patient who has not had anal contact.
If you are reporting your assault to the police, the evidence collected will be given to them. If you choose not to report your assault at the time of the exam, the evidence will be kept for 6 months.
PREVENTION OF SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASE
Preventative antibiotic treatment is given for both chlamydia and gonorrhea in case the attacker had either of these diseases.
PREVENTION OF PREGNANCY
A positive pregnancy test implies a pre-existing pregnancy and you will be advised to have a follow-up check up with an obstetrician.
If the pregnancy test is negative, you may take Ovral (birth control) pills to prevent pregnancy. The dose is 2 pills immediately and 2 pills 12 hours later. It is important to take the pills exactly as prescribed.
You can have an advocate from the Women’s Freedom Center with you at the hospital if you choose. We can help to clarify things that might be confusing about this process and offer support.