Your safety is the number 1 priority. If you can, try to get away from the person who assaulted you and find a safe place as quickly as possible. To report the incident or get help right away, call 911 or the police. If you think you may want to report the incident at any time in the future, you can help preserve any possible evidence by not washing, combing, or cleaning any part of your body. Also, do not change clothes if possible.
Do not touch or change anything at the scene of the assault. This can be difficult after a sexual assault, and the choice is yours about any of these steps. The more evidence is saved, the more options you have in the future.
If you are in pain or think you have injuries, go to your nearest hospital emergency room as soon as possible. You deserve to be treated for any injuries, and given options about possible sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or pregnancy. Whether or not you go to the hospital right away, it’s important to follow-up with a check up at a doctor’s office or health clinic in the next few weeks. If you don’t want to tell the doctor about the sexual assault, you can still get tested for sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy and have a check up to make sure you are physically okay.
If you have reported the crime to the police, or if you think you may want to report the incident or press charges in the future, a “rape kit” is the best way to preserve evidence.
What is a “rape kit” or “forensic exam”? A rape kit or forensic exam is a detailed exam for collecting evidence after a sexual assault. In Massachusetts, rape kits are performed up to 120 hours (5 days) after a sexual assault. The process is free to victims/survivors and you can have one even if you haven’t reported to the police but think you might want to in the future. In Hampshire County, a specially trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) can perform the exam at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton or at University Health Services (UHS). If you are a college student at UMass, Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College or Smith College, you can go to UMass University Health Services Urgent Care. The SANE will collect evidence, including clothing or fibers, hairs, saliva, or semen that the attacker may have left behind.
Every victim/survivor who has a rape kit done has the right to have a confidential advocate from a local rape crisis center at the hospital for the exam. The hospital usually calls the advocate for you. If the hospital does not call, you can call too – If you are at Cooley Dickinson Hospital or UHS, an advocate from the Center for Women and Community will come to be with you and support you during the process. To request an advocate, call 413-545-0800, 24 hours a day.