In general, medical help should be sought as soon as possible. Medical professionals can help identify and treat injuries and evaluate risks for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. Also, some medical options are able to assist with collecting forensic evidence (“rape kit”). The Pat Walker Health Center can help students with medical care, but is not able to provide forensic evidence collection.
Forensic Evidence and Examination:
Following a sexual assault, a victim has the option for a forensic medical exam by a trained professional. In the state of Arkansas, a victim has 72 hours from the time of the incident to have sexual assault evidence collected, which will be paid for by the State. A police report is also made, unless the evidence is collected as a “Jane Doe kit”. During the forensic evidence collection and exam, assessment for injury is documented and treated, if necessary. Contents of the forensic collection include various swabs that are used to find DNA. Clothing and other materials that may contain forensic evidence are also gathered, if possible. The sooner forensic evidence collection is done after an assault, the greater the likelihood of finding DNA evidence.
Where can I get forensic evidence collected?
You have a couple of choices in Northwest Arkansas for sexual assault forensic evidence collection.
Northwest Medical Center – Willow Creek (479) 684-3000
NW Medical Center at Willow Creek has partnered with the U of A to provide immediate access for exams and forensic evidence collection 24 hours a day/7 days a week. The forensic collection kits and exams are completed by trained Northwest Medical Center Emergency Department medical professionals with compassion and privacy. Individuals are received through the emergency department without a wait. A trained advocate will be called to provide support for you throughout the exam and evidence collection.
Directions: NW Medical Center-Willow Creek is easy to access just off of I-49. From Fayetteville, take I-49 north to the Johnson Exit (Exit 69). At the end of the exit, turn left, go under the interstate and then turn left at Collier’s Pharmacy. Follow the road back to the hospital. Drive behind the hospital to the southwest corner of the building where the emergency department is located.
Northwest Arkansas Rape Crisis (479) 445-6448
Northwest Arkansas Rape Crisis provides forensic exams at their location at 2367 North Green Acres Road, Fayetteville by appointment. Exams are completed by a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE). To schedule an exam with a SANE, call Northwest Arkansas Rape Crisis. They may also provide a victim advocate to support you through the examination and evidence collection.
If you are away from the Northwest Arkansas area, you can find a local provider for evidence collection by visiting https://www.notalone.gov/resources/
What is a “Jane Doe kit”?
A “Jane Doe kit” may be collected in situations in which the victim is uncertain about making a police report. That is, if you are uncertain if you want to make a police report, but still want the evidence collected in case you do decide to report to the police later, you can have the evidence collected within the 72 hours in which evidence collection must be done in Arkansas. Then, in the days/weeks to come, if you decide to report to police, you also have any potential evidence that has been collected.
You should be advised that police departments do not hold onto Jane Doe kits for an indefinite period of time. Typically within NWA, as a general understanding, if no one comes forward within six months, the kit is destroyed. It is best to ask the police department who is handling the Jane Doe kit as to what their policy is with regards to holding onto Jane Doe kits before destroying them. An advocate or medical provider may assist with asking the police. Although Jane Doe kits serve a purpose, you should carefully consider the pros and cons of making an immediate report or waiting to report. A victim advocate can help you process these options.
To preserve potential evidence that may be used to corroborate a sexual assault or to help identify the offender in the event of a stranger as the rapist, the following steps should be taken to best preserve potential evidence:
- Do not bathe or shower or douche
- Do not use the restroom
- Do not change clothes
- Do not comb hair, wash face, wash hands
- Do not eat or drink
- Do not brush your teeth
- Do not clean up where it happened
- Do not wash clothes, bedding, rugs, or anything else in the area of the assault
- Do not move anything that the offender may have touched
- DO have a forensic evidence collection exam (“rape kit”) done as soon as possible.
If it was unavoidable and anything from 1-9 above was done, do not think that all is lost. In the state of Arkansas, forensic evidence (“rape kit”) can be collected up to 72 hours after the assault. However, the more time that passes, the greater the likelihood for potential evidence to be lost. Thus, the sooner you can have evidence collected and the better you can adhere to the above list, the greater the possibility of finding forensic evidence.