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Seeking medical care

You should seek medical attention as soon as possible after a sexual assault for the treatment of physical injuries (including internal injuries that you might be unaware of), prevention of sexually transmitted infections and evaluation of the risk of pregnancy.

Even if you are unsure about reporting your assault or pressing charges, you should have a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) perform a sexual assault evidence collection exam up to 120 hours after the assault. They can gather and preserve the evidence and store it for you in case you decide to pursue legal action. A sexual assault evidence collection exam, also called a SARS (Sexual Assault Resource Services) exam, can be obtained at Purdue University Student Health (PUSH) or at a hospital emergency room.

What happens during a post-sexual assault exam?

After being sexually assaulted, it is common to feel uncomfortable, uncertain or even afraid of the idea of a medical exam. Doctor visits can be awkward even under routine circumstances. It might be difficult to let a stranger touch your body during the medical exam, but remember that you have a lot of control over the situation.

You can ask the doctor or nurse to talk you through the procedures, and you are welcome to ask questions about the process at any time. You are also within your rights to request a female or male staff member, whichever makes you most at ease. Also, you can refuse any part of the treatment at any time if you feel uncomfortable. You can also have someone with you — friend, family member or advocate — during the entire process.

Below is a description of what you can expect during a post-sexual assault exam:

  • You will be asked about your general health and medical history. If you are a female, the nurse will ask about the date of your last period and whether or not you use any contraception.
  • You will be asked to describe the assault. Although it might be difficult for you to talk about, it is important to be open and forthcoming with the nurse so that they will know what kind of injuries to look for during the exam.
  • The nurse will check your vital signs — temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and respiration rate — then will examine your body for any injuries including bruises, cuts, scrapes, etc. The nurse might ask to take photos of your injuries for documentation, but photos will only be taken with your consent.
  • If you are a female, you will have a pelvic exam. The pelvic exam will be much like a routine gynecological exam — including the use of a speculum in the vagina — but the nurse will also check for injuries and collect DNA evidence.
  • Blood and urine samples will be tested for infections and/or pregnancy. These samples can also confirm the presence of any “date-rape” drugs in your system.
  • Depending on the details of the assault, the nurse might take samples from your mouth, rectum or under your fingernails.
  • You might be offered medication to reduce the risk of contracting certain sexually transmitted infections, and you might also be given the “morning-after pill.”