Sexual Assault Response Examinations

What Is a Sexual Assault Examination?

A sexual assault examination is also referred to as a sexual assault forensic exam (SAFE) or rape kit. It is a combination of two types of exams: a medical exam to check and treat you for injuries and a forensic exam to collect and preserve evidence of sexual assault or violence. A SAFE typically consists of a trained sexual assault nurse examiner or physician conducting a physical exam, genital exam, and taking swabs and samples to preserve any DNA evidence.

The goals of a sexual assault examination include assessing your physical and mental health, providing the professional medical care and counseling that you need after sexual trauma, connecting you to helpful resources, and obtaining any evidence that the attacker might have left behind on your person.

What Happens During a SART Exam?

  • Remember, you have the right to refuse any part of the exam at any time.
  • A victim advocate can explain the process of the exam as well as your rights and choices. It is your choice whether the advocate stays with you in the exam room, waits in the waiting area, or leaves.
  • The medical examiner will explain the exam and you will be asked to provide informed consent.
  • You will be asked to describe the events of the assault, possibly in the form of your own narrative or an interview. These answers will then direct the course of the medical exam.
  • The exam begins with a general health check: blood pressure, heart rate, looking at your eyes, ears and nose, etc.
  • Physical evidence is collected from head to toe, in the form of hair and oral swabs, to identify both your DNA and that of the person who assaulted you.
  • A pelvic exam may be done. Initially, the medical examiner will look at external genitalia, and may do an internal exam (vaginal or anal, depending on the assault). You have the right to stop the exam at any moment, if it becomes too physically or emotionally painful.
  • Photographs are taken of physical evidence (e.g. bruises, lacerations, tears).
  • Once all the evidence is collected, the sexual assault examination kit is given to law enforcement.

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