Preserving Evidence

What You Should Know

Even if you choose not to report the incident to the University or to law enforcement, you are encouraged to take steps to preserve evidence. This will ensure that evidence is available if you later decide to proceed with a criminal or university investigation.

  • Seek treatment at a local hospital emergency room as soon as possible.
  • Immediately notify medical staff if you believe drugs or alcohol were involved. Medical staff is specially trained to collect evidence and perform tests, including tests that can provide important evidence if drugs or alcohol were involved.
  • Make every effort to save anything that might contain DNA. Do not clean up or move anything that might have been touched.
  • Write down as much as you can remember about the circumstances, including a description of the other party.
  • Save any electronic communications with the assailant or relevant to the incident (voicemails, emails, text messages, social media messages or posts, etc.).
  • If possible, do not shower, bathe, douche, brush your teeth, or consume any food or beverages before going to the hospital if you have not already.
  • Keep the clothing you were wearing. If you have already changed clothes but have not washed them, put each clothing item in a separate clean paper bag, plastic bags are discouraged.
  • Photograph any visible injuries you have. Injuries may develop or become more visible over time.
  • Physical evidence of sexual assault, like clothing, sheets, or menstrual products, can also be turned over to the medical staff at Shands and will be stored in case you want to make a police report in the future.
  • State law provides that sexual assault forensic kits (SANE/Rape kits) and evidence (like those collected at Shands) be kept at the police department for a minimum of 3 months. However, some law enforcement agencies may keep them for longer.
  • If you choose not to report to law enforcement or are not sure whether you’d like to make a report, consider submitting an anonymous report through the Report Rape Gainesville website.

Non-Reporting Forensic Exams

Getting a medical exam after sexual assault is helpful in identifying injuries and being tested for date rape drugs or STI’s. You always have the right to choose whether to report to law enforcement or not.

If you decide not to report to law enforcement tell the nurse providing the forensic/SANE exam and they will file the evidence collected during the examination under non-report. This means that it will be assigned a number and it will not be tested until a police report is filed.

Even if you do not plan to report to the police, there might be a time in the future when you would like to, having a forensic exam done as soon as possible, preserves options for you in the future while keeping your confidentially.

What Happens During the Forensic Exam?

If you go to UF Health Shands Emergency Room, UF Student Health Care Center, another health care provider, for a sexual assault medical exam you can expect that the exam will be conducted in a private room by a registered nurse or doctor. Shands ER has many Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) who have training and experience in treating victims of sexual assault and collecting evidence.

With your consent they can:

  • Do a head-to-toe exam to check, document, and treat any injuries
  • Conduct a pelvic exam if necessary
  • Collect urine, saliva, and blood samples
  • Look for evidence by getting fingernail samples and combing pubic hair
  • Place items of clothing or other evidence with the sexual assault kit
  • Provide emergency contraception (birth control)
  • Provide STI prevention medication, including HIV post-exposure prophylaxis

If you think you were drugged, you can request that the SANE nurse conduct a drug test to check for the presence of substances in your system. A urine test can detect the presence of a date rape drug within 24 to 48 hours of ingestion.

This exam is free, regardless of whether you choose to pursue criminal charges or not. You have the right to stop the exam at any time or opt-out of any portion of the exam. You also may request to have an advocate from the Alachua County Rape Crisis Center or the University Police Department with you at the time of the exam.