When a person is sexually assaulted, it is important for them be able to access legal, medical, emotional, and mental health care quickly and easily. A new Hancock County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), launched last year, is seeking to do just that. SART is a joint effort between local law enforcement, prosecutors, victim advocates, and medical professionals who work together to provide comprehensive care and justice for victims of sexual assault. This effort includes a team of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE), local nurses who are trained and ready to provide medical and forensic examinations.
One in five women in the United States experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes, while nearly a quarter of men experience some form of sexual violence, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Nationwide, 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men report some sort of sexual assault or harassment within their lifetime.
Thanks to a grant from the Office of Women’s Health and the Indiana State Department of Health, local victims no longer must travel to Anderson or Indianapolis to undergo a special medical and forensic examination. Instead, they can now be treated locally at the Knightstown Health Care Center during business hours or in the Hancock Health emergency department after hours. Advocates hope this makes the process a little easier for people who are in crisis situations.
What is a sexual assault examination?
When someone is sexually assaulted, they may need professional care for their injuries, including the physical, mental and emotional. A sexual assault examination is intended to treat injuries and offer follow-up care, support, medication, and resources. The examination may also include a forensic examination, which is a specific examination to collect evidence for law enforcement and prosecutors seeking to identify, charge and convict the perpetrator.
What happens during the medical portion of the exam?
Trained medical professionals perform the sexual assault examination. The healthcare providers include a team of local Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners who understand the importance of sensitive, empathetic care during this vulnerable and frightening period. The medical portion of the examination includes a head-to-toe exam to identify injuries and offer treatment as needed, including medications that may prevent sexually transmitted infections. Patients will also be referred for follow-up care and offered other necessary resources.
What happens during a forensic examination?
The forensic examination involves documenting any injuries and collecting evidence like bodily fluids to for law enforcement and prosecutors. A special assault kit is used to safely collect and store evidence before it is handed over to law enforcement.
Frequently asked questions
Do all sexual assault victims need an examination?
A sexual assault examination is designed to provide assistance and resources to the victim. However, adult patients are in control from start to finish. Patients can decide what portions of the medical examination they want to undergo and whether they want to also have a forensic examination to collect evidence. If a patient is unsure about reporting an assault to law enforcement, they have up to a year to decide if they want the evidence forwarded.
Where can someone go for a sexual assault examination?
Is it confidential?
The examination and any results are completely confidential unless the victim is a minor. Health care professionals are mandated reporters and must report any suspected sexual assault in minors to the proper authorities.
What does it cost?
There is no cost for the examination
Can a friend or family member be present?
Once again, the patient is in charge. If space is a consideration, the patient may be asked to limit the number of support people present during the examination. Or the patient may opt to have no one else present.
How soon should a sexual assault examination be done?
Ideally, sooner is better, especially when it comes to collecting forensic evidence after a sexual assault. Evidence can be collected for up to five days after an assault. However, there is no limit to how long a person can wait to undergo the medical portion of the examination.
What resources are available for sexual assault victims?
There are several local resources available to provide follow-up care:
Alternatives Incorporated serves Hancock, Hamilton, Henry, Madison and Tipton Counties and provides support and education to eradicate domestic and sexual violence in Central Indiana. A 24-hour crisis line is open at 866-593-9999.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is open at 800-799-7233.
The Healthy365 Connection Center offers information on community resources, including healthcare, support groups and legal and protective services.