Hospital Advocacy

Safe Haven advocates are available survivors to the hospital immediately following a sexual assault or domestic violence assault 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Advocates provide survivors and co-survivors with crisis intervention before, after, and during an exam, awareness of options and resources, and support their decisions. 

DNA evidence from a crime like sexual assault can be collected from the crime scene, but it can also be collected from your body, clothes, and other personal belongings. You may choose to have a sexual assault forensic exam, sometimes known as a “rape kit,” to preserve possible DNA evidence and receive important medical care. You don’t have to report the crime to have an exam, but the process gives you the chance to safely store evidence should you decide to report at a later time. (RAINN)

It is recommended that individuals 15 years of age and younger have a forensic exam within 72 hours after an incident has occurred and that individuals 16 years and older have an exam within 96 hours.  Anyone who has experienced a sexual assault should try to refrain from showering, urinating, brushing teeth, smoking, eating, drinking or changing clothing prior to the exam (source: www.avitahealth.org).

Safe Haven Advocates are available to provide support to survivors in local emergency rooms. 

What happens during a sexual assault forensic exam?

The steps below outline the general process for the exam. Remember, you can stop, pause, or skip a step at any time during the exam. It is entirely your choice.

  • Immediate care. If you have injuries that need immediate attention, those will be taken care of first.
  • History. You will be asked about your current medications, pre-existing conditions, and other questions pertaining to your health history. Some of the questions, such as those about recent consensual sexual activity, may seem very personal, but these questions are designed to ensure that DNA and other evidence collected from the exam can be connected to the perpetrator. You will also be asked about the details of what has happened to you to help identify all potential areas of injury as well as places on your body or clothes where evidence may be located.
  • Head-to-toe examination. This part of the exam may be based on your specific experience, which is why it is important to give an accurate history. It may include a full body examination, including internal examinations of the mouth, vagina, and/or anus. It may also include taking samples of blood, urine, swabs of body surface areas, and sometimes hair samples. The trained professional performing the exam may take pictures of your body to document injuries and the examination. With your permission, they may also collect items of clothing, including undergarments. Any other forms of physical evidence that are identified during the examination may be collected and packaged for analysis, such as a torn piece of the perpetrator’s clothing, a stray hair, or debris.
  • Possible mandatory reporting. If you are a minor, the person performing the exam may be obligated to report it to law enforcement. You can learn more about mandatory reporting laws in your state through RAINN’s State Law Database.
  • Follow up care. You may be offered prevention treatment for STIs and other forms of medical care that require a follow up appointment with a medical professional. Depending on the circumstances and where you live, the exam site may schedule a follow up appointment, or you can ask about resources in your community that offer follow up care for survivors of sexual assault. Someone from the exam site may also be able to provide information or resources about reporting options.

Source: Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network

Why should you consider having a sexual assault medical forensic exam?

  • It won’t cost you. You should not be charged for the exam. The Violence Against Women Act requires states to provide sexual assault forensic exams free of charge if they wish to remain eligible for critical anti-crime grant funding. If you are charged for the exam, immediately contact your local sexual assault service provider.
  • You can have time to decide if you want to report. The decision to report the crime is entirely yours. It may take some time to decide what to do. Having a sexual assault forensic exam ensures that the forensic evidence will be safely preserved if you decide to report at a later time.
  • It increases the likelihood of prosecution. The importance of DNA evidence in sexual assault cases cannot be overstated. Not only does DNA evidence carry weight in court, but it may prevent future sexual assaults from occurring. Even if the perpetrator is not prosecuted, their DNA may be added to the national database, making it easier to connect the perpetrator to a future crime.
  • Your health matters. Sexual assault can affect your physical health. You may have injuries and trauma related to the assaults that aren’t immediately visible. During an exam you may be able to access treatment for these injuries, receive preventative treatment for STIs, and obtain emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy.

Source: Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network

Preparing for a sexual assault forensic exam

If you are able to, try to avoid activities that could potentially damage evidence such as:

  • Bathing
  • Showering
  • Using the restroom
  • Changing clothes
  • Combing hair
  • Cleaning up the area

It’s natural to want to go through these motions after a traumatic experience. If you have done any of these activities, you can still have an exam performed. You may want to bring a spare change of clothes with you to the hospital or health facility where you’re going to have the exam.

In most cases, DNA evidence needs to be collected within 72 hours in order to be analyzed by a crime lab—but a sexual assault forensic exam can reveal other forms of evidence beyond this time frame that can be useful if you decide to report. Place your belongings, including the clothes you were wearing, in a paper bag to safely preserve evidence. If you have questions about the timeframe, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or talk to your local sexual assault service provider.

Source: Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network

There are hospitals in the surrounding counties and in the city of Ashland that have 24-Hour SANE Units or SAFE Units – specially designated areas that provide quality medical care and forensic evidence collection for sexual assault patients. They are staffed by SANE nurses (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners), who are experienced RNs with intensive classroom education, extensive clinical experience, and expertise in sexual assault evaluation and forensic evidence collection. SAFE doctors (Sexual Assault Forensic Exam) work in conjunction with experienced nurses to collect forensic evidence and complete the exam. 

(Source: Cleveland Rape Crisis Center)

The following hospital provides SAFE services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

 

Avita Hospital

Adult and Pediatric Services

Avita Health System - Emergency Services
715 Richland Mall
Ontario, Ohio 44906

Phone: 567-307-7557

 

The following hospital(s) provides SANE services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

 

University Hospital

Adult Services (18+)

UH Samaritan Medical Center - Emergency Services
First Floor
1025 Center Street
Ashland, Ohio 44805

Phone: 419-289-0491 or 1-800-257-9917

 

Akron Children's Hospital

Pediatric Services (18 and under)

Akron Children's Hospital - CARE Center
Locust Professional Building
300 Locust St.
Suite 170
Akron, Ohio 44302

Phone: 330-543-3023

 

Ohio Health MedCentral: Mansfield

Adult and Pediatric Services

Ohio Health MedCentral - Mansfield (Main Branch)
335 Glessner Ave.
Mansfield, Ohio 44903

Phone: 419-526-8000

 

Shelby Hospital

Adult Services (15+)

OhioHealth - Shelby Hospital
199 West Main Street
Shelby, Ohio 44875

Phone: (419) 342-5015

 

University Hospital - Rainbow Babies and Children

Pediatric Services (17 and under)

Marcy R. Horvitz Pediatric Emergency Center
11100 Euclid Ave,
Cleveland, OH  44106

Phone: 216-844-1644

**Rainbow Babies and Children SANE services are on-call after business hours. A SANE nurse is typically available to conduct the exam. In the case there is not a SANE nurse available, a physician will conduct a SAFE exam**