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After a sexual assault, you may wish to seek medical attention to determine if you have suffered physical injuries and to collect any evidence left behind by the person who sexually assaulted you.

The care and evidence collection process performed at the hospital is called a sexual assault forensic exam, also known as a “rape exam” or “rape kit.” It can reveal injuries that may not be easily seen. Swabs and envelopes are used to collect possible evidence from the body.

Related: Do I have to pay for the forensic exam and medications I receive at the hospital?

The exam also includes:

  • Treatment for possible sexually transmitted infections (STIs or STDs)
  • Medication to prevent pregnancy (emergency contraception), if desired
  • Information about follow-up medical care, community resources and support

If you go to the hospital, the sexual assault will likely be reported to the police. However, you do not have to talk to the police in order to get a forensic exam. You can decide later whether or not to talk to police.

Evidence collection is best conducted within three to five days after a sexual assault. Hospitals have different time frames for providing care and collecting evidence, but all hospitals will provide an exam within three days.

Related: Why should a victim of sexual assault visit a hospital?

If you decide not to go to the hospital, or if it is after the exam time frame, you may go to your family doctor or a clinic to be tested and treated for STIs and to discuss pregnancy risk.

Related: I’m worried that I may become pregnant

An advocate from the local rape crisis center can help you with your decisions and provide more information. Call 888-772-PCAR (7227).

Related: Your local rape crisis center can provide a legal advocate to help you through the process