Medical Forensic Exam
WHEN TO GET AN EXAM
A medical forensic exam should generally be done within a few days of your sexual assault. This timeframe helps to address any injuries you may have, and it offers the best chance of collecting possible evidence.
The specific timeframe for a medical forensic exam varies, depending on guidelines in your community. Some will do an exam if your sexual assault happened within 3 days. Others will do an exam up to 10 days following your assault. If you wait more than 3-10 days to have a medical forensic exam, you may not be able to have evidence collected from your body.
Even if you don’t have a medical forensic exam with evidence collection, it is still important to see a doctor or nurse to make sure you are okay, and to get testing or treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) or pregnancy.
HOW TO GET AN EXAM
You can get a medical forensic exam by going to the Emergency Room, contacting police, or calling a rape crisis center.
The exam is free, but there may be additional costs if you need medical testing or treatment for injuries beyond the sexual assault.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE EXAM
A nurse or doctor will start the medical forensic exam by asking questions about you, including your health history and what happened to you during the sexual assault. Then the physical exam will begin, which may include a vaginal or anal exam depending on the sexual acts that may have been committed during your assault.
You can say no to any, or all of the procedures during the exam, and you can stop the exam at any time.
During the exam, the doctor or nurse will typically swab your body for potential evidence, such as DNA, and they may request a blood or urine sample. They will also typically take photographs or draw body diagrams of any injuries you may have, and they may collect your clothing.
But nothing will happen unless you agree.
DO THEY REPORT TO POLICE?
If you have a medical forensic exam, most health care providers do not have to report to police. You can have the exam, and evidence will be stored safely while you decide about reporting. However, there are some exceptions.
Most health care providers are required to report to police if you are under 18. Many also must report if a weapon was used or you have serious physical injuries, or if you are limited in your ability to take care of yourself because of your age or disability. In some states (like California, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts), health care providers are required to report all sexual assaults to police regardless of injuries or weapons.
If you would like to learn more about mandated reporting, it’s covered under the topic of medical care above.
ARE MEDICAL COSTS COVERED?
While the medical forensic exam is free, there may be additional costs if you need medical testing or treatment for injuries beyond the sexual assault. If you have health insurance, any additional medical costs may be billed to your plan. So, if you are on the same insurance plan as your parent or spouse, they may find out about it.
If you are under 18, that person will probably be able to get information about the reason for your visit, and the services you received.
If you are 18 or older, they will not be able to get that information.
You can talk with health care providers to find out if there is an option to not bill your insurance for these medical costs.
If you decide to report to police, medical costs resulting from the sexual assault can usually be covered by a Crime Victim Compensation program. Victim advocates can help you learn more and apply for this reimbursement
BRING A SUPPORT PERSON
If you are going to have a medical forensic exam, you can bring someone with you (friend, family member, or victim advocate).
Keep in mind that friends and family sometimes aren’t sure how to help, no matter how much they love you. To help them better understand what you’re going through, you can refer them to this site.
BRING CLOTHING FROM THE ASSAULT
If you are going to have a medical forensic exam, please bring the clothes you wore (including a bra, if you wear one). Bring both what you wore during the sexual assault, and anything you changed into after the assault. These will most likely be collected as evidence.
If any item is particularly valuable, either because it is expensive or difficult to replace, or because it is very personal or special to you, you have the right to say no to any item being taken from you.
BRING A CHANGE OF CLOTHING
If you are still wearing the clothes from during or after the assault, and it is possible, bring a change of clothes (including a bra, if you wear one) with you to the medical forensic exam.
This way you will have something of your own to change into, after the exam is over, if your clothing is taken as evidence.
HAVE YOU SHOWERED YET?
If you plan to have a medical forensic exam, it is best not to shower, bathe, douche, gargle, or brush your teeth, or wash your clothes and bedding, if you have not already done so.
But don’t worry if you have done any of those things. Evidence might still be available, and the exam involves much more than just collecting evidence.
KEEP YOUR CLOTHING
If you’re not sure whether you want to have a medical forensic exam, keep the clothes you wore during and immediately after the assault. Put each item in a separate paper bag, not plastic.
You can talk with a victim advocate if you want help figuring out what to do next.