How do I get an exam to collect evidence after a sexual assault?

There are licensed medical professionals who undergo specific training to perform forensic evidence collection after sexual abuse or sexual assault; they are usually called Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE), or in other states they may be known as Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners (SAFE) or Sexual Assault Examiners (SAE).

SANE exams are conducted in hospitals to collect and preserve evidence after a sexual assault. You do not need to decide if you want to press charges before having a SANE exam; a SANE exam is separate from making a police report. The evidence can be collected and saved, whether you decide to make a report or not.

Where can I receive a Sexaul Assault Forensic Evidence Collection Exam (also called a SANE exam or a Rape Kit)?

If you or someone you know needs a SANE exam after a sexual assault, they are provided for free at any of these locations: 

 (UW Tacoma resources)

How to prepare for a SANE exam?

If you have been sexually assaulted, try to avoid doing any of the following before seeking help:

  • Taking a bath or shower
  • Using the toilet
  • Changing clothes
  • Combing your hair
  • Cleaning up the area where you were assaulted

It is normal to want to wash away the experience. However, it’s important to recognize that doing so may reduce the likelihood that evidence will be usable, if it can still be collected. Having done any of these things does not mean a SANE exam can’t be performed. It may just collect less evidence.

If you have to change your clothes before seeking care, put them and any other items you had on you in a paper bag in order to protect any evidence on them. You can, and should, bring a change of clothes to the hospital for after the exam if that will make you feel better.

Ideally, a SANE exam would be performed within 72 hours of the assault. This increases the likelihood that any DNA evidence will be preserved. However, if it is been longer than that, you can still request an exam. There are types of evidence that can still be useful even after 72 hours.

If you have an exam, it will likely take at least a few hours. The exam itself takes a significant amount of time. In addition, they may need to call an examiner and/or an advocate who is not on site.

For more information on the details of a SANE exam, we recommend reading this article from VeryWellHealth on SANE Exam Information.

More information on Sexaul Assault Forensic Care in the state of Washington can be found here.

What about at-home sexual assault exam kits?

In the past several years there has been a surge of companies across the nation advertising the sale of “DIY evidence kits” or “at-home sexual assault exams” to universities and students. Advocates, sexual health professionals, and even State Attorney General’s across the country have worked diligently to try and prevent the sale of these kits. Many states were able to provide cease and desist actions against the advertising of these kits to their respective universities and some successfully banned their sale. These at home kits are not able to guarantee the admissibility or reliability of evidence collected from their kits. For more information: UW Harborview &  Medical Center Manager of Sexual Assault Nurse Examines-Terri Stewart’s Daily Article describing SANE Exams and the benefits of a SANE exam over “at home” or “DIY” versions.  Terri Stewart is the Manager of both Harborview Medical Center and UW Medical Center Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program and Washington state’s SANE training programs.

It is every student’s right to be informed about and to receive professional medical services after an incident of sexual assault. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners are specifically trained, licensed medical professionals who can provide a variety of medical services after a sexual assault, including the forensic collection of evidence, called a SANE exam. SANE exams are subject to HIPAA laws to protect a survivor’s privacy. Click the linked text for more information on the differences between “DIY Evidence Kits” and legitimate medical SANE exams.

Talk to a Confidential Advocate

Students who have experienced a sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking or relationship violence can always meet with a UW LiveWell Confidential Advocate to understand options for reporting, safety planning, receive information about SANE exams, and get connected to other needed resources for healing and safety. Schedule with a UW LiveWell Confidential Advocate online.