When Should You Seek Medical Care After a Sexual Assault?

Being sexually assaulted is an extremely personal kind of violation that can take an immense physical, emotional, and psychological toll. If you are a survivor of sexual assault, it can be difficult to take immediate action to protect yourself and seek justice. However, it is recommended to seek medical care as soon as possible.

Immediate Medical Care Is Recommended

Sexual assault and abuse victims are encouraged to obtain professional medical care immediately or as soon as possible. Prompt medical treatment can address any physical injuries you suffered in the assault, lending to a better physical recovery. It can also allow you to receive an evidence-collection exam, also known as a sexual assault forensic exam (SAFE) or rape kit.

A forensic exam can preserve possible DNA evidence against the perpetrator, which can be critical for identifying an unknown suspect or proving a case against a known individual. If possible, seek medical care even before using the restroom, changing your clothing, or taking a bath or shower. Preserving as much evidence of the attack as possible on your person before your forensic exam can lead to more effective results.

In an emergency, call 911. Otherwise, have a trusted friend or family member accompany you to the nearest hospital that offers the SAFE program. During the exam, expect to receive immediate medical attention for any injuries, go through your medical history, and receive a head-to-toe physical examination. This will involve internal examinations of the mouth, vagina and/or anus as well as photographs, skin swabs, and blood and urine samples.

At Least Within 120 Hours (5 Days) for an Evidence Collection Exam

It is a natural reaction to sexual assault to want to bathe, change, clean up or rest. The last thing you may want to do is see a doctor and have an exam performed during this time of emotional distress. However, if you want to preserve evidence from the incident, you must seek medical care within at least 120 hours, or 5 days. In most cases, DNA evidence needs to be collected within this timeframe for it to still be viable.

Search for hospitals in your area that offer SAFE kits and certified nurses. Once DNA evidence has been collected, it will be stored at the hospital. Note that you can receive the forensic exam without the nurse having to report it to law enforcement. It is up to you if you want to release your SAFE data to law enforcement to pursue further legal action. If so, law enforcement can let you know how long the evidence from your kit will be stored.

Anytime for a Non-Evidence Collection Exam

If you wait longer than five days after the assault to seek medical care, a sexual assault forensic exam most likely cannot be performed. However, you can still receive professional treatment for any physical injuries or mental health conditions you have suffered as an outcome of the attack. You should still seek medical care even if more than five days have passed from the date of the assault.

You can receive care for any sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy, for example, as well as follow-up care for any physical injuries you may have suffered. A doctor can also give you a referral to a therapist or psychiatrist who can support your mental health, such as by prescribing medications or treatments for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder or chronic anxiety.

If you wish to pursue justice for sexual assault through a civil lawsuit, contact the sexual assault attorneys at Manly, Stewart & Finaldi for a free and confidential case evaluation.