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Forensic medical examination

If you are thinking about reporting to the police, you can choose to have a forensic medical examination. The examination is done to provide evidence that can:

  • verify the type of sexual assault that occurred
  • support your explanation of what took place
  • help identify the person who sexually assaulted you.

This examination is most useful within 72 hours of the rape or sexual assault. However, it can be done up to 1 week after the assault. A doctor or nurse will collect evidence. Before collecting evidence, the doctor or nurse will talk with you about the examination and give you time to ask questions about it. You have the right to say yes or no to the collection of any samples. Evidence can include swabs taken for semen and saliva, or clothing and hair samples. Evidence also includes detailed documentation of your injuries.

Making a decision about contacting police can be difficult. We can offer a 'just in case' forensic medical examination. Evidence is collected and stored safely until you make a decision within a 12 month period.

What happens to the forensic evidence collected during the examination?

(This information only refers to services provided by Yarrow Place)

If you decide to:

  1. ask the police to investigate your complaint…
    The police will take the evidence to the Forensic Science Centre. The scientists will examine the evidence that was collected and provide the results and a report to the police. It can take some time for this to be done.
  2. have evidence collected and stored securely while you decide whether or not to ask the police to investigate your complaint – (‘just in case forensic examination’)…
    The evidence will be stored securely by Yarrow Place for 3 months from the date of collection. After 3 months the evidence will be transferred to the Forensic Science Centre for a further 9 months. After the 9 months at the Forensic Science Centre it will be destroyed. This means that you have 12 months in which the evidence will be available if you decide to ask the police to investigate your complaint.

You can contact the police at any stage after an assault, even many years later, but the evidence will only be available for 6 months from the time of collection.

Preserving forensic evidence

Sometimes people choose to delay the forensic medical examination because they have more pressing needs such as arranging childcare or needing to have a sleep.

The following information is provided to let you know what you can do to maximise the successful collection of forensic evidence when the examination is done, if there is to be a delay.

Washing/Showering

Some evidence may be lost if you shower or wash before the examination. If you can, it is better not to wash before the examination. It is very normal to want to have a shower or wash, so if you need to, try not washing the areas that have been involved in the assault. For example, don't wash your breast if you have been 'kissed' there during the assault, or if you were anally or vaginally raped please do not wash these areas.

Toilet

If you need to urinate (‘do a wee’), press your underpants to your external genitalia (vagina or penis) before removing them and going to the toilet. If you can, try not to defaecate (‘do a poo’) if you have been anally raped. If you do have to go, press your underpants to the anus before removing them and going to the toilet.

Clothing

Please keep the clothing worn at the time of the assault in separate paper bags and do not wash it.

Follow up medical care

Another appointment with the doctor is made to offer you:

  • pregnancy testing
  • testing for sexually transmitted infections
  • a check to see how your injuries are healing
  • an opportunity to talk about other problems that have been caused by the assault such as sleep disturbance and depression
  • time to talk about ways of coping with the effects of the assault.

What if I am in a country area and would like a forensic medical service?

If you are in a country area, this service is offered by Country Health SA at your general hospital. Contact your local police for further details.

Other medical services offered by Yarrow Place

Some survivors of sexual assault find it difficult to undergo regular preventative health care such as pap smears. Yarrow Place offers a sensitive preventative health service for all clients. This includes:

  • pap smears
  • breast checks
  • STI testing
  • contraceptive advice.

 

Other rape and sexual assault topics

 

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