– What to Expect After Reporting a Sexual Assault
Once you decide to report the incident to the police or to go to the hospital for care, there are procedures followed by the staff who take care of you. Knowing what to expect can help to ease some of the emotional stress you may feel at the time.
Every victim shall be granted a FREE Sexual Assault Kit or “Rape Kit.”
Do I have to make a report to the police?
The decision to report the assault is solely yours. Try to keep your options open, by speaking to the police about what happened and asking them to hold on to any evidence you may have until you have made a decision. The hospital is not obligated to notify the police of your report. They are only required to report incidents of child or elder abuse to the Department of Social Services.
Who should I call for help after the attack?
Dial 911 if you are in danger or fear the attacker will return. The police and ambulance will usually come to your location once you call to report the crime. Even if you do not want to report the attack to the police, you should seek medical care. You may have injuries you are unaware of and should be tested for pregnancy, STDs or STIs.
Where should I go for treatment?
Volunteer Community Hospital is right across the street from University Courts at 161 Mount Pelia Road.
The Student Health & Counseling Center is located on campus at 609 Lee Street (across from University Villages Phase 1).
The Weakley County Health Department is also available at 9852 Highway 22, in Dresden.
If you go to Student Health or the Health Department, you will be referred to Volunteer Hospital where they are equipped to provide emergency care and any relevant tests.
What should I do before I go to the hospital?
Even if you currently do not want to pursue criminal charges, it is important that you keep your legal options open. Try not to shower, change clothes or bedding, douche, brush your teeth, use the bathroom, smoke or eat. Doing any of these may destroy important evidence. If you decide to change clothes, place these items in a paper or plastic bag and turn them over to the police or medical staff. You may also want to take a change of clothing with you to the hospital.
May I have a friend or family member come to the hospital with me?
Yes, you will be allowed to have someone with you to provide support while you are at the hospital.
Do I have a choice regarding the care and treatment I receive?
You cannot be treated or examined by medical staff without your signed consent. You have the right to refuse any part of the treatment you do not wish to receive. If you are unsure about the care you are being given, you may ask the nurse or doctor to explain what they are doing. Usually, medical staff will explain each procedure to you so you know what is being done and why.
What can I expect when I go to the hospital for treatment?
Before a medical examination is performed, you will be asked for your personal information. The hospital refers to this as being triage. Triage includes recording your name, address, telephone number and the reason for your visit to the ER. You will be asked questions about your medical history and any health conditions you may have. The triage nurse will also ask for the date of your last period and whether or not you are on any current medications or birth control.
You may be asked for details of the attack. Pertinent questions may include the type of penetration, where the attack occurred and what happened. These questions may make you feel uncomfortable, afraid or ashamed, but they will help medical staff ensure that you receive the proper care. During your examination, a Sexual Assault Kit or 'Rape Kit' may be completed. A nurse and / or physician will be present to complete the relevant tests for the kit.
If you decide to report the assault to the police and have not done so already, Martin Police Department will be contacted. Remember, it is your right to not have the police involved if you wish. However, to keep your legal options open, you may have police take a report and collect evidence until you decide what you want to do. If you decide to report the crime to the police, they will interview you prior to the exam. This interview will consist of questions such as:
If not already done, the police will request that a Sexual Assault Kit is completed. They will also interview you again after the medical examination to gather more information.
What kind of tests may be performed at the hospital?
The hospital may perform a variety of tests to collect evidence, and to test for sexually transmitted diseases or infections.
Clothing - If you are wearing the same clothes you had on during the assault, these may be taken for evidence. This includes your shoes and underclothes. You may be given clean clothing if you did not bring any with you.
Blood and Urine Screening - Blood is drawn to screen for STDs or STIs. A urine sample is used to determine if you are pregnant. It is important to realize that some STD or STI tests (eg. HIV) are not reliable until some time after first exposure. Whether or not you are given medication, it is important that you keep any appointments for follow-up medical care. You may be asked to return to the hospital or you health care provider 4 to 6 weeks after the incident.
If you indicate that you were drugged by the assailant, you may be screened for alcohol and drugs. Even if you voluntarily took the alcohol or drugs, it is important that you tell medical staff. This can help to provide evidence that you were vulnerable during the attack. Drugs and alcohol can also interact negatively with the medication you are prescribed. Medical staff can make informed decisions regarding your care with this information.
Hair Samples - The hair on your head and pubic areas will be combed to collect samples. Several hairs may also be pulled from these areas to discern which are yours and which may be from your assailant. If semen is found, it may be clipped or cut out.
Oral Swabs - If there was any kind of oral contact, the inside of your mouth and lips will be swabbed to collect possible DNA evidence. You will also be asked to rinse your mouth, and the rinse will be collected.
Vaginal and / or Anal Swabs - If there was vaginal or anal assault, swabs will be taken from both areas as well as your inner thighs and external genitalia. Female victims may also expect a pelvic exam to collect evidence and test for STDs. The hospital may also employ the use of a 'black light' to detect any fluids for evidence around the area.
All evidence is sent to a police lab where tests will be carried out and recorded for use in criminal proceedings.
What do I do after the hospital and police part is over with?
Please attend all follow-up care appointments and take any medications prescribed by medical staff. Dealing with the aftermath of a sexual assault is not always easy, but PSEPP staff (call 881-7869) are here to refer you to services at your request. The Student Health and Counseling Center (call 881-7750) offers counseling services to UTM students. The fees for these services are already included in the tuition for enrolled students.