Sexual assault victims voice their stories about a prevalent and underreported threat
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07
“The exam is brutal,” Haynes said. “These people have been sexually assaulted and they are basically assaulted all over again.”
As a medical exam, a forensic exam determines whether any injuries have been sustained as a result of the assault and provides preventative treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. The cost of the exam is covered by the state of Texas through the Crime Victims Compensation Program. However, the victim must file a police report in order to receive reimbursement that is not covered by medical insurance.
The forensic exam also involves collecting evidence of the attack, such as hair, fluids and tissues, and preserving these for forensic analysis. The nurse examiner takes oral and vaginal swabs, pulled head hair samples, fingernail scrapings and collects blood and saliva samples.
Following the general examination, a pelvic exam is performed on female victims. The pelvic exam is almost identical to the exam performed by a gynecologist, except the examiner uses a speculum to inspect the vaginal walls for tearing or bruising related to the assault.
At the end of the exam, the victim receives information about emergency contraception. Sold under the brand names Plan B and Preven, the pill is a concentrated dose of standard birth control pills. If taken within 72 hours of the assault, the emergency contraceptives can reduce the chance of pregnancy by 75 to 89 percent.
After completing the exam, the evidence is stored by the police until the victim chooses to report the crime. After two-years, the evidence is destroyed.
A survivor’s plea
Rebecca suffered through her rape in an alcohol-induced haze. In the morning, she gathered her clothes and left David’s apartment before he woke up. In the coming weeks, she told no one about the assault and avoided David for the remainder of the semester.
“I didn’t want to talk about what happened because I felt ashamed,” Rebecca said. “I thought people would look at me differently and I thought it was all my fault.”
Neither Beth nor Rebecca reported their assault to the authorities. Regardless of how the assault transpired or whether they filed a report following the attack, Rebecca, Beth and countless other victims face a long road to recovery — one Beth began when she came forward with her story.
“The first step is to talk about it,” Beth said. “Speak up to save yourself and, just as importantly, speak up to save another girl.”
This is the first of a four-part series about sexual assaults involving college students. Coming up in next four weeks:
Road to recovery
Men and sexual assault
If you have experienced sexual assault and you would like to share your story, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story by Joe Terrell
Graphics by Jorge Montalvo and Osa Okundaye
Planning and design by Alec Goetz and Jorge Montalvo
Editing by Kalee Bumguardner, Robert Carpenter, Alec Goetz, Barrett House and Emily Villani