After a sexual assault occurs there are a number of steps survivors can take to begin the physical, mental and emotional healing process. One of the first formal steps after a sexual assault occurs is to undergo a rape kit. A rape kit is a specific kind of forensic exam conducted on sexual assault survivors to collect evidence of the crime from their body. They are typically conducted by specially trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs).
This comprehensive and physically invasive examination can take anywhere from four to seven hours. The SANE collects as much DNA evidence from the survivor's body as possible.
What specifically happens during that examination?
The examination will start with a general medical intake, which involves answering questions that you might be asked anytime you see a new doctor. From there a bulk of the examination involves collecting everything from blood, urine and hair samples to more invasive kinds of things like cheek swabs, vaginal swabs and anal swabs. Photographs of any kind of genital bruising or external injuries may also be taken. Clothing worn at the time of the assault is collected and held as evidence.
Throughout the rape kit process consent is key. If there is ever a time when the survivor would rather not go through with collecting they do not have to. That means if they are comfortable with a hair sample being taken but not with a vaginal swab being collected they do not have give it. More importantly, undergoing a rape kit does not mean that they then have to move forward with law enforcement to prosecute the perpetrator. There is usually a waiting period between a rape kit collection and deciding whether or not to get the police involved.
Even if someone chooses not to undergo a rape kit it is highly recommended that they have a medical examination to check for things like genital injury, STDs and pregnancy. It is encouraged that survivors get rape kits performed as soon after the crime occurs as possible.