Sexual assault and domestic violence continues to be a pervasive problem in our community. UofL Hospital has been leading the way to increase access to services for victims and assist in holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.
SAFE Services at UofL Hospital, which stands for Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner, connects sexual assault and domestic violence victims with much needed resources: medical/forensic exams, law enforcement and advocates.
UofL Hospital has the largest program of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners in Louisville.
Victims visit SAFE Services at UofL Hospital or The Center for Women and Families via:
- Emergency Medical Services or law enforcement bringing them in
- Victims visiting other local emergency rooms, who are then discharged from that hospital and brought to the SAFE Clinic at The Center for Women and Families
For victims who don’t have significant medical injuries, the exam may take place at the SAFE Clinic within The Center for Women and Families’ Joan E. Thomas, M.D. Campus, located in downtown Louisville.
SAFE Services at UofL Hospital has continued to expand services and reach out to more victims in our community since its inception in 2005. Most recently, 2017 was a record-breaking year with 590 victims of domestic violence and sexual assault accessing services.
Sexual assault continues to be the most underreported crime in our community and many victims are reluctant to seek medical care. While the number of sexual assaults reported to police has remained mostly unchanged, SAFE Services and The Center for Women and Families continue to work to encourage victims to come forward, seek needed medical care, and access resources for dealing with the physical and emotional impact of their assault.
SAFE Services began seeing victims of domestic violence in 2015 after receiving a grant funding from Verizon Wireless HopeLine® program that covered enhanced equipment and a startup fund for examinations. Although the startup fund was designed to last a year, the demand for domestic violence forensic exams surpassed expectations and was depleted within three months. UofL Hospital SAFE Services has remained committed to providing this service to victims of domestic violence.
Throughout 2017, SAFE Services saw a total of 274 domestic violence victims.
Who conducts the exam?
Exams are conducted by Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs), who are registered nurses trained in the forensic/medical examination of sexual assault, and are credentialed by the Kentucky Board of Nursing. SANEs may conduct the exam, collect and preserve evidence, and testify in legal proceedings.
UofL Hospital has the largest staff of on-call SANEs in the Louisville community. SANEs allow for minimal wait times, expedited care, and expert evidence collection.
For Sexual Assault:
A complete head-to-toe forensic medical exam for sexual assault victims may be completed with patients 14 or older, male or female, and must be completed within 96 hours (four days) of the assault.
The exam may include:
- Prophylactic medications to prevent sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy and HIV
- Documentation of injuries (written and photographed)
- Body and genital exam to evaluate/document injuries, collect samples
- Collect evidence in the form of swabs, photographs, and possibly blood and urine samples
- If you believe you were drugged, drug testing may also be part of the exam.
For Domestic Violence:
SAFE Services expanded in 2015 to offer help to victims of domestic violence.
A forensic medical exam for domestic violence victims may include:
- Documentation of injuries (written and photographed)
- Evaluation of strangulation symptoms and injuries
Frequently Asked Questions:
Do I have to report the crime to police to receive medical care?
No. You can receive all the same services we offer regardless of whether or not you choose to report to police.
Where can I go to receive an exam?
SAFE Services has two clinic locations. You can receive an exam at UofL Hospital’s Emergency Department or the SAFE Clinic at The Center for Women and Families’ Joan E. Thomas, M.D. Campus, located in downtown Louisville. If you have life-threatening injuries, call 911 immediately to be taken to your nearest emergency department. If you do not have serious injuries, call The Center for Women and Families toll-free 24-hour hotline for assistance.
What should I do after a sexual assault to help with evidence collection?
The earlier you seek treatment after an assault, the more evidence there will be to collect.
If possible, it is best to not shower, brush your teeth, change clothes, smoke, eat or drink after an assault. If you have changed your clothing, bring the items worn at the time with you to the exam. Even if a victim has showered or changed clothes, a medical forensic exam is still appropriate.
How long after an assault can you collect evidence?
The collection of forensic evidence is best performed within 96 hours (four days) of the assault. After this time most DNA evidence is gone, but other portions of the exam may still be performed. This may include forensic photography and medications to treat sexually transmitted infections.
Can my friend come with me to the exam?
Yes. We encourage bringing a friend or family member for support during the exam. If you choose, you may also have an advocate from The Center for Women and Families with you during the exam.
Victims have a choice on whether or not to report their assault to the police. If a patient chooses not to report, all of the same services are still available.
If a patient chooses to report the assault, records are shared with the investigating officer. Evidence collected will be turned over to law enforcement after processing by SAFE Services.
If a patient chooses not to report the assault, UofL Hospital will store the evidence for up to one year in case the victim later wishes to report it. Once collected, the evidence is well preserved and does not deteriorate with time.
SAFE Services partners with The Center for Women and Families to offer advocacy and resources to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. If you would like to have an advocate from The Center present for support, they can remain with you during the exam.
Learn more about The Center for Women and Families
The SAFE Services office at UofL Hospital may be reached at 502-562-4064. Victims in crisis, however, should call The Center’s 24-hour crisis line toll-free at 1-844-BE-SAFE-1. If there are life-threatening injuries, call 911 immediately.