Things to expect if you visit an emergency room:
- Medical staff will ask you what happened. You may have to tell several different staff members while you are there—if you have visited the ER before, you may recall that generally, when a new staff person comes to do some kind of examination, (s)he asks you some questions about what emergency services you need. It is not the job of medical professionals to determine whether you are “telling the truth”—they are trained to ask questions when they enter the room to ensure that they are providing you with appropriate care. This information will help the staff take steps such as calling a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) (see below). Medical staff are bound by confidentiality, so they legally cannot inform anyone else about what you tell them if you are over the age of 18. The law may vary from state to state, but usually staff cannot report the assault to police without your consent.
- Medical staff may supply emergency contraception and STI prophylaxes based on your experience. There are a few options for emergency contraception (see below), but generally they are effective for up to 72 hours after an assault. You may be given a prescription for HIV post-exposure prophylaxis if the person who assaulted you did not use a condom and if there is a high risk factor. The medical staff may provide you with prophylaxes for other STIs. They should inform you about side effects and when to take the medications. If you have any questions about the side effects, don't hesitate to ask the nurse or doctor.
- You may be given a SANE. These nurses are specially trained to support sexual assault survivors and provide care that is sensitive to the trauma you just experienced. SANEs are licensed to administer a rape kit (see below). If undergoing the procedures required for the kit are likely to cause much additional trauma with limited potential to collect evidence, the SANE may inform you that (s)he thinks it may be best to not administer the rape kit. If you want evidence collected, you should tell the SANE, and you can ask him/her to stop if you change your mind. You may choose to have certain aspects of the kit completed but not others.
- A counselor, licensed social worker, psychologist, and/or medical advocate may come and speak to you about what happened and offer you information about obtaining more long-term services.
- You may be asked if you want to report the assault. You do not have to make this decision right away—deciding not to report at one point in time does not mean that you have revoked your right to report the assault at a later point in time. If you want to report the assault while you are in the emergency room, medical staff will call a police officer who can take your testimony. You always have the option of going to the police later and reporting the assault.
- As part of the rape kit, you may be asked to give permission to have photographs taken, especially if you suffered physical injuries during the assault. These photographs could be used as evidence in a court case or in campus disciplinary proceedings. If it is not too distressing, having such evidence may be of benefit to you if you decide that you want to report the assault immediately or at a later point in time.
- If you would feel more comfortable with a medical provider who is of the same gender as you or one who is not of the same gender as the person who assaulted you, you can make this request to the medical staff.