What to Do if You Have Been Sexually Assaulted

Collecting Medical Evidence

If you know that you wish to have medical evidence collected, you can go directly to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center or Massachusetts General Hospital Emergency Room for this process. When you arrive, tell the intake assistant that you need to be seen for a sexual assault. They will escort you immediately to a private room and you will be met by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, a nurse who is specially trained to perform the evidence collection. The Nurse will ask you if you want to report the assault to the police-the choice is yours. The evidence can also be collected anonymously while you take some time to decide.

Why is evidence collection important?

  • It is important to preserve any physical evidence that will be pivotal in prosecuting a rape or sexual assault. You have several months to decide if you wish to prosecute the assault, but having medical evidence may improve the strength of your case.
  • You should not bathe, douche, change clothes, or remove anything from the area in which the incident occurred (bed linens, etc.). This will help preserve evidence in the event that you decide to prosecute. If possible, you should wear or bring the clothes with you to the hospital that you were wearing at the time of (or immediately after) the assault.
  • It can be helpful to write down everything that can be recalled about the assault, including a physical description and/or name of the perpetrator, specifics about the use of force or threats, the location, time and date of the assault, and any witnesses or others who may have seen you immediately before or after the assault. This written account should be kept in a safe place and may be helpful to you later if you decide to bring charges against the perpetrator.

Timeline

Oftentimes, people ask if there is any urgency in reporting. The most important thing is to ensure that you are taken care of and that you consider reporting options when you are ready. That being said, here are some important time limitations to keep in mind.

Immediately: If you believe you have been drugged, seek medical care immediately. Depending on the type of drug, it may leave your system very quickly.

Within 5 days: You have 5 days after the assault to have forensic evidence collected. If you are interested in evidence collection, call VPR’s 24-hour hotline and an advocate can go with you to Beth Israel Hospital or Massachusetts General Hospital, where a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner can collect evidence.

There is also a 5 day window in which you can receive emergency contraception and there is similar time sensitivity regarding some sexually transmitted infection prevention. If you have questions about this, you can call MIT Medical.

Graduation: If you are interested in pursuing a disciplinary case, there is no official window in which you must report, but keep in mind that the options become very limited once the Respondent graduates.

6+ years: If you are interested in pursuing a criminal case, there is a 6 year statute of limitations on rape in Massachusetts. The period is longer, however, in certain situations, e.g., if you were a minor when the assault occurred. If you have questions, an advocate from VPR can assist you in working with the Victim Rights Law Center. The MIT Police Department's Detective Unit will assist with a criminal complaint, obtaining an order of protection, and answer any questions about reporting options.