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Victims of sexual assault: gathering evidence

If you are a victim of rape or sexual assault, what should you do? Sometimes it is hard to decide what to do right after an assault when emotional trauma is at its peak. Suppose it is several days later — is it too late to collect evidence? What if I don’t want to report the crime?

Regardless of whether you want to report the abuse, you should collect evidence as early as possible after the incident. You may be in a different frame of mind later and want to report the incident.

You can actually have a forensic exam, also known as a rape kit, done up to 120 hours after the incident. However, it is best to have it done as early as possible for the best evidence to be obtained. It is also best not to do the following if you can sustain from these actions:

— Using the bathroom– Bathing or showering– Brushing your teeth– Eating or drinking– Combing your hair– Smoking– Cleaning up where the crime took place– Moving or getting rid of anything the offender touched

Adults do not have to report sexual assault if they don’t want to. You can have a forensic exam completed upon request, and supply no more information that you choose to. Dallas has three hospitals that perform these forensic exams, or "rape kit" exams: THR Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, Methodist Dallas and Parkland Hospital.

The THR Presbytarian Hospital will contact an advocate from the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center. The advocate will respect your privacy and intentions, but is there to provide emotional support. They will also provide options for you, and appear later with you in court if you need them. If you are not reporting the crime, the evidence will be sent to the Department of Public Safety, where it will be kept for two years in case you decide to report the sexual assault at a later time. The DPS will also be responsible for the bill.

Keep in mind that if the victim is a child or elderly person, it is the hospital or advocate’s responsibility to report the molestation.

You may decide to pursue a civil action lawsuit against the perpetrator currently or at a later time. This forensic evidence will be of great value in identifying the offender via DNA evidence.

Source: Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center, "What Should I Do if I’ve Been Raped?" Nov. 30, 2014

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