I have been sexually assaulted.
What do I do now?
Are there time-frames to consider? . . .
Yes. There are several actions you can take which are time-sensitive.
It is very important to collect physical evidence before you shower, brush your teeth and change your clothes. Taking a shower and brushing your teeth will wash away vital evidence.
Time is of the essence when collecting DNA evidence.
There are also time-frames to consider related to emergency contraception, treatment for sexually transmitted infections and toxicology testing, if applicable.
Long term time-frames to consider include statute of limitations on civil lawsuits and criminal charges which vary depending on the jurisdiction.
Do I have to go to the Hospital? . . .
There are absolutely no wrong decisions. Only you know what option you will choose right now.
- If you go to a medical facility, evidence related to the crime will be collected and you will be provided with information on many local and national resources available to you.
- If you need help making this decision, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 or another organization that can help you.
Any emergency room can provide medical care and guidance after a sexual assault.
Do I have to report this to the Police?. . .
You don’t have to report the assault to the police right away, but be aware that the police conduct the most efficient investigation in the early aftermath of the crime.
If you report the assault to law enforcement, you will be given information and resources. For more information on a typical criminal investigation, please see the document entitled "What to Expect During a Sexual Assault Investigation.”
Also, there are statutes of limitations on criminal violations which should be considered.
Can I collect my own evidence?. . .
Yes. If, for any reason, you are unable to go to a medical facility or report the crime to law enforcement right away, you can collect your own evidence with the PRESERVEkit. The evidence you collect now could be critical down the road in the pursuit of justice.
Time is of the essence and you should collect the evidence as soon as possible. It is important to collect the evidence before you shower or brush your teeth. Collecting the evidence provides you with options if you decide to come forward in the future.
What if I don’t know what to do?. . .
There are many support services available to you to help you navigate through this time of your life. Click here for a list of suggested resources.
If you only can do one thing, type a detailed narrative of the incident. For guidance in writing the narrative, click here.
- Answer the Who, What, When, Where, and How questions.
- Consent, or lack thereof, is key in sexual assault cases.
- It is important to note actions such as turning away, saying no, pushing the perpetrator away or other similar actions that indicate lack of consent.
- It is also important to note if you were incapacitated in any way by drugs or alcohol and to describe any use of force.
As investigations continue, additional details are often recalled. This is typical but it will be very helpful for you to try to remember as many details sooner than later. If something of significance is remembered later, it can be a distraction from the main case because questions may be raised about inconsistency.
Once you have completed the narrative, send it in an email to yourself. This will place an immutable time and date stamp on the details if they are ever questioned in the future.
Is there anything I can do if there is no evidence to collect?. . .
Yes! You can memorialize the event. Memorializing the event means that you ensure to date and time stamp what happened, when it happened.
First, write a detailed narrative of the event.
- and any other detail even if it seems insignificant now.
If possible, text or email a friend. This helps with documenting the incident and with securing witnesses if needed in the future.
What is Chain of Custody?. . .
Chain of custody is a term used by law enforcement to trace an item to ensure that it has not been tampered with. As the collector of the evidence, you will sign and date your collection bag which initiates the Chain of Custody. If you release the collection bag to law enforcement, they will be accepting Chain of Custody from you.
How is DNA evidence used?. . .
There are two ways DNA evidence can be used in sexual assault cases - civil jurisdiction and criminal jurisdiction. Law enforcement uses a database named CODIS for its DNA identification. CODIS uses two indexes to generate investigative leads in crimes that contain biological evidence. The forensic index contains DNA profiles from biological evidence left at crime scenes and the offender index contains DNA profiles of individuals convicted of violent crime. If you transfer your evidence to law enforcement, any DNA extracted may be compared with the database to make an identification.
Civil cases can also use DNA by utilizing trained personal to compare the DNA extracted from the evidence to known DNA. For example, the perpetrator provides a DNA sample during the course of civil litigation. This is obtained from the perpetrator by trained personnel using proper protocols and Chain of Custody. DNA extracted from the known sample is then compared to DNA extracted from evidence.
Why are gloves included?. . .
Gloves are included in this kit for two reasons.
You may collect items that have the perpetrators fingerprints on them. Wearing gloves will help reduce any smudging of existing prints. If you do collect items touched by the perpetrator, remember to hold the item in an area that is typically not touched. For example, if you are collecting a glass, pick it up from the bottom.
The second reason gloves are included is that you may have a friend help you with the evidence collection. If you do, the friend should wear the gloves to avoid contaminating the evidence with his/her DNA and fingerprints.
What if my evidence is wet?. . .
Always dry the evidence before packaging it. Mold, mildew and bacterial degradation of the evidence can occur if stored while in a wet condition.
What if my evidence won’t fit into the bag provided in the PRESERVEkit?. . .
Any additional evidence that does not fit into the collection bag provided in the PRESERVEkit should be stored in a paper bag or cardboard box. It is very important not to include it in a plastic container or plastic bag as this encourages the growth of bacteria and can degrade the evidence.
Does my evidence need to be refrigerated?. . .
Based on proprietary knowledge and on our research, the evidence you collect can be stored at room temperature for an extended period of time without significant degradation. The evidence should be stored in paper to avoid mold and mildew. It should also be kept out of bright sunlight and high humidity, if possible.
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice National Best Practices for Sexual Assault Kits: A Multidisciplinary Approach August 8, 2017 Page 41: long-term storage. Page 39: short term storage.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology is conducting a 10-year project on DNA storage. Thus far, it confirms that refrigeration of dried DNA is generally unnecessary.
The Biological Evidence Preservation Handbook: Best Practices for Evidence Handlers Technical Working Group on Biological Evidence Preservation August 2013 Page 19: long-term storage Page 18: short-term storage.
Should I be worried about Pregnancy and STD’s?. . .
Depending on the circumstances of your assault, these can be serious issues. You can obtain a great deal of information at RAINN CLICK FOR MORE.