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In some cases, the moments immediately following a sexual assault can seem to last a lifetime. In others, time may move so quickly it can feel as though you've been sitting there for just a few seconds even when it's been hours. In either event, it's important for sexual assault survivors to seek medical care and treatment as soon as practicable—though the idea of being touched by yet another person can often seem overwhelming. Fortunately, sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) are specially trained to perform this examination as compassionately and respectfully as possible. Learn more about what you can expect during a sexual assault examination.
The Medical Examination
The biggest priority after any sexual assault is to identify and treat any injuries stemming from the assault. Some common features of an assault include dangerous, potentially deadly activities like strangulation, binding, or rape with a foreign object, so it's important to ensure there is no long-term damage from any of these acts. A sexual assault survivor may also be given an STD test and provided with some prophylactic treatments to prevent disease or, in some cases, potential pregnancy.
After the medical examination, the SANE can meet with the sexual assault survivor to discuss some resources and follow-up treatment options. The survivor may wish to attend an outpatient therapy group or even a 12-step group to cope with the mental and emotional aftermath of the assault. Depending on the extent of any medical injuries, the survivor may also need to follow up with their primary care physician or gynecologist.
The Forensic Examination
Another key part of the sexual assault examination is the forensic exam, often termed the "rape kit" for short. During this, a sexual assault survivor will be asked details about the assault and given a head-to-toe examination to recover any possible DNA evidence (like hair, skin under fingernails, semen, or other bodily fluids). Depending upon what happened during the assault, the SANE may perform an internal examination of the mouth, vagina, or anus, and may take blood and urine samples to test for the presence of "roofies" or other intoxicants. The SANE may take photos of any injuries. These photos can seem intrusive, but may be helpful later if the perpetrator is brought to trial.
Because the forensic examination is designed to recover evidence that can help convict the perpetrator, sexual assault survivors are often asked not to bathe or shower before seeking medical attention. However, even if a survivor has bathed or showered already, it's still a good idea to seek this exam as soon as possible.
To learn more about strangulation SANE, please reach out to a local health and medical clinic.