Hospital Accompaniment

What to expect at the Emergency Room if you’ve been sexually assaulted…

Going to the emergency room after a sexual assault can be a scary and confusing experience.  Your safety and health are of utmost concern.  It is important for you to understand your options and have the support you need to make informed decisions.
When you arrive at the Sentara RMH Medical Center Emergency Room, you will need to check in at the triage desk to be registered.  At this time, a Collins Center advocate will be called as well as a specialized nurse called a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE).  The Collins Center advocate will be asking you some necessary questions in order to coordinate the appropriate medical and legal response.

When considering making a report to law enforcement

  • The police will have to be notified of the assault if the victim is under age 18 or if a weapon was used.  Adult victims may choose whether or not they would like to talk with law enforcement.
  • An assault must be reported to law enforcement from the location where the assault occurred.  Be sure to let the Collins Center advocate know where you were assaulted so the correct jurisdiction can be contacted.  If the assault occurred outside of Harrisonburg or Rockingham County, medical professionals and the advocate will help determine how to make the appropriate contact.
  • A patrol officer will be dispatched and come to the hospital to ask you some questions.  This may be done in a private space called the Family Room in the ER waiting area.  A plainclothes police person called an investigator may also come with more detailed questions to help build a potential criminal case.
  • If you were drinking or high during the assault, you will NOT be charged with underage drinking or drug use by the police when reporting a sexual offense.  It is important to tell law enforcement all the details surrounding the assault, including information about alcohol and drug use.  This information will be used only to aid in the investigation.

Physical Evidence Recovery Kit (PERK) Exams
A PERK is a special medical exam given to people who have been sexually assaulted to collect evidence that may be helpful in the investigation and prosecution of the sexual assault.  A specialized nurse called a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) will conduct this exam.  After a PERK, the nurse may refer you to an emergency room physician if you have injuries that need medical attention.

If you think you may want to report the assault to the police, the sooner you have evidence collected, the better.

A PERK exam may not be effective if more than 72 hours have passed since the assault. (For cases involving children, this time frame may be different).  Sexually Transmitted Infection and Pregnancy Prophylaxis are routinely offered with the PERK exam.  STI Prophylaxis is a high dose of antibiotic that will decrease your chance of getting an STI.  Pregnancy prophylaxis is a high dose of birth control pills that can help prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours.  The cost of PERK exams and medications are paid for by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

If you do not want to make a report to law enforcement…
You may choose to see an emergency room physician for your injuries and request medications including STI Prophylaxis and Pregnancy Prophylaxis.  There are other options for obtaining medications only – through the health department, your gynecologist, or university health center.  For more information about accessing STI and Pregnancy Prophylaxis, ask the Collins Center advocate or SANE.
If you have decided that you do not want to make a report to law enforcement now or in the future, then having evidence collected by having a PERK exam may not be the right choice for you.  A PERK exam may be done without reporting to law enforcement, but in these situations, there is the potential that other evidence may be lost (including evidence from the suspect(s), the crime scene(s), and/or from you.)  The sooner you report the assault to law enforcement, the better the chance for a successful prosecution of the offender.  The Collins Center advocate can help you think through the choice to have a PERK exam.

People you may see at the hospital:

  • Collins Center Advocate – The Collins Center includes a sexual assault crisis center that responds to sexual assault victims in the hospital to provide support and information.  The Collins Center advocate can answer most questions you may have.  They can be with you throughout your visit to the hospital.  The Collins Center staff is there for YOU.  24-hour sexual assault crisis hotline: 540.434.2272
  • SANE – The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner is a nurse who is specially trained to do a Physical Evidence Recovery Kit exam (PERK)
  • Emergency Room Physician – This is the doctor you will see if you are not interested in reporting to police. He/she will do a gynecological exam and treat any injuries you may have.
  • Patrol Officer – A police officer in uniform may respond to the hospital to ask you some questions about the assault.  He/she will then contact his/her superior and report on what has happened.  Harrisonburg Police Dept.: 540.434.2545, Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office: 540.564.3800
  • Police Investigator – A plainclothes police person who will investigate the assault.  He/she will come to the hospital and ask many detailed questions to help build a potential case.
  • Child Protective Services Worker or Social Worker – May be at the hospital if the victim of the sexual assault is a child or an adult with special needs.  They will work with the family to ensure the child’s safety.  CPS: 540.574.5100