Seeking Medical Care
Why Should I Seek Medical Care?
IN TIMES OF EMOTIONAL STRESS, people tend to minimize their own feelings out of self-protection, or out of consideration for the feelings of people they love. Although you may feel fine physically, your body may be numbed by a state of shock, so it's important to seek medical care as soon as possible. Your need for treatment is, and should be considered, an emergency even if there are no visible signs of physical injury. Taking care of your health at this time is an important step in your healing process. If you choose to have evidence collected, the sooner this is done, the more reliable and potentially useful it will be. It is important to seek medical care in order to:
- be examined and treated for any injuries;
- be tested and treated for exposure to sexually transmitted diseases;
- discuss ways to reduce the risk of pregnancy;
- Collect medical evidence should you decide to report the assault to the police for possible prosecution of the offender.
It's important that you receive treatment at a facility where the staff is specially trained to provide care for sexual assault survivors and to use the correct methods for evidence collection. If you have any questions before or after medical treatment, call the Sexual Assault Resource Agency (SARA) office at 295-7273 during business hours, or the 24-hour hotline: 977-7273.
Where should I go?
You can receive health care (like medications to prevent infections or prevent pregnancy) at any facility. Timely medical evaluation may also be crucial to obtain evidence in criminal or civil procedures. The University’s Medical Center, however, is the only facility with nurses who are specially trained to collect evidence for victims of sexual assault, and this evidence collection must occur within 72 hours of the assault. The care you receive after a sexual assault is as confidential as any other health care and will not be reported to the police or the University unless you want it reported. Non-emergent care may also be received through the Elson Student Health Center (www.virginia.edu/studenthealth/).
What if I Need Transportation?
If a friend or family member isn't available, you may call "911" for police or rescue squad transportation to the hospital, or a Sexual Assault Resource Agency (SARA) counselor may be able to arrange transportation for you. You may ask for them to come in an unmarked vehicle.
Before You Arrive at the Hospital
Whether or not you decide to have evidence collected, it is important that you DO NOT:
- change clothes
- shower or bathe
- brush your teeth
- use the bathroom unless absolutely necessary
Taking these precautions before the medical exam allows you to keep your legal options open as long as possible. These activities can destroy vital evidence. Bring a change of clothes with you. If you've changed your clothes since the assault, place the clothes you wore at the time of the attack in a paper bag (not plastic). Bring them with you to the emergency room. Let your nurse or doctor know you have them, and tell them if you have done anything else (washed, etc.) before you arrived. This will assist them in making their report.