What to Expect in a Sexual Assault Examination in Los Angeles

If you become a victim of sexual assault in Los Angeles, California, you may not know what to do next or where to turn for help. This is an incredibly traumatic event that can have far-reaching implications. It is important, however, to try to take the right steps to protect yourself and start building a claim against the abuser as soon as possible. This includes going to a local hospital or health care center for a sexual assault examination.

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. By law, all hospitals must be able to conduct sexual assault exams.

Do I Have to Get a Sexual Assault Exam?

Getting a sexual assault examination is not a requirement for bringing a sexual abuse lawsuit in California. You also do not have to involve the police if you decide to get a sexual assault examination. You can go for the exam and choose not to send the evidence to the police. It is up to you whether to involve the police now, later or never. You can also report the assault to the police but choose not to get the SAFE.

Having a sexual assault exam performed can potentially provide strong evidence against your abuser. However, even without this exam, your sexual abuse lawyer can still search for other forms of evidence against your abuser or an institution that perpetuated abuse to prove a civil claim. This may include witness statements, accident and police reports, photographs, and circumstantial evidence.

How Soon Should I Get a Sexual Assault Exam?

Anyone who has suffered a sexual assault is encouraged to have a forensic exam performed within 96 hours of the incident. After this point, DNA evidence may no longer be available. The sooner you go in for the exam, the better. Try not to change your clothes, clean up, or take a bath or shower after being sexually assaulted if you plan on getting a sexual assault examination. Physicians also encourage survivors not to eat, drink or smoke before their exams. You have a better chance of having the assailant’s DNA on you if you go straight to a hospital or medical center after the attack.

What Happens During a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam?

  1. You will be set up with a crisis counselor for the duration of your sexual assault exam. This is someone who will have helpful information and can support you in various ways during the SAFE. Your counselor and examiner will let you know what is happening during every stage of the process.
  2. You will be seen by a medical professional who has received specific training in sexual assault examinations. You can choose the gender of your physician to suit what makes you the most comfortable.
  3. You will have time to sit with your counselor and debrief what has happened to you. Then, the physician will take out a sexual assault kit. This kit has multiple envelopes with different forms and tools for collecting evidence.
  4. An exam room will be set up with a small changing area. You will change your clothing on top of a paper drop cloth to collect anything that might fall from your body or clothing.
  5. If you are keeping your clothing for evidence purposes, it will be collected and stored.
  6. Once you are in a patient gown, the examiner will turn off the lights and use an alternative light source to scan your body and search for any secretions. If any are found, the examiner will use a Q-tip to collect them.
  7. Next, you will sit on an exam table and have your body physically examined from head to toe. This includes a genital exam. At this point, the examiner will photograph any injuries on your body that are potentially related to sexual assault, using a ruler for size reference.
  8. Any swabs or evidence collected will go to a crime lab for analysis. It is up to you whether or not you want the facility to release this evidence to the police.
  9. You will be asked multiple questions about your hygiene practices before coming to the exam, such as if you showered or brushed your teeth. It is okay if you did – the exam can still collect important evidence.
  10. Finally, your examiner will give you any necessary information about the care that you need, which may include STI or pregnancy testing, and schedule a follow-up.

Who Pays for a Sexual Assault Exam?

Sexual assault forensic exams are free under California law. They are covered by the California Victim Compensation Board. This means you don’t have to worry about paying for your exam, whether or not you have insurance. In addition, the Board provides advocates who are trained to work with sexual assault victims. They can help you complete your exam, find emergency food and shelter, and file a temporary restraining order against your abuser.

How Is the Information Obtained During a Sexual Assault Exam Used?

The information and evidence obtained during a sexual assault examination will be stored by the medical facility. How long the kit is kept depends on the administrative practices at the medical center. Some will hold onto the data until you decide whether or not you wish to bring your case to the attention of law enforcement. If you do wish to press charges or file a sexual abuse lawsuit using your SAFE results as evidence, make sure the facility will hold it and make it available for this purpose.

What Should I Do After a Sexual Assault Examination?

If you wish to move forward with a sexual assault or abuse claim after a sexual assault examination, contact an sexual assault attorney in Los Angeles for a free and confidential case evaluation. Manly, Stewart & Finaldi is one of the top sexual abuse law firms in the country. We have what it takes to represent your rights and interests. Call (855) 944-0661 today