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Medical assistance available after an assault
If the sexual misconduct you experienced involved any type of physical contact, please consider the following steps: (Information from The Compass p. 75-6)
- Do not bathe, shower, douche, or change your clothes. If you have already done so, preserve evidence of the assault by placing clothing in a brown paper bag. Try to avoid eating, drinking, smoking, and urinating until you have sought medical care (although if you have already done these things, evidence can still be collected and it is still very important to receive medical care).
- Seek medical care as soon as possible. Medical care is advised for many reasons-you may have a physical injury that you are unaware of, you can be tested and have preventative treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, you can explore options for emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy, and evidence can be collected for crime prosecution by a Physical Evidence Recovery Kit (P.E.R.K.). The kind of evidence that supports a legal case against an assailant should be collected within 72 hours of an assault. Having a P.E.R.K. completed does not obligate you to follow through on criminal charges – it just offers you this option. You have the right to refuse the P.E.R.K., and even if you do consent to it, it does not commit you to following through with filing criminal charges against your attacker. However, if it is not collected, you will lose the opportunity for its use should you later decide to pursue criminal charges against the assailant.
When receiving medical care, you can expect the following:
- A physical exam, including an exam of the area violated (i.e. pelvic exam if vaginally
penetrated, rectal exam if anally penetrated). Any bruises or other injuries will be evaluated.
- Blood work will be offered to test for STIs and HIV. Follow-up testing will be required
for these as well (it can take several months for an infection to be detected). You will
be offered antibiotics to prevent actual infection in case of exposure.
- If you suspect that you have been drugged, request urine testing for drugs. Testing
for some drugs (such as the date rape drug, GHB) must be done within a short time
frame (12 hours) while others are present for longer periods of time. If you are unable
to seek medical care within a short time, collect your urine in a clean container with a
tight fitting lid, place it in the refrigerator, and take it with you to the medical facility.
The sample would not be usable for evidence in this situation, but you would find out
for yourself if you were drugged.
- If you are concerned about the possibility of pregnancy, emergency contraception
(EC) may be a good option. EC is medication that works by preventing ovulation or
fertilization, and may inhibit implantation. It is available at the ER, for purchase from
pharmacies without a prescription, and from the Health Center.
- You have the right to ask any questions of the medical practitioner or to request a break
whenever you need it. The process can be long (up to two hours), but this just means that
the medical team is being thorough in making sure you are physically okay. The medical
staff will advise you about follow-up treatment, but you can expect to be encouraged to
seek follow-up care six weeks, six months, and twelve months after the attack. At these
visits, you will be given follow-up tests for pregnancy, STIs and HIV. Follow-up visits
can occur with your own physician, the Health Center, or Family Planning.
- You have the choice to either have your health insurance billed for your medical exam or have the payment made through the Pennsylvania Crime Victims Compensation Program.
You should receive information on this program if you go to the Emergency Room. If
you would like more information, contact the PA Victims Compensation Program (800-
233-2339) or Women’s Services (hotline: 814-333-9766; office: 814-724-4637).
- The Emergency Room at Meadville Medical Center (751 Liberty Street, 814-333-5500)
is a nearby healthcare facility where you can seek medical care. The hospital is required
to contact the Meadville Police when a sexual assault is reported to them, but this in
no way obligates you to speak with the officer or follow through on criminal charges.
The Emergency Room will also call in an advocate from Women’s Services – the local
rape crisis center. This person will simply provide as much support as you want.
Transportation to the Emergency Room can be arranged through the Winslow Health
Center, Campus Public Safety or Residence Life. The P.E.R.K. can be collected
at the Emergency Room of the Meadville Medical Center. 148
- The Winslow Heath Center (Schultz Hall, 814-332-4355) or Family Planning Services
(747 Terrace Street, 814-333-7088) can also provide a medical exam and testing.
Family Planning and the Health Center can provide emergency contraception; neither
can collect the P.E.R.K. (collected at the ER). Hours are more limited at these locations
and neither is an emergency response center.