It is very important for a victim of rape or sexual assault, to be a medically examined as soon as possible after the assault for the following reasons:
- to determine if there has been any injury, especially internal, that may not be readily apparent
- to test for a sexually transmitted disease and/or unwanted pregnancy
- to collect medical evidence for possible prosecution.
The victim will be asked to have a complete medical examination. This may involve a pelvic (internal) examination, the collection of specimens for laboratory tests and the taking of photographs of injuries related to the offence. The kinds of specimens include combings of the pubic hair and vaginal or anal swabs to test for the presence of semen. Photographs may be taken of any of the injuries and may include the face, body, vaginal or anal area. If the victim decides not to proceed with immediate police action, the laboratory specimens will be held at the hospital for seventy two hours or longer if requested.
The victim can be accompanied through the medical examination by a friend, social worker or nurse. As well, he or she can request total privacy in treatment and can refuse the collection of medical evidence for use in a court case, although refusal might jeopardise a prosecution. A victim can also ask questions and receive explanations of the reasons for every test and procedure.
The proceedures for taking DNA etc from victims and volunteers is set out in Division 1 of the Criminal Law (Forensic Proceedures) Act 2007 (SA). Volounteers and Victims also have the right to request the destruction of that information under section 39 of that Act.
Yarrow Place is a Rape and Sexual Assault Service in South Australia - it has counsellors and on-call crisis response workers, they can provide medical care, including the collection of forensic evidence - see their website fo rmore information: http://www.yarrowplace.sa.gov.au/rape.htm.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.