What can I expect if I go to the emergency room after a sexual assault?

You have the right to respectful, confidential medical care from health care providers at all hospitals. In addition, some hospitals have specially trained nurses that provide examinations after a rape. They are called Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners.

What are Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE)?

Some hospitals have specially trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, sometimes called SANE nurses, on staff. SANE nurses provide sexual assault examinations 24 hours a day at no cost. These examinations are done to collect any evidence that may lead to the arrest and prosecution of the person who sexually assaulted you, and to provide you with any medical care you may need. You can find a list of hospitals or clinics with SANE nurses here, or call RAINN’s confidential 24-hour hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673).

What will SANE nurses do for me?

SANE nurses can provide you with medications to help prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, and emergency contraception to help prevent pregnancy. You should also know that emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy works up to 120 hours after a sexual assault, and you can get that medication at all Washington State hospitals, from most school health centers, at many pharmacies, or from your doctor if you have one. If you have been sexually assaulted and you are concerned about preventing pregnancy, you should try to get emergency contraception as soon as you can after the assault because it works better the sooner you take it. SANE nurses will also collect evidence, which may include documentation of your medical history, an examination for injuries, photographs, tests for sexually transmitted infection or pregnancy and treatment, and communication with police. If you wish, bring a family member or friend with you for support. If the examination is done to collect evidence, the examination must be performed within 96 hours after the assault. You have the right to decline any part of the exam at any time.

What if the hospital I went to doesn’t have a SANE nurse?

Sometimes hospitals offer to transfer a patient who has been sexually assaulted to a different hospital with a SANE nurse, if they can be safely transferred. You have the right to agree to that transfer or not. Sometimes there is no SANE nurse at a nearby hospital. Even if there is no SANE nurse to help you, you have the right to get your injuries treated, be referred for counseling and follow-up care, and to receive medications to help prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

What if I waited a while to go to the hospital? Can I still get help?

Yes. If you think you need medical attention, and more than 96 hours has passed since the assault, you still have the right to get medical care, including emergency contraception and medications to prevent sexually transmitted infections.

Do I have to report the assault to the police if I go to the hospital?

You do not have to decide right away whether you want to report the sexual assault to the police. The evidence obtained in the SANE exam will be stored for a period of time, so if you decide you want to report the assault to the police later, that evidence may still be available. If you decide you want the evidence to be tested by a crime lab, law enforcement must send the exam evidence to a crime lab within 30 days. Ask your SANE nurse for more information about how the evidence collected during your exam will be stored and how to access it. You can get more information about these exams at www.rainn.org/articles/rape-kit.

Do I have to pay for my medical care and the rape exam?

The SANE exams are paid for by the Washington State Crime Victims’ Compensation Program. You will not be charged for the exam. As for any medical care you receive, the hospital will bill your health insurance. If you do not have health insurance, the hospital must treat you anyway, and must inform you of your right to charity care (free medical care) and how to request it. The Washington Law Help website has detailed information on your rights to charity care here. You also may be eligible for Crime Victims’ Compensation. If you report the assault to law enforcement within a year, and meet other eligibility requirements, that program will pay for medical expenses related to the sexual assault that are not covered by insurance. Visit Washington State Crime Victims Compensation website for more details about eligibility and applying for the benefit.

Wondering about who has to keep your information confidential?

Visit the Confidentially Tell Someone section of this website. Free confidential support and advocacy services are also available; visit our Resources page for a list of agencies and nonprofit organizations in your community.

Going to the Hospital