Sexual Assault Forensic Exam

A sexual assault forensic exam may be helpful in collecting DNA evidence of a crime, as well as offering the victim necessary medical care. In this article, we’ll define the term “sexual assault forensic exam.”

Key Takeaways

  • A sexual assault forensic exam is a medical/forensic exam aiming to preserve evidence of a sexual assault
  • Sexual assault forensic exams are performed by trained medical professionals
  • DNA evidence must usually be collected within the first 72 hours of an assault 
  • The parts of a sexual assault forensic exam include immediate care, history, head-to-toe examination, and follow-up care

What Is a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam?

A sexual assault forensic exam (SAFE), sometimes referred to colloquially as a rape kit, is a medical forensic exam that aims to preserve evidence of a sexual assault. It includes a physical exam, genital exam, and collection of samples and swabs. 

Sexual assault forensic exams are performed by trained sexual assault nurse examiners, sexual assault forensic examiners, or sexual assault examiners, all medical professionals who have been trained to perform the examination. 

In addition to performing the exam, these healthcare professionals are also able to provide immediate medical care by treating any injuries the victim may have. They also offer information and answer questions about pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. 

Victims have the right to decline any portion of a sexual assault forensic exam.

Preparation for a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam

It is important for victims to avoid doing anything that could potentially damage evidence in the interval between the sexual assault and the sexual assault forensic exam. This includes activities such as:

  • Bathing
  • Cleaning the intimate areas
  • Using the restroom
  • Showering
  • Changing clothes
  • Brushing hair

However, if the victim has done one or more of these activities, it is still possible to have a sexual assault forensic exam performed. 

Generally, DNA evidence must be collected within 72 hours of the sexual assault. However, there are other forms of evidence that may be found during a sexual assault forensic exam performed after the 72-hour window. 

Parts of a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam

The steps of a sexual assault forensic exam include:

  • Immediate care - Treating any injuries that need immediate attention
  • History - Taking the patient's health and sexual history, including what medications they take and any pre-existing conditions they have
  • Details of the assault - The patient will be asked to describe what happened to them in order to identify possible areas of injury and places where evidence may be found
  • Head-to-toe examination - This includes examinations of the mouth, vagina, anus, blood, urine, and hair
  • Collecting additional evidence - It is possible that the examiner may ask to take photos of the body and/or collect items of clothing 
  • Mandatory reporting - If the victim is a minor, the examiner may need to report the crime to law enforcement
  • Follow-up care - The examiner may offer prevention treatment for STIs or other forms of medical care requiring a follow-up

Note that each step of the sexual assault forensic exam is optional and the victim may opt out at any time.

Sexual Assault Forensic Exams and Sexual Assault Law

DNA evidence found during a sexual assault forensic exam can be pivotal in winning a sexual assault lawsuit. Even if the perpetrator is not prosecuted, this DNA can be added to a national database in order to make it easier to investigate a potential future crime.

If you have experienced a sexual assault, it is important to contact the authorities as soon as possible in order to receive a sexual assault forensic exam within the 72-hour window. 

Additionally, you have the option of filing a civil lawsuit in order to recover compensation for both monetary (medical bills, time lost from work) and non-monetary damages (pain and suffering). Contact a sexual assault lawyer for a free review of your case.

Featured Sexual Assault Lawyers

Golden Injury Law

7 years in practice
Personal Injury, Sexual Assault, Wrongful Death
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The Nurse Lawyer, P.A.

16 years in practice
Auto Accidents, Construction Injury, Personal Injury, Premises Liability, Sexual Assault
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Van Zanten & Onik, L.L.C.

13 years in practice
Personal Injury, Sexual Assault, Wrongful Death
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The Saenz Law Firm, P.A.

16 years in practice
Business Contracts, Employment Law
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Law Office of Jullian H. Jones, P.L.L.C.

3 years in practice
Criminal Defense
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Mainstay Law, LLC

11 years in practice
Business Law, Immigration Law
View Profile

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