What Happens During a Forensic Medical Exam After a Sexual Assault?
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What Happens During a Forensic Medical Exam After a Sexual Assault?

The moments after a sexual assault are some of the most crucial for an investigation against a perpetrator. Survivors can visit a hospital to receive a forensic medical exam, which takes DNA samples and documents evidence of the assault for use in a future investigation. If you are the victim of a sexual assault, it is important to get to a hospital as soon as possible to preserve this evidence.

What Is a Forensic Medical Exam?

After you experience a sexual assault, you may have fresh DNA evidence on your body that could be important in a future criminal investigation. While the police may be able to collect this evidence at the scene, you may have more defining evidence on your body, clothes, and belongings. To collect this evidence, you can undergo a forensic medical exam at a local hospital or medical center.

During this exam, the hospital staff will perform a series of tests and take samples to store for use in your sexual assault case. You will also receive medical care for any injuries you sustained in the assault. While the purpose of the forensic exam is to preserve evidence for the police, you do not have to report the assault in order to receive the exam. You can request that the hospital store your evidence for when you do decide to report.

The exam may take a few hours to complete, depending on the circumstances of your case. You do not have to be alone during the exam – you can contact a local advocate who can accompany you to the exam, or a trusted friend or family member.

What Occurs During a Forensic Exam?

A forensic medical exam typically follows the following five steps, depending on what happened during the assault. You have the right to pause, stop, or skip any part of the exam at any time.

  • First, the medical staff will treat any injuries that need immediate care.
  • Next, the staff will perform an intake assessment of your health history and what happened to you. Some of these questions may seem quite personal, such as sexual history, but the purpose of them is to ensure that the DNA evidence collected is not related to any consensual activity.
  • Third, the staff will perform a head to toe exam where they take samples of different parts of your body and bodily fluids. In addition, the staff may collect items of clothing to look for DNA evidence of the perpetrator.
  • If you are a minor, the staff may have a duty to report the assault to law enforcement.
  • Finally, the staff will provide follow-up care to you. This may include connections with mental health resources and STI treatment.

What Is Included in a Forensic Exam Kit?

Many hospitals have forensic medical exam kits on hand for when survivors visit the medical center to receive treatment. These kits include numerous items to assist with the exam, including a checklist of evidence to collect, instructions on how to collect the evidence, and the materials to safely preserve the evidence.

The contents of a forensic medical exam may vary based on the state you receive it in. Typically, forensic exam kits contain the following materials.

  • Combs and swabs
  • Containers to preserve the evidence
  • Materials for collecting blood samples
  • Bags and paper sheets
  • Instructions and documentation forms

How to Prepare for a Forensic Medical Exam

The moments after a sexual assault can be confusing and scary, and you may forget that you have to preserve the evidence on your body before you go into the exam. However, it is imperative that you undergo a forensic medical exam as soon as possible. To preserve the evidence, refrain from taking a shower, going to the bathroom, or washing your hands until you visit a hospital.

After the exam, contact an attorney to discuss your options for legal action. Your Uber and Lyft sexual assault attorney can connect you with resources for survivors, as well as help you pursue civil damages and criminal prosecution.