The examination for evidence collection is often called a forensic exam or SAFE Kit (Sexual Assault Forensic Exam). Sometimes a SAFE Kit will not be done until the police have been called. The policies on police involvement vary from county to county. However, calling the police or even talking with them while participating in the collection of evidence does not mean that you have to follow through on prosecution or file a formal report.
You will need to sign a consent form before an exam can be done. Evidence taken during a forensic exam can be signed over to the police and then taken to the state police laboratory for analysis, or it can be held for up to 5 years while you decide if you want to pursue a criminal investigation. Evidence included in the kit will not be analyzed unless it is needed for prosecution of the perpetrator.
If you wish to have an evidence collection kit (“SAFE kit”) you can do so at the Middlesex County Center for Empowerment or any of the local hospitals. An advocate from the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance (VPVA) can assist you in setting up an appointment time and explain the process to you. If you wish to report the sexual assault to the police, they will also assist you in obtaining an exam. If you do not wish to report to the police or want to do so at a later time, you can still have an exam.
For evidence collection, it is best if you do not:
- Brush your teeth
- Eat or drink
- Change clothes
The exam can be done up to five days post assault even if you have showered or done any of the other things listed above.
- Some counties require that the police be called before a SAFE kit can be done. The policies on police involvement vary from county to county.
- Calling the police or even talking with them while participating in the collection of evidence does not mean that you have to follow through on prosecution or file a formal report.
- Evidence taken during a forensic exam can be signed over to the police and then taken to the state police laboratory for analysis, or it can be held for up to 5 years while you decide if you want to pursue a criminal investigation. Evidence included in the kit will not be analyzed unless it is needed for prosecution of the perpetrator.
About the Exam
- The examination is similar to a general OB/GYN exam and begins with taking information about what happened.
- The exam is generally completed by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) who is specially trained. The overall purpose for the exam is to make sure the patient is not injured and to gather evidence from the survivor’s body. Regardless of the survivor’s gender, the exam includes specimens gathered from the part of the body that was assaulted including internal and external genital areas. Additionally, samples are usually obtained from fingernails, hair and mouth.
- You will need to sign a consent form before an exam can be done. All survivors have a right to have the examination explained prior to giving consent. Also, you have the right to refuse any part of the examination.
- There is no fee for this examination although some hospitals/centers may charge for lab work, radiology services etc.
- Transportation is available from the Rutgers University Police Department. Being transported by the police does NOT obligate you to press criminal charges or file a complaint.
- All survivors have the right to have an advocate present during the entire exam and hospital visit. A counselor from the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance is available to accompany you.
- Either the doctor or nurse will need to ask questions about the assault in order to make decisions about the type of examination to be done. You may need to answer questions that are sometimes very uncomfortable regarding the types of sexual acts which were done either by or to you. These questions may sound intrusive but are usually asked in a non-judgmental manner.
- You will be examined externally to check for any signs of injury and contact. All signs of injury will be documented.
- Pictures may be taken if there is noticeable trauma to the body.
- Clothing is also taken although this does not usually include coats and shoes.
- Replacement clothing needs to be brought from home as most centers and hospitals don’t have surplus clothing. Clothing given to the police will be used for evidence and will not be returned. If you have already changed your clothing, place the clothing you had on at the time of the assault in a paper bag, preferably one item per bag. Try not to use plastic, as it can destroy evidence.
- Some centers will do baseline testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Some facilities will give medications/prescriptions based on preventative treatment and survivors must be given information and access to emergency contraception (EC). Sometimes centers will refer you to other programs for STI testing. This is also available at the health center on your campus.
- If you believe you were drugged prior to the sexual assault, it is important to disclose that information so that a drug screen can be done. If you have concerns with having a drug screen performed, you can speak with the Advocate or a counselor from the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance.
- HIV testing is available and should be discussed. You can contact the health center on campus to ask for more information about testing and testing sites, or contact the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance for information regarding free, anonymous and confidential HIV testing.