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Sexual Assault Exams

Having a forensic exam can seem a little intimidating. That’s understandable. Knowing a little bit about what to expect can help you feel more comfortable with the process.

  • You can have a forensic exam up to 5 days after the assault. The Forensic Nurse Examiner program offers medical forensic examinations for patients who have been sexually assaulted in the last 120 hours (5 days). This type of exam is offered to patients ages 13 and older. If you or someone you care about is under the age of 13, please call 911 to be directed to the appropriate location near you for a pediatric examination.
  • Your exam will be performed by a specially trained nurse. The nurses who perform medical forensic exams at Mercy have been specially trained to work with patients who have recently been sexually assaulted. Part of their training includes learning how to collect and preserve evidence from your body and clothes that may be used later if an investigation occurs.
  • You do NOT need to report the assault to police to have an exam. If you have been assaulted and you do not wish to speak to the police for whatever reason, you may still have a confidential exam done. If you have this exam at Mercy Medical Center’s Forensic Nurse Examiner Program, we are able to store any evidence collected for up to 18 months. If at any point during that time you decide to report your assault to the police, you can have the evidence released to them.
  • You can stop at any time. If at any point you wish to stop, slow down, or take a break—you can. Having an exam is your choice, and we will respect your wishes.
  • Try not to pee. If you think that you were given a drug, try to avoid urinating until the exam. A forensic nurse can test your urine for traces of drugs that may be in your system. It’s understandable to feel the need to go to the bathroom after an experience like sexual assault. If you really need to go, please collect your urine in a clean container and save the toilet tissue from wiping in a paper/plastic bag. Bring both with you to your exam. The toilet tissue might contain evidence that can be collected by the forensic nurse.
  • Try not to eat, drink, or brush your teeth. During the exam, the nurse may be collecting evidence from your mouth. The forensic nurses make every attempt to get the exam done in a timely manner so you can get back to your routine as soon as possible.
  • Try not to shower or change your clothes. There could be hair, fluids, or other substances in your clothing that could be collected for evidence. If you have already changed, please bring the clothes you were wearing at the time the assault happened, including your underwear, with you to the hospital.
  • You will have support from trained professionals. You will be screened in the Emergency Department and taken to a private room to wait to be seen. A doctor will see you to address any immediate injuries or concerns. A patient advocate will also be called; they can speak with you about your safety and emotional concerns. They can also help provide access to other community services and resources for victims of sexual violence.
  • A forensic nurse will perform the exam and collect evidence. Your nurse will talk with you to understand what happened and complete a physical examination. The nurse will also collect evidence from your body and clothes. Some of these steps will depend on your experience and what happened to you. The exam may include:
    • Asking questions about your medical history as well as what happened to you during the assault
    • Taking pictures of any injuries you may have
    • Collecting your clothing for evidence
    • Collecting swabs for areas on your body that might have evidence on them
    • Testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pregnancy, and signs of drug-facilitated assault (“date rape drugs”)
    • Providing medications to prevent pregnancy and STIs
  • You can find support in your local community. The forensic nurse or advocate can walk you through different forms of support in your local area such as affordable mental health care, support groups, and books or websites you can read through.
  • The evidence kit may not be tested right away. When you are finished with the exam, the forensic nurse will submit the evidence to the investigating police department for it to be tested and analyzed. This process doesn’t always happen quickly. If you have questions about the status of your kit, you can call the investigating police department. If you choose not to report to police, Mercy will store the kit in our secure evidence locker for 18 months. If you choose this option, the kit won’t be released to police unless you give us written permission to do so.
  • You are not alone. Check out our resources page for a list of local and national resources including 24 hours telephone and online hotlines for sexual assault survivors.

Interpersonal Violence Exams

If you have been assaulted by a partner, spouse, caregiver, friend or family member, it can be challenging to come forward. It’s important to treat any injuries you may have so that you can continue to care for yourself and your loved ones. Mercy Medical Center offers medical forensic examinations to identify, treat, and document injuries.

  • Your exam will be performed by a specially trained nurse. The nurses who perform medical forensic exams at Mercy have been specially trained to work with patients who have experienced violence. The forensic nurse and medical team work together to address both any emergent medical needs and provide written and photographic documentation of any injuries
  • You do NOT need to report the assault to police to have an exam. If you have been assaulted and you do not wish to speak to the police for whatever reason, you may still have a confidential exam done. Mercy’s nurses can still provide a medical forensic examination including photography and documentation of injuries.
  • You can stop at any time. If at any point you wish to stop, slow down, or take a break - you can. Having an exam is your choice, and we will respect your wishes.
  • You will have support from trained professionals. You will be screened in the Emergency Department and taken to a private room to wait to be seen. A doctor will see you to address any immediate injuries or concerns. A patient advocate will also be called; they can speak with you about your safety and emotional concerns. They can also help provide access to other community services and resources for victims of violence.
  • A forensic nurse will take a history and perform the exam. Your nurse will talk with you to understand what happened and complete a physical examination. The nurse may also take photographs and collect evidence from your body and clothes. Some of these steps will depend on your experience and what happened to you. The exam may include:
    • Asking questions about your medical history as well as what happened to you during the assault
    • Taking pictures of any injuries you may have
    • Collecting your clothing for evidence
    • Collecting swabs for areas on your body that might have evidence on them
  • You can find support in your local community. The forensic nurse or advocate can walk you through different forms of support in your local area such as affordable mental health care, support groups, and books or websites you can read through.
  • You are not alone. Check out our resources page for a list of local and national resources including 24-hour telephone and online hotlines for survivors.