What Happens in the Hospital by Mary Dell Hayes and Meredith Peters

When a survivor reports a sexual assault at the Emergency Room of a local hospital the survivor should immediately be brought back to a triage room.  This is where a survivor is assessed for serious medical injuries that need to be treated before evidence can be collected.  The triage nurse should then call the forensic nurse examiner and the advocate from Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands to the hospital.  The advocate from STSM responds to the hospital to provide support and information to the survivor and will accompany the survivor through the process.

If the survivor wants to report the assault to law enforcement then the appropriate law enforcement agency will be called to take the initial report and issue a case number.  If the survivor does not want to report to law enforcement, the forensic nurse examiner can still collect evidence through an anonymous sexual assault evidence collection kit.  This option gives the survivor twelve months to decide whether or not to report the case to law enforcement before the evidence is destroyed. 

When the forensic nurse examiner arrives she will conduct an in depth interview with the survivor to learn the survivor’s medical history and the assault narrative.  The forensic nurse examiner will then conduct a medical exam to collect evidence based on what happened during the assault and to identify and treat injuries.  The exam includes taking pictures of injuries, using a black light to identify and swab for DNA and fluids, and may include a pelvic exam with a speculum.  If the survivor’s clothing is collected as evidence the advocate from STSM will provide the survivor with new clothing to wear home.  The forensic nurse examiner will give the survivor the option of taking prophylaxis to prevent sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy.  The advocate from STSM will make sure the survivor has something to eat before taking the medication, as it can make the survivor nauseated.  The advocate will ensure the survivor has transportation and a safe place to go before being discharged.  If the survivor requests, STSM will provide follow up services and offer counseling, legal advocacy, and group counseling to the survivor and their family.