Rape / Crisis - Hotline - 888-385-4657
Center for Community Services operates the only 24-hour toll free County-wide crisis line for crisis intervention and information referrals related to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in San Diego. Our hotline provides person-to-person crisis counseling by trained staff and volunteers. All hotline services are free and confidential.
When a rape / sexual assault occurs, the sooner you act the better. However, a sexual assault evidentiary exam can be done for up to 5 days if the victim hasn't showered. Even if the victim has showered, some evidence may be able to collect.
When you call the rape crisis hotline you can make an informed decision on what to do next. If you decide you want to report the assault, the police will be contacted and then you have the option of having a sexual assault evidentiary exam, also known as a SART exam, where a specially trained nurse will collect evidence in what is commonly referred to as a rape kit.
If you require immediate medical care due to injury, bleeding, pain, any trauma to the head or neck, if someone put their hands on your neck forcefully, then you will need to go to the Emergency Room at your local or nearest hospital. If you don’t have an immediate need try the rape crisis hotline first. The nurse who does the SART exam will make a suggestion of going to the Emergency Room if they think it is needed. It is important to note that some injuries can be under the skin and not visible, especially if there was any choking involved. All injuries involving any kind of pressure applied to the neck should be taken seriously. The nurse will usually suggest further x-rays / exams.
If you go directly to the hospital to report the assault, you will first spend 1-3 hours waiting and telling the details of your assault to staff that usually isn’t trained in sexual assault crisis intervention. Then the police will be notified because the hospital staff are required by law to report. The police will come to the hospital and ask you to repeat the details. Then they will send you for a SART exam where you will be asked to repeat the details again and be in that exam area another 2-3 hours. By then you are exhausted and feeling overwhelmed by the whole process. If you call the crisis line first, you can go straight to the SART exam and be seen by nurses who are specially trained. It will reduce the number of hours spent and the number of people you have to tell what happened to you. You are most likely to have a SART Victim Advocate there to comfort you and help you through the process if you want.
The SART Victim Advocate is a volunteer for the local rape crisis center. I am currently a SART Victim Advocate. We go through an extensive training process in sexual assault and domestic violence crisis intervention that is certified through the state. The victim advocate is the only neutral party that you can speak to confidentially. Victim Advocates are not required to share what you tell them with the police or the nurse (unless you say you are going to hurt yourself or others). The SARN (Sexual Assault Response Nurse) is also highly trained and certified, and they are required by law to report everything you tell them to the police.
The SART exam is voluntary, you are not required to do any part of it. You can also choose to only do certain parts of it. However, without an exam there is no potential to find evidence necessary to prosecute the offender. There is an interview portion where the nurse asks you questions which takes approximately 1 hour. Then there is a physical exam where the nurse will take pictures and collect evidence, this also takes approximately 1 hour. During all of it you can choose not to participate. The nurse will explain each step and why it is necessary. The SARNs (Sexual Assault Response Nurse) I have worked with are all very caring human beings who are very caring, trauma-informed, non-judgmental, and are really good at helping people who have been assaulted.
The nurse will want to collect any clothing you were wearing at the time of the assault, including bra, underwear, pants, shirts, jackets, socks, potentially shoes. You will not get those back. It is important they keep those as evidence. Bring a change of clothes with you or bring the clothes you were wearing to the assault in a paper bag if possible. Some places can provide you with a change of clothes but not always.
After the exam, if you choose to accept advocacy services, a new permanent victim advocate will be assigned to you by your local rape crisis center. They will call you within 24 - 48 hours after the exam. They provide free counseling and legal services. Free therapy is hard to find so I suggest you take advantage of this service.
Please see the following guidelines provided by San Diego County Health and Human Services:
What Victims Need to Know
If the sexual assault just occurred, advise the victim not to bathe, douche, urinate or otherwise alter her/his physical self, or engage in any activity that may contaminate or destroy valuable evidence such as semen, saliva, hairs, etc. This includes: eating drinking brushing teeth chewing gum, candy or mints smoking gargling.
Advise the victim that the hospital may need to collect her/his clothing if it was worn during or immediately after the assault. Recommend that she/he either bring a change of clothing with her/him to the hospital, or have someone bring clothing to her/him. If the report is delayed, evidence may still be available.
The victim should not wash bedding or clothes, or dispose of any items associated with the sexual assault. Except in child molest cases and domestic violence incidents, an adult victim may choose to terminate a police investigation if she/he wishes.
Inform the victim that depending on the investigating agency's policy, evidence may be held while she/he decides whether she/he wants to pursue prosecution. If there is any reason to believe that the victim was drugged, i.e., she/he believes someone drugged her/him because she/he woke up without clothing and does not remember what happened to her/him, stress the importance of obtaining a urine sample for a complete toxicology screen as soon as possible.
California Penal Code gives sexual assault survivors the right to request their name and address not become public record. Sexual assault survivors also have the right to have a victim advocate and at least one other support person of their choice present at any follow-up interview with law enforcement authorities, deputy district attorneys and defense attorneys.
In the state of California, a Victim Advocate will be provided to you free of charge by the Victim Assistance Program. Click here for a list of services provided by San Diego County District Attorney's Office. The victim support services I provide go beyond the scope of services provided by the victim assistance program so I would still like to help you and be of service to you to make sure you are taken care of.