By Veronica Huerta, Sexual Assault Program Manager
What is a SAFE?
A Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) or “rape kit” is performed to preserve and document potential evidence while providing medical care. It is not necessary for you to report the assault to law enforcement in order for you to undergo the exam.
You have the option to undergo the exam anonymously and take time to decide whether you want to report the incident. Any evidence collected will be stored for at least 30 days if you decide to report. The kit consists of materials, instructions, envelopes, and containers to package collected specimens.
If you choose to receive a SAFE exam, it is best to avoid activities that may damage evidence, such as bathing, using the restroom, changing clothes, combing hair, or cleaning the assault area.
Nevertheless, even if you do clean up, you can still undergo a SAFE exam. If possible, bring your belongings and the clothes you were wearing in a paper bag, as it helps preserve potential evidence. You may also bring a change of clothes for comfort.
DNA evidence is usually collected within 72 hours, but other evidence may be found beyond that timeframe.
What should I expect during an Exam?
The exam duration can be up to 6 hours, depending on various factors. You have the right to stop or pause the process at any time, and you may skip any parts that make you uncomfortable. As long as the forensic collection portion of the exam is completed, the county is obligated to cover the cost. While no one else is allowed in the exam room with you and the nurse, your advocate, friends, or family may remain in the waiting room. If you are a minor, the medical professional performing the exam is required to report to law enforcement.
The exam process typically involves:
-Immediate care for severe injuries.
-Questions about medications, health history, recent consensual sexual activity, and details about the assault to identify potential injuries or DNA.
-A head-to-toe examination, which may include collecting bodily fluids, documenting injuries through photos, and gathering clothing.
-Follow-up care, including STI, STD, or pregnancy testing, and further medical attention for injuries, if necessary.
What if I don’t want to undergo a SAFE Exam? What are my options?
If a SAFE exam is not the option you wish to pursue, taking care of your physical health and safety through other medical options is recommended. Local health care providers might not be familiar with these alternatives and may try to refer you to Reno or Las Vegas for a SAFE exam. However, you have the right to decline this option. Your advocate can help you explain that you only wish to receive specific services. They will work with you to identify free or low-cost options and funding opportunities, ensuring you can access suitable services and navigate complex systems.
EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTIVES (EC)
To access emergency contraceptives for preventing pregnancy, you can obtain them for free through Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada Family Violence Prevention Program or seek low-cost options from your local health district, such as Planned Parenthood.
STI TESTING AND SCREENING
Public Health Centers should offer free and low-cost testing and screening for sexually transmitted infections (STI). This step is crucial to address any health concerns and obtain necessary medication.
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE INTERVIEWS
After a report of child sexual abuse is accepted for investigation by law enforcement or other appropriate reporting agency, a forensic interview and medical evaluation will take place. The process involves a team of different agencies such as law enforcement, county attorney’s, department of child and family services, medical providers, mental health professionals and advocates . You may ask questions along the way, but you will not be able to stay with your child while they are being interviewed. Having a parent in the room can place extra stress on the child and also prevent them from sharing certain details. The interviewer will be trained in working with children experiencing trauma and will ensure their safety. The following are the Child Advocacy Center’s in Nevada where the forensic interview will take place.
Elko: Great Basin Child Advocacy Center
701 Walnut St., Elko, NV 89801
T: 775-738-3828, ext. 23
Pahrump: Nye County Child Advocacy Center
621 S. Blagg Rd. Pahrump, NV 89048
T: 775-751-1118, ext. 126
Las Vegas: Southern Nevada Children’s Assessment Center
701 North Pecos, Building K Las Vegas, NV 89101
Reno: Washoe County Child Advocacy Center
2097 Longley Lane, Reno NV 89502
T: (775) 328-3223
A forensic interview is conducted by a specialist or a criminal investigator who is trained in working with children who have been sexually abused. The interviews are recorded so that the multi-disciplinary investigative team may view the tapes rather than question the child multiple times. It is a non-threatening, non-leading interview that keeps your child comfort and safety in the forefront.
Your child may be scared about talking with strangers, especially in regard to something as traumatic as sexual abuse. It’s important that you share with them that the interviewer talks to kids all the time about these “things” (sexual abuse). Reassure your child that there are no right or wrong answers, and she/he/they just need to tell the interviewer what happened. Most of all, let your child know that she/he/ they are not in trouble and will not get into trouble for sharing what happened.
If a medical exam is necessary, the examiner will be specially trained in providing exams for children.
Any next steps will be explained by the family advocate and team based upon the interview.
LEGAL INFORMATION AND STATUTES
As a victim-survivor of sexual assault, you are entitled to your rights. Understanding how the law perceives sexual assault can be helpful in deciding what route you want to take in pursuing justice. Never feel pressured into reporting, underreporting (leaving information out or downplaying the assault) or over-reporting (sharing more information than you want/need to or reporting to more than one agency). The decision is yours. Talk to your advocate about reporting options and support for working with law enforcement.
NEVADA CRIME VICTIM’S BILL OF RIGHTS
- The 1983 Legislature (Nevada Revised Statutes, Chapter 178) mandated certain rights and guarantees to crime victims and witnesses:
You have a right to know the status of the case in which you are involved.
- You have a right to be free from intimidation or dissuasion.
- You have the right to know when your impounded property may be released.
- You have the right to receive a witness fee for lawful obedience to a subpoena.
- You have a right to understand the existing victim compensation laws and receive compensation if applicable.
- You have the right to a secure waiting area, which is not available to the defendant or the defendant’s family when you are at court.
- You have the right to know when the defendant is released from custody before or during the trial.
- You have the right to know when the offender is released from prison (upon written request).
NRS 200.366 SEXUAL ASSAULT: DEFINITION; PENALTIES; EXCLUSIONS
(for more Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) visit: www.leg.state.nv.us/NRS)
1. A person is guilty of sexual assault if he or she:
(a) Subjects another person to sexual penetration, or forces another person to make a sexual penetration on himself or herself or another, or on a beast, against the will of the victim or under
conditions in which the perpetrator knows or should know that the victim is mentally or physically incapable of resisting or understanding the nature of his or her conduct; or b) Commits a sexual penetration upon a child under
the age of 14 years or causes a child under the age of 14 years to make a sexual penetration on himself or herself or another, or on a beast.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO PRESS CHARGES?
After the initial report is made to law enforcement, a victim survivor can decide whether they would like to move forward with the investigation, a process that is referred to as pressing charges. Ultimately, the decision to press criminal charges is up to the State. It is possible though uncommon that a prosecutor may move forward with charges based solely on the available evidence, even if the survivor chooses not to be involved.
PROTECTION ORDERS: PROTECTION ORDERS FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT
A Protection Order is an order issued by a court that allows an APPLICANT to use the power of the court to require an ADVERSE PARTY (the person you want to stay away) to do, or not do, certain things:
a) It may order the Adverse Party to stay away from the applicant’s home, school, business, or anywhere else determined by the court.
b) It may order the Adverse Party to refrain from contacting, intimidating, threatening, or otherwise interfering with the applicant; and any other person, including, without limitation, a member of the family or household of the victim, specifically named by the Court.
c) An applicant may get a Protection Order and enjoin the adverse party from physically injuring, threatening to injure, or taking possession of any animal that is owned or kept by the applicant or minor child, either directly or through an agent. If you have experienced sexual assault and are 18 or older, you may apply for a Temporary Protection Order or an Extended Protection Order at your local justice court which you may find here: https: //nvcourts.gov /Find a Court/ Justice Courts/. If under eighteen years old, a parent or guardian must apply on the child’s behalf.
TEMPORARY PROTECTION ORDER (TPO)
May require a hearing but can be issued by a justice of the peace without a hearing.
In effect for 30 days after the order is signed and served, unless otherwise ordered by a justice of the peace. If the order is not served within 30 days of issuance, it will expire.
EXTENDED PROTECTION ORDER (EXPO)
- A hearing is required.
- Can extend a TPO for up to one year.
- If you apply for an EXPO while a TPO is already in place, the TPO will stay in place until the hearing of the EXPO occurs.
- BEFORE YOU FILE:
- Application can be completed online and printed or completed in-person at the court, but it has to be submitted to the court in-person.
- Try to be as specific as you can, including all relevant dates, locations, and witnesses.
- Include any documentation of phone calls or contact from the Adverse Party
- Include any notes/written threats left by the Adverse Party
- Include pictures of property damage or physical injury caused by the Adverse Party
Anything else that helps document the sexual assault is to include the copy of police report if applicable, but it is not required.
Important to note that the application and any supporting documentation submitted to the court becomes a public record that can be viewed by anyone. You can talk to the court clerk about keeping your name and address confidential. Keeping information confidential may affect law enforcement’s ability to enforce the protection order, especially if the Adverse Party approaches you at a location not listen on the protection order.
Besides workplace harassment, protection orders do not require a filing fee.
An applicant must wait until three weeks after a TPO is served to apply for an extended protection order.