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What to Expect

The first step to get help.

Sexual assault can leave invisible injuries and lead to long-term health issues. It is important to seek medical care even if you are undecided about reporting to law enforcement. You can visit a hospital or local rape crisis center, and most Tennessee facilities have trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) to perform the exam.

Sexual Assault Medical Exam

  • You will receive a head-to-toe physical exam

  • You will be offered medication for the prevention of common sexually transmitted infections (STI’s)

  • If pregnancy is a concern, you will be offered a pregnancy test and emergency contraception

Things to know about the exam

  • You do not have to report the assault to law enforcement to have a sexual assault kit collected
    - You can elect a hold kit which will remain in evidence for 10 years
    - This protects evidence from being lost while you decide whether prosecution is for you

  • The exam is free.

  • You can consent to all of the exam or just parts of the exam you are comfortable with
    - You can request the exam be stopped at any time 

  • Evidence can be collected up to 7 days following a sexual assault

If you do choose to have a sexual assault forensic exam, try not to:

  • Shower/bathe

  • Drink/eat

  • Brush your teeth

  • Urinate/douche

  • Change/wash the clothes you were wearing at the time of the assault


Even if you did any of the above, you can still have an exam done. If possible, bring the clothes you were wearing at the time of the assault with you in a paper bag for evidence collection.

The Narrative

The SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) will ask you for as much information as you can remember about the sexual assault. This may be difficult to talk about, but the narrative helps the SANE know what kind of evidence to collect, where the evidence may be located, and where to look for injuries. The SANE will ask questions about:

  • What type(s) of sexual assault occurred (oral, digital, vaginal, anal)

  • Where DNA evidence may be located

  • If the offender used force or restraint methods and what type

    • Detail any physical injuries and/or pain resulting from the assault

    • Strangulation/choking/any pressure the assailant placed on your neck. Non-fatal strangulation has serious long-term health consequences and may require additional medical treatment

  • Additional items that may be collected/tested for DNA

    • Condoms, bedding, tampons, towels/tissues the offender used to clean up

Evidence Collection & Injury Assessment

Following the narrative and asking your consent to proceed, the SANE will begin assessing for injuries and collecting evidence to include in the kit. The exam may include:

  • Toxicology sample if drug-facilitated assault is suspected

  • External swabs of any areas that may present DNA 

    • Alternative Light Source may be used to highlight any potential areas of collection

  • Swab of the mouth if oral-genital contact occurred

  • Fingernail scrapings and/or pubic hair combings

  • Photo documentation of any injuries

  • Collection of clothing worn during the assault

  • Pelvic exam

    • Find and document internal injuries

    • Collect swabs to submit for DNA testing ​

Remember, you may ask for a break, stop the exam, or decline any part of the exam. It is YOUR choice.


If you have not been provided one, you may request an advocate be called. Advocacy is free to sexual assault victims/surviviors, and advocates are important and beneficial for a number of reasons:

  • Advocates can accompany you during the medical exam and interviews with law enforcement and/or attorneys

  • Advocates are there to provide guidance, answer questions, and ensure your rights are being upheld

  • Many advocates accompany their clients to court appearances 

  • Advocates can refer you to follow-up resources and services that may be beneficial

  • Advocates can share concerns or issues with the Sexual Assault Response Team Coordinator who can work to address and correct those challenges


Additional Support

Find Advocates and support systems.


You Are Not to Blame.

Who to call?


National Sexual Assault Hotline



National Domestic Violence Hotline



National Suicide Hotline



National Human Trafficking Hotline


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