Medical Attention

Adapted with permission from the University of Virginia Women’s Center, Sexual and Domestic Violence Services

Before Your Medical Exam

To best preserve your legal options, prior to a medical exam you should not change clothes, shower or bathe, douche, drink, eat, smoke, brush your teeth, or use the bathroom unless absolutely necessary. These activities may destroy vital evidence. You should bring a change of clothes with you to the hospital. If you have changed your clothes since the assault, you should put the clothes you wore at the time of the assault in a paper bag (not plastic) and take the clothes with you to the hospital. When you arrive at the hospital, make sure you let the nurse or doctor know that you have the bagged clothes with you.

When you arrive at the hospital you will be asked some initial questions. You will likely be asked to provide your name, date of birth, reason for coming to the Emergency Department, address, occupation and employer, next of kin or emergency contact, and insurance information. Please note that any information you provide in the emergency room is confidential and necessary for registration and medical recordkeeping.

What is The Physical Evidence Recovery Kit (PERK)?

If an assault has taken place within 72 hours of your medical exam, the PERK kit can be used. This kit is designed to assist the examining clinician in the collection of evidence for analysis by the Virginia Division of Forensic Science.

Before the medical exam begins, you will be asked the details of the assault, including: the type of assault or penetration (oral, vaginal, or anal); where the assault occurred (example: in a car, on grass, on carpet); and your medical history, including the date of your last period; contraceptive history; and the date of your most recent voluntary sexual contact.

Clothing Evidence

The clothing that you were wearing during or after the assault will need to be taken as evidence. This could include the shoes you were wearing. The hospital will give you clean clothes and new underwear to wear home if you do not have a change of clothes with you.

Hair Samples

The clinician will collect hair combings from your head and pubic region. Twenty-five full-length hairs from different parts of your scalp and 25 from your pubic area must be pulled out to help distinguish your own hair from that of the assailant. If you would rather pull out the hair samples yourself, the clinician should allow you to do so. Semen found on your pubic hair will be cut or clipped out.

If There Was Oral Contact

In order to collect evidence, the clinician will swab your lips and the inside of your mouth and then collect a mouth rinse.

Vaginal Assault and/or Anal Contact

Swabs moistened with sterile water are used to wipe your inner thighs and external genitalia. Female survivors have a pelvic exam to collect other samples of evidence and to test for sexually transmitted diseases. For both females and males, additional swabs are used to collect evidence of sexual assault in the anal area if needed. In addition to the swabs, a specialized miscroscope called a colposcope will be used to detect and document miscrscopic injuries.

Blood/Urine Screen

Once the physical exam is complete, the nurse will draw a blood sample from your arm to determine your DNA type and to screen for sexually transmitted diseases. A urine screen and pregnancy test will also be completed. All screening tests done immediately after an assault are to document your state of health before the assault or for preexisting conditions.

If you or the person who accompanied you to the hospital (such as a family member, friend, or police officer) state that you were drugged by the assailant, screening tests may be done, including testing for alcohol. It is important to tell your clinician if you took a drug yourself (illegal or not). Being under the influence of any drug (over-the-counter, prescription, or street drug) may influence your medical needs/care. The presence of a drug in your body may also be important evidence should a criminal case against the assailant be prosecuted.

Release of Evidence

Evidence collected in a hospital can be released to a law enforcement officer only with your written consent or if an authorized third party does so on your behalf. If you are unsure about prosecuting, the police can send evidence collected to the state lab to be held for up to one year (although this time may vary depending on your case).