Preserving Evidence after a Sexual Assault
- Evidence of a sexual assault should be preserved as soon as possible after the incident, even if the reporting student is unsure about reporting or filing criminal charges
- A Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) will preserve evidence and may be done up to 84 hours after an assault
- A SAFE may be done regardless of whether or not the student receiving the examination wants to pursue criminal charges.
- The student does not need to provide his/her name to police to have the exam and for the evidence to be preserved
- Preserving evidence, including from a SAFE, does not obligate the student to pursue criminal charges or appear in court
- Steps to preserve evidence:
- Do not shower or douche
- Try not to urinate. Urinating may reduce the ability to detect “date rape” drugs
- If there was oral contact, do not smoke, eat, or brush teeth
- Do not change clothes. If you have already changed your clothes, place them in a paper bag (plastic may destroy evidence) If you haven’t changed, keep the original clothes on and bring an extra set to wear home from the hospital
- Go to a hospital with the capability of providing a SAFE exam and request the exam. The cost of a SAFE examination is paid for from a state fund
Preserving Evidence after a Sexual Assault
If a student is sexually assaulted, preserving any available evidence, including the results of a SAFE, blood tests for “date rape” drugs, and/or testing urine, allows the student to leave open the option of criminal prosecution in the future without obligating the student to take that step. Moreover, because some kinds of evidence may only be collected within a short period of time after an assault, delaying action to preserve evidence immediately after an assault may reduce the chances for a successful criminal prosecution in the future. While submitting to a SAFE and other testing may be emotionally traumatic in the immediate aftermath of an assault, multiple local hospitals have specially trained clinicians who are experienced in helping survivors through the process.
Evidence Preservation Time Line
In Oregon, a SAFE may be conducted up to 84 hours after a sexual assault. However, the sooner after an assault the examination is conducted, the better the chances are for collecting usable evidence.
If a medical examination is conducted within 24 hours of an assault, the student may request a urinalysis and blood tests to screen for “date rape” drugs. If the examination is beyond 24 hours, but within 84 hours of the incident, a blood test may be requested in conjunction with a SAFE and/or medical examination for injuries, but a urine test will not be conducted.
Evidence collected during a non-reporting (see below) SAFE will be maintained for at least six months, but may be destroyed after that time if no police report is filed.
Medical Examination without a Police Report
Hospitals will provide a SAFE, including appropriate blood and urine tests, even if the student does not want to make a police report. These examinations are referred to as “Non-Reporting” SAFEs, or “Jane Doe” examinations [link to AG document]. This option allows the student to have potential evidence collected and preserved without giving his/her name to the police, or being obligated to pursue criminal charges. Hospital staff will conduct the non-reporting SAFE in the same manner as if a police report where being made so that the evidence is usable by police detectives and potentially admissible in court. Hospital staff will contact police once the examination is completed. A police officer will respond to collect the evidence and assign a police report number (without the student’s name), and will enter any evidence collected into police evidence. However, the evidence will not be processed or examined by detectives unless the student subsequently makes a report to police. Evidence collected from a non-reporting SAFE will be maintained for a minimum of six months. After six months, if no police report has been filed, the evidence may be destroyed. If the student reports the assault to police within six months, the evidence may be used by police detectives. Because the statue of limitations for serious sex offenses (e.g., Rape 1 and 2, Sodomy 1 and 2, Unlawful Sexual Penetration 1 and 2, and Sexual Abuse 1 is 25 years when the DNA of the suspect has been collected, the evidence could be useful for up to 25 years under certain circumstances.
Costs of a SAFE and medical care
The cost of the SAFE are covered by a state fund and the hospital should bill the fund directly. However, if the student requires additional medical care for injuries suffered during the assault or follow up care, those costs may be billed to the student’s health insurance. If criminal charges are filed, a state victim’s compensation fund may cover some or all of the costs for medical care. Current students may also receive care through the HCC, depending on the specific needs.