Information About Sexual Assault Forensic Exam

In Maryland, specially trained nurses, referred to as Forensic Nurse Examiners (FNEs), are available to respond to and treat victims of sexual violence. A Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) Exam allows for your physical health to be examined in the event that any medical attention is required along with supporting survivors through evidence collection. Victims/survivors have the right to accept or decline any or all parts of the SAFE Exam, although critical evidence may be missed if not collected.

"Jane Doe" Reporting Option

A "Jane Doe" rape kit is a common name for forensic evidence kit collected during a SAFE Exam of a victim who chooses to remain anonymous. This option allows a victim to have evidence collected without having their identity revealed. Instead, a victim is provided a code used to identify their rape kit should they choose to retrieve the kit for analysis in conjunction with a police investigation.

What to Expect

Preparing to Go to the Hospital

  • If possible, it is encouraged that you have the nursing staff at Student Health Center call ahead to have the nurse and advocate meet you as soon as you report to the Emergency Department. If the staff are not available upon your arrival, you may be asked to wait in the Emergency Department's waiting room. You can also request transportation assistance from Student Health Center.
  • It is encouraged that you refrain from showering or bathing, brushing your teeth, washing your hands, urinating or defecating prior to the exam. It is also encouraged that you go to the hospital in the clothing worn during the time of the assault.
  • If possible, take a change of clothes in the event any items are kept for evidence. In the event you've changed clothes, please take the clothing worn during the assault stored in a cloth or paper bag. Plastic bags may degrade or contaminate any forensic evidence.

Checking In

  • In Western Maryland, the UPMC Western Maryland Regional Medical Center, located at 12500 Willowbrook Road in Cumberland, provides SAFE Exams. Please report to the Emergency Department for care. For more information on where SAFE Exams can be performed in Maryland, please visit the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault site.
  • Please tell an administrator at the Emergency Department's front desk that you need to see a Forensic Nurse Examiner.  You will be asked to provide your name.
  • Some preliminary medical information and vital signs will be collected - meaning that your temperature and blood pressure will be assessed while you wait.
  • The Forensic Nurse Examiner and a victim advocate from the Family Crisis Resource Center will meet with you to review the need for medical treatment.

The Exam

  • At the UPMC Western Maryland Regional Medical Center, a special treatment room is dedicated and reserved specifically for SAFE Exams.
  • The exam may take two to three hours to complete, as evidence is collected while also ensuring the medical well-being of the victim/survivor.
  • The SAFE exam typically entails:
    • Obtaining your medical history and information about the assault.
    • Physical examination from head to toe, including internal examination, to look for injuries.
    • Collecting and preserving evidence from the body, which may include blood, urine, hair, and oral, vaginal, and/or anal specimens.
    • Taking photos of any injuries, such as bruises, cuts, scrapes, or bite marks.
    • Collection of clothing, especially underwear, worn during the assault.
    • Providing medical treatment including information and/or prophylactic medications to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
    • Providing time to document the assault in writing for the evidence collection kit.
    • Providing referrals for counseling, community resources, and follow-up medical care.
  • You will also be seen by a medical physician to determine if any other medical treatment is necessary.

Follow-Up Care