If you were assaulted within the last 5 days, we recommend going to an emergency department for a sexual assault exam and evidence collection. It is best not to shower or change clothes before the exam, but if you have, we can still collect evidence of the assault. The exam is your opportunity to get your immediate concerns and needs met. You can decide at the exam whether you want evidence collected.
By law, victims are not required to make a report, cooperate with law enforcement or participate in the criminal justice system to receive the no-cost sexual assault forensic exam. Evidence can be collected without making a report to law enforcement.
If you do decide to make a police report, making it early means that an investigation can be started sooner with less chance of lost evidence. Many victims need time to consider the pros and cons of making a legal report and that is fine.
For victims assaulted in Washington State, the medical forensic exam, evidence collection and post assault lab work and medications are billed to the Washington Crime Victims Compensation Program [provide link to CVCP pamphlet for victims and providers]. These are paid for regardless of whether a victim makes a report to law enforcement or chooses to participate in the criminal justice system.
If additional medical care is needed after the assault (i.e. for injuries that occurred during the assault), personal insurance is billed first. If the victim has filed a police report and is cooperating with the criminal investigation, a claim can be filed with Washington State Crime Victims Compensation Program to cover unpaid medical bills.
During the exam, victims are provided the opportunity to talk with either a Social Worker or victim advocate about the exam process and are entitled to have the support person of their choice present. The victim is in charge of what happens in the exam and has the opportunity to consent to all or part of the process. Patients can change their minds at any time about what they would like to have happen.
Evidence is collected by using cotton swabs. A blood sample is often collected either by finger poke or a blood draw. For woman, a speculum exam is not typically performed during the sexual assault forensic exam and STD testing is not typically done. If the victim is wearing the clothing that was worn at the time of the assault, those may be collected. Photos of any injuries found during the exam may also be taken by the examiner. Victims should expect to spend roughly 3-4 hours with the sexual assault examiner.
After the exam is completed, victims are offered emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy as well medications to protect victims from contracting Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Trichomonas, the most common STD's in our state. There are also medications to protect victims from getting HIV after an assault. For most sexual assault victims, the risk of getting HIV is quite low but medications are available to anyone who is worried and would like to take them.
Some portions of the sexual assault exam are confidential but not all. The advocate or Social Worker can explain the reporting requirements and discuss how to tell parents. Most parents want to be able to help and support their children or young adults through a difficult experience like a sexual assault and appreciate learning what happened and how best to help.
In general, when victims report a sexual assault, the primary concern for law enforcement is taking care of the victim and finding the offender. Most law enforcement agencies do not file charges against victims for drug use or drinking, regardless of their age.