The Rape Exam

Learn more about the evidence collection process here.

The rape exam serves two goals: first to provide the best immediate care for the survivor, and second to collect evidence that may be used to prosecute the crime.

In order to collect evidence, a survivor must seek treatment at a hospital within 120 hours of an assault. All Massachusetts hospitals are able to provide an evidence collection tool, the Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit (SAECK), often called a "Rape Kit." The Rape Exam is the process used to collect the evidence for the Rape Kit.

The Rape Kit

  • The Kit is a box that contains all the neccessary materials to collect evidence.
  • Each Kit has a unique number assigned to it. All evidence collected will be placed in envelopes or bags and labeled with this number. The survivor will receive a copy of this number.
  • The Kit has 16 separate steps to collect evidence. There are detailed instructions for each step that the provider should follow.
  • All rape kits are brought to the Crime Lab but are only analyzed when the survivor makes a report to police.

The Rape Exam

  • The survivor is in control of the entire exam. Before each step of the Kit, the medical provider should explain the step and ask the survivor if they want to continue. Nothing will be done that the survivor does not agree to.
  • A rape exam is usually done by a doctor or nurse.
  • The exam may take several hours to complete. During the exam, the medical provider must remain with the Kit at all times.
  • The survivor can give the medical provider a verbal account of the assault. This will tell the medical provider where to look for evidence on the survivor's body.
  • A physical exam may be performed to assess, document, and treat injuries like bruises, lacerations, and broken bones.
  • The medical provider may collect samples from the survivor's mouth, vaginal and/or anal cavities, fingernails, and other parts of the body that the perpetrator touched during the assault.
  • The medical provider must ask the survivor if he or she had consensual (willing) sex with anyone in the past 5 days who may also have left behind DNA. This step helps law enforcement determine which DNA was left by a consensual partner and which DNA belongs to the perpetrator.
  • If there are signs that the survivor may have been drugged, a toxicology kit may be collected.
  • Clothing and undergarments may be collected as evidence during the rape exam.

Get more information about what you need to know before you go to the ER and what to expect when you get there.

Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, Inc. (BARCC) © 2015 All Rights Reserved

This project was supported by Grant #2009-WF-AX-0014 awarded by the Violence Against Women Grants Office, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety & Security Office of Grants & Research and subgranted to the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. Points of view in this document are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice or the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety Programs Division.


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