Information about Medical Procedures and Resources
HIV Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
There are many instances in which someone can be exposed to HIV. Rape is unfortunately one of them, but the medical field has developed a medication which can help reduce the risk of contracting HIV. People who are exposed to HIV can take a combination of 2-3 pills once a day for 28 days to help fight off any potential HIV virus, thus reducing your chances of getting HIV. PEP is effective if you starting taking it within 72 hours of an assault. Side effects of this medication can be severe and include nausea and constipation. One suggestion for reducing the experience of side effects is to take the pill right before you go to bed or in conjunction with an anti-nausea pill. You can discuss side effects and suggestions with a doctor as well. You need to get a prescription for HIV prophylaxis, which you can obtain from your primary care doctor, the emergency room, an urgent care clinic, and HIV clinics. Because HIV takes time to build a detectable viral load, you may be asked to get tested at 4 – 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months after the assault. Your doctor or the staff in the emergency room can help you set up the first follow-up appointment.
There are a few options for emergency contraception. The most commonly used method is Plan B. It consists of a single dose pill and you can take it within 72 hours of a sexual assault to reduce the risk of pregnancy in women weighing less than 165 pounds. Plan B is 95% effective if taken within 24 hours of sexual assault and 89% effective if taken between 24-72 hours. Plan B is NOT the same as an abortion pill - it works by interfering with the fertilization of an egg or delaying ovulation to prevent an egg from being released. As such it prevents the creation of the fetus in the first place. A new emergency contraception pill called Ella is becoming increasingly common and works the same way as Plan B. Ella can be effective for up to 120 hours for women weighing less than 175 pounds. Hospitals may offer one or the other, but both are available over the counter at a drugstore. Copper IUDs (called ParaGuard) are a third option for emergency contraception and involve a small procedure similar to a pelvic exam to put it in place. If you are interested in ParaGuard, ask your nurse or medical provider as some hospitals do not yet offer this option.
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE)
A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner is a nurse who is specifically trained to provide sensitive care and collect forensic evidence in the event that you may want to report the assault. Some hospitals have SANEs in-house, and others may need to call one from outside the hospital to assist you. If you choose to do a rape kit to collect forensic evidence the nurse will ask you about your medical history and the assault, and then conduct a head-to-toe physical examination to collect any evidence that would provide information on the perpetrator (i.e. hair, body fluids such as blood, urine, or semen). You can give the SANE any clothes you were wearing that might have evidence on them as well. You can choose to complete whatever aspects of the kit that you wish to complete. For example, you may choose to have mouth swabs taken, but decline a pelvic examination. At the completion of the kit you should be given a case number that you can use if you want to report the assault.
What’s a Rape Kit?
A rape kit may also be called a sexual assault forensic evidence kit (SAFE), a sexual offense evidence collection kit (SOEC), a physical evidence recovery kit (PERK), or a sexual assault evidence collection kit. The kit generally contains instructions, evidence collection bags and sheets, swabs, a comb, envelopes, tools for blood collection, and documentation forms, which help the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) collect evidence and information about the assault. Some or all of these tools may be used, depending on the nurse’s discretion. If the nurse thinks a particular step of the examination may bring you a lot of trauma and yield very little evidence, (s)he may tell you that (s)he will not do that step of the exam. An example of when part of the examination may do more harm than benefit is conducting a vaginal exam for DNA evidence if the survivor has showered several times prior to visiting the hospital. If you want the nurse to take all steps to collect evidence, tell him/her and your request should be honored.