A sexual assault forensic exam, commonly known as a rape kit, is an examination to collect any evidence left behind after a sexual assault. When a survivor chooses to report an assault to authorities, this exam can be extremely helpful in prosecuting the assailant, as well as allowing the victim to receive necessary medical care.
Note: The following content contains details about what happens during a sexual assault forensic exam. If you feel you may find this distressing, please make the choice that’s right for you. For 24/7 help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE.
What is a rape kit?
With the help of RAINN, we’ve put together some information on the basics of a sexual assault forensic exam. An exam can last for several hours, depending on the particular situation. It’s important to get an exam within 72 hours of the assault to preserve evidence – the sooner the better.
The actual kit itself contains things like bags and paper for specimen collection, cotton swabs, a comb, forms and documentation, and materials for urine and blood samples.
A rape survivor DOES NOT have to pay for a rape kit to be performed.
Preparing for a sexual assault forensic exam
Victims of sexual assault are strongly urged to avoid activities that could damage evidence:
- Bathing or showering
- Changing clothes
- Going to the bathroom
- Combing hair
- Cleaning the area
It’s understandable to want to clean up after a traumatizing experience. Even if the survivor has showered or bathed, evidence can still be collected.
What happens during the exam?
Following is a basic outline of what happens during a sexual assault forensic exam. Be aware that a patient has the right to stop, pause, or skip any step of the exam. Again, it’s best to have an exam as soon as possible after the assault.
- Medical care: First, a healthcare professional treats any serious injuries.
- Medical history and information: The patient provides information about their health history, medical conditions or medications. They’ll also be asked details about the assault, in order to get the best possible care and collect the most evidence.
- Complete physical exam: The healthcare professional conducts a full head-to-toe exam. This exam can include internal physical exams. They may also take photos to document injuries, as well as take samples of urine, blood, hair, and items of clothing. RAINN recommends taking a change of clothing to an exam.
- Follow-up care and treatment: Sexual assault can put victims at risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Healthcare professionals may offer tests, antibiotics and information for follow-up treatment. Patients may also be tested for date rape drugs, or request emergency contraception.
After a rape kit is collected, it is submitted to and tested by authorities.
You may have heard a lot about the current backlog of untested rape kits in the United States. California legislators have recently taken steps to reduce the backlog with S.B. 22. This bill would mandate law enforcement and authorities to submit rape kits for testing within 20 days, and crime labs to test that evidence within 120 days.
Surviving a sexual assault is a traumatizing experience. The Los Angeles attorneys at Taylor & Ring protect victims of sexual violence and support those who come forward. We’ll help you get justice. Call us today at 310.776.6390 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation.