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Common misconceptions about ‘Rape Kits’ according to HCWC

Sunday, April 28, 2024

April is both Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Awareness month. The following article is the final article of a five-week series focusing on raising awareness about sexual assault and child abuse. Locally, HCWC served 616 community members that experienced sexual assault or abuse and 899 children that suffered abuse and their protective caregivers.

Commonly referred to as ‘Rape Kits’ and full of misconceptions, a Sexual Assault Forensic Examination, or SAFE, is a medical examination following sexual assault. SAFEs are performed by a certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner; a registered nurse with additional training to examine patients after sexual assault.

It’s a common misconception, even by hospital staff and law enforcement, that there’s no evidence to collect after 120 hours (5 days). While biological evidence (swabs) can’t be collected, a survivor’s oral history of the assault can be captured as evidence in a chronic exam. Sometimes survivors can’t get an exam within 5 days; kidnapping, legal status, custody disputes, injury, incarceration, and safety concerns are just some reasons for delays in examination. Chronic exams provide valuable evidence collection after 120 hours that can support a survivor if they choose to proceed with legal prosecution.

Recent legal reform has made it easier for survivors to get exams they have needed. Law enforcement no longer preapproves SAFEs. SAFE nurses report an increase of SAFEs, especially for strangulation and chronic exams. Law enforcement is still available for survivors wanting to report their assault, but there isn’t a requirement of police presence, making SAFEs more accessible for survivors.

In a sexual assault or strangulation exam, patients can expect to have their story heard, their experience believed, and their needs supported. Increased awareness and reduced restrictions have made SAFEs more accessible for survivors, despite the common misconceptions we hope to dispel.

Dispelling the myths surrounding SAFEs is crucial to creating a supportive environment that empowers survivors to seek justice and healing. HCWC has 24-hour emergency hospital response for sexual assault survivors seeking forensic exams and employs counselors and advocates that specialize in working with those who have experienced sexual assault and abuse. If you or someone you know needs help, please call the free and confidential 24hour HELPline at 512396-4357.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666