Sexual Assault Forensic Exams

What is a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE)?

A SAFE is typically a medical/forensic exam that includes a physical exam, genital exam, and collection of swabs and samples to preserve evidence of a sexual assault. Trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners or physicians perform the exams and can provide immediate medical care by treating injuries and offering information about sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. You can decline any portion of the exam you if you choose.

What do I do if I have been sexually assaulted?

You are not obligated to do anything after you have been sexually assaulted, but you may choose to take advantage of one or more options for medical care, evidence collection and reporting the assault to the police:

  1. You can have a SAFE performed and file a police report.
  2. You can request to have a SAFE performed but choose not to report the assault to the police.
  3. You can receive medical treatment for any injuries and prophylactic treatment for sexually transmitted infections and opt out of having a SAFE performed. Opt out of reporting the assault to the police.
  4. You can file a police report but opt out of having a SAFE performed.
  5. You can opt out of medical care and/or police reporting.

The Center encourages you to do what you feel is best in regard to seeking medical care or police involvement. You are always welcome and encouraged to call our crisis line at 1-844-BE-SAFE-1 with any questions or concerns following a sexual assault.

If I want a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam, where should I go?

By law, all hospitals must be able to conduct a SAFE; Immediate Care Centers and physicians’ offices are not able to conduct SAFE services. If you go to a hospital emergency room for a SAFE in Jefferson, Oldham, Bullitt, Shelby, Trimble, Henry, or Spencer counties in Kentucky, or Clark or Floyd counties in Indiana, one of our hospital advocates will be called to be a part of your care team. The advocate is there to accompany you during the exam if you wish, and to provide you with advocacy, support, and resources.

Doctors, nurse practitioners, and physicians assistants are capable of performing SAFEs. There are also specialized Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) who are highly trained in performing this exam. Not all hospitals have SANEs available. If you would like to determine where you can go to have an exam performed by a SANE, you may contact the crisis line at (502) 581-7222.

If you don’t need additional medical care that would require an emergency room setting, you may prefer to come to The Center for Women and Families’ SAFE Clinic at our main campus at 927 S. 2nd Street in Louisville for an exam. The clinic is staffed by on-call SANEs through a partnership with University of Louisville Hospital.

Many patients prefer to utilize this calm and private setting for a SAFE. If you would like to have a SAFE performed at The Center’s clinic, please call our crisis line where an advocate can assess whether this is the best option for you. All services at the SAFE clinic are free and no insurance or payment information is collected.

Please call our crisis line with any questions about where you should go to receive a SAFE.

When should I have a SAFE performed?

People who have been sexually assaulted are encouraged to have a SAFE performed as soon as possible within 96 hours of the assault. Past the 96-hour period, any collectable evidence will have been lost.

If you have been sexually assaulted, you are encouraged not to eat, drink, or smoke until the SANE or physician says it’s okay to do so. It is also best not to shower, bathe, or douche until the SANE or physician completes the exam.

If you have already done some of these activities within the 96-hour period, you are still eligible for the SAFE, and you are still encouraged to come in for the exam.

How is the cost of the SAFE covered?

The Crime Victims Compensation (CVC) board covers the cost of performing a SAFE and providing preventative medication for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. The medical professional administering the exam will handle this paperwork with you and can explain whether the CVC board can cover other medical care you may need.