What Are My Options?: Information on the Sexual Assault Evidence Submission Act
Survivors of Sexual Assault now have a say in what happens with the data collected from a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit. If a person is sexually assaulted and they choose to go to the hospital, they have the option to partake in a process that collects physical evidence of that incident. The purpose of getting a kit done is for prosecution. It may not feel right for everyone to receive a kit, especially if they are not sure if they would like to report what happened. This was problematic because before the Sexual Assault Evidence Submission Act, the evidence was turned over to the police directly after completion. The new law states that a hospital can hold the kit for up to one year without turning over the evidence and that it is the survivor’s choice of what will happen with that evidence. It’s important to know about the kit, what the parameters of the new law are and where you can get additional support if you are ever in the situation where you are contemplating getting a Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit.
Completing the kit takes roughly a half hour to an hour. The person who will be administering the kit, should you decide that’s what best for you, is a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (also known as a SANE). A SANE nurse has been specifically trained to work with survivors and is aware of all the possible medical needs you may have at that time. The kit itself includes instructions, combs, swabs, bags and sheets for evidence, blood collection devices and documentation forms. Administering of the kit may include collecting blood, urine, hair, and other bodily secretions. They may include photo documentation, collection of clothing, or anything else that they believe will help support the completion of collecting data. There is a 72 hour time period of when a kit can be completed after the incident. After experiencing a sexual assault, completing a sexual assault evidence collection kit may be hard for some people to do. It can be very difficult for survivors to make a choice at that time. Sometimes that choice is hard to make because the survivor may not be ready to decide if they want to report what happened or not. It can be scary to turn over evidence of an assault when you are unsure.
However the new law separates that choice for survivors; one does not have to report or turn evidence over just because he or she completed a kit. The health care facility is required to safely store the kit for at least one year if the individual has not given consent about what to do with the kit otherwise. If within that year they receive consent to release the sexual assault evidence kit, the medical facility has 24 hours to contact law enforcement. The law enforcement agency then has 14 days to obtain the kit and is required to submit it to the Michigan Department of State Police or another accredited laboratory for testing within 90 days. Survivors also have the option of receiving a kit and choosing to do absolutely nothing with it. If the person who received a kit decides they want nothing to do with it, no additional steps need to be taken. The only way the kit will be submitted to law enforcement is with the survivor’s written consent.
If you are thinking about getting a kit, it is helpful to know that there are people available who can help to navigate through these decisions. The advocates at SAPAC are there to support whatever choice a survivor decides to make, and to help explain the processes associated with healing from sexual assault. Reporting a sexual assault, completing a sexual assault evidence collection kit, going to the hospital, and talking with professionals can be very difficult for some people,whereas for others it may not be. Thus, it’s important for the survivor to make the choice that feels right for them, and not for anyone else, even if friends and family members may make suggestions on what is best to do at the end of the day, it’s important to empower the survivor, and to allow them the space, time, and support necessary to make decisions during this difficult time.
In the event that you have experienced an incident, or know someone who has, SAPAC advocates are available for support. . You can call the SAPAC crisis line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (734) 936-3333.
*University Health Services now offers exams on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8am-2pm, and Thursday from 9am-2pm. There is no fee for the exam and SAPAC advocates are available for support. Please call 734-764-8320 for more information.