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What is a Medical-Forensic Examination?

Acute Sexual Assault Medical-Forensic Examination

The purpose of the sexual assault medical forensic examination is to take care of all your healthcare needs after a sexual assault. With your permission, the nurse can also collect forensic evidence that can be found on your body.

Who should consider having a sexual assault examination?

Anyone who knows or believes that they may have been sexually assaulted in the past 6 days/144 hours, or longer if having genital pain, bleeding, or visible injuries.

Important points:

  1. The survivor is always in control of what happens. The nurse will explain each step and get permission before moving forward. Some healthcare needs are time-sensitive. Medicine to prevent pregnancy must be taken within 5 days after an assault. HIV prevention medications must be started within 72 hours after an assault.

  2. An exam is still recommended even if the survivor has bathed or showered since the assault.

  3. A complete medical forensic examination can take place without talking to a law enforcement officer, but all sexual assaults must be reported to law enforcement.

  4. The survivor can decline to have any part of the examination.

What happens in a sexual assault examination?

The primary concern is always health and safety. You will be evaluated for any emergent medical needs and care provided. A specialized nurse, also known as a forensic nurse or SANE will be contacted to provide you one-on-one care. The facility should also have an advocate respond to offer services and support throughout the examination. During the assessment, you will be given options and have control over the care provided to you. Here is the general process of an examination:

  1. Identify and treat any emergent medical concerns

  2. Obtain and medical and assault history

  3. Offer emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy and antibiotics for sexually transmitted infection prevention

  4. A thorough examination to identify areas of injury or evidence

  5. Evidence collection using supplies in the Utah Sexual Assault Kit

  6. Photography of injuries (with consent)

  7. Clothing collection

  8. Anything else that you and the forensic nurse deem appropriate

Intimate Partner Violence/Strangulation 
Medical-Forensic Examination

Intimate partner violence resulting in strangulation is a very serious health risk. We have recently added IPV Strangulation medical-forensic examination services to support survivors. These examinations focus on evaluating health risks while documenting injuries, collecting DNA, and providing crisis support. These examinations follow a similar process as sexual assault examinations without the need for a genital exam.

Seated with Hands Held

Things to Consider

The following activities should be considered fi you are seeking an exam but will not prevent attempted DNA collection during a medical-forensic exam as analysis techniques have greatly improved.
Exams can be performed up to 6 days post assault or longer if pain or visible injury persists
Avoid bathing/showering 
Avoid eating and drinking (If within 24 hrs of the assault)
Bring any clothing worn at the time of the assault
You can bring a support person with you to the exam
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