Medical Forensic Exams
Although you have the right to receive medical care at any Emergency Department that you choose, if you decide to have a Medical Forensic Exam in Pima County, you should have it done at our designated location:
Designated Medical Forensic Exam Center:
Tucson Medical Center (TMC)
5301 E. Grant Road
If you are medically unstable and are unable to go to TMC or be transferred, a nurse will come to you to complete a Medical Forensic Exam.
The Medical Forensic Exam is a comprehensive medical exam. The examiner assesses and documents injuries associated with the assault and collects forensic samples. Due to the violent nature of the crime, it is important that samples be collected as soon as possible. The Medical Forensic Exam can be done at any time but the collection of samples may be taken up to five days (120 hours) after the assault. You have the right to decline any or all parts of the exam. The examiner may collect the clothing you had on at the time of the assault. The samples collected may be used in investigating and prosecuting the crime.
Can Any Healthcare Provider Perform the Medical Forensic Exam?
No. A Medical Forensic Exam is a comprehensive medical exam performed by a Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner who is a specially trained Registered Nurse, Nurse Practitioner, Physician’s Assistant or Physician with advanced educational and clinical preparation.
Why Would I Need a Medical Forensic Exam?
You may wish to have a Medical Forensic Exam to be treated by a trained Forensic Examiner who will:
- make sure that you are medically okay,
- complete a head to toe assessment,
- document any injuries,
- and/or have forensic samples collected immediately following an assault.
If law enforcement determines that a Medical Forensic Exam might benefit their investigation, they might request that you have one - although the decision is up to you. The Medical Forensic Exam can still be completed at the request of the survivor.
A Medical Forensic Exam will not tell you whether or not you were raped. Many times, a sexual assault will leave no injuries. Injuries discovered through a medical forensic exam can also result from consensual sexual activity as well. This does not mean that an assault did not occur.
How Do I Request A Medical Forensic Exam?
- Report the assault to hospital emergency room staff. All hospital personnel are required by law to report to law enforcement if a sexual assault survivor comes to the emergency department for treatment resulting from a sexual assault. However, survivors are not required to speak with law enforcement if they do not want to.
- Emergency department staff should dispatch a Sexual Assault Resource Service (SARS) Advocate to provide emotional support to you during your hospital visit. Be sure to ask the Emergency Department staff to contact a SARS Advocate if one has not been called.
- The SARS advocate will coordinate with the forensic examiner to provide the Medical Forensic Exam.
- You may also contact The Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault Crisis Line at (520) 327-7273 or (800) 400-1001 if you have any additional questions or concerns regarding a Medical Forensic Exam.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE MEDICAL FORENSIC EXAM
How Much Will The Exam Cost Me?
The Medical Forensic Exam you receive from the SANE is provided to you at no cost.
However, there may be costs related to the medical care provided by the emergency department staff. These costs may include: labs, X-rays, tests and medications to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STI’s), including HIV. The advocate can arrange for you to speak with emergency department staff if you have questions about billing.
The Arizona’s Victim’s Compensation program provided through the Pima County Attorney’s Office may help reimburse you for medical expenses. An advocate can help you apply for victim’s compensation.
Can I Get An Exam After 120 Hours (5 Days)?
Yes. For medical purposes, an exam is always an option. However, research has shown that after 120 hours, most forensic samples on our bodies are destroyed.
What You Need To Know About Forensic Evidence:
- Over time, forensic evidence is lost, begins to degrade, or becomes contaminated and is difficult or impossible to process. After a certain point, typically around 120 hours (5 days after an assault), most experts believe that little or no useful samples will be collected during a Medical Forensic Exam.
- Sometimes, even when a Medical Forensic Exam is performed immediately after a sexual assault, there aren’t samples that can be collected.
- Eating, drinking, smoking, bathing, combing your hair, or changing clothes are all activities which may compromise the ability to collect forensic samples.
How Long Does The Exam Take?
The length of the exam varies from person to person. The exam itself can take anywhere from 1½ hours to 4 hours.
What is Involved in the Exam?
The SANE may perform the following during the Medical Forensic Exam:
- Obtain a detailed history of the assault or abuse.
- Provide a detailed, comprehensive medical examination.
- Perform a detailed genital examination, which may include an examination with a speculum.
- Collect biological or trace samples from your body, including blood or urine.
- Remember, you have the right to decline any or all parts of the Medical Forensic Exam.
What If I Don’t Want A Medical Forensic Exam?
- You can call the Center Against Sexual Assault’s Crisis Line for other options at (520) 327-7273 or (800) 400-1001.
- Call your primary care doctor, an OBGYN, urgent care or other local medical clinic to receive medical care. Doctors and other medical personnel are mandated reporters and are required to report to law enforcement. However, survivors do not have to talk with law enforcement if they do not want to.
- We recommend that you receive immediate medical care and treatment.