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After an Assault: Help is Here

Where can you turn for help if the worst happens? After an assault of any kind – physical or sexual – confidential and compassionate help is available at CHI Health Emergency Departments through our Forensic Nurse Examiner program.

What Does a Forensic Nurse Do?

Specially trained in crisis intervention, Forensic Nurse Examiners (FNEs) strive to reduce the trauma experienced with sexual assault, human trafficking and domestic violence. We do not work for law enforcement. Our role is to:

  • Advocate for victims of violence by providing compassionate and timely medical examinations.
  • Connect victims with resources they need to make informed decisions about how to proceed after an assault – and ultimately heal physically, emotionally and psychologically.

The wraparound care provided by FNEs is designed to help victims of violence feel fully supported. Our role is to help you know your rights and provide choices about what happens next.

What to Do After an Assault

After an assault, a victim’s mind can be filled with “what ifs.” Let me address some of the questions that keep people from coming in.

What if I was drunk or on drugs when the assault occurred?

  • It doesn’t matter what happened prior to the assault. Consent is everything, and a lack of saying “no” does not mean “yes.”

What if I’m not sure I was assaulted?

  • This is more common than you might think. An FNE can walk you through the reporting process, provide documentation if needed, and connect you with resources which can help you recover physically and emotionally, regardless of whether an assault occurred.

What if I’m afraid I won’t be believed?

  • We believe every patient. Our role is to document the facts presented by you without judgment. Men are increasingly coming in for care following an assault. We know victims of violence are all genders, ages and come from all walks of life. You will receive the same compassionate care no matter who you are, and your dignity will always be respected.

What if I wait too long to be seen?

  • You need to be seen within 120 hours of the assault to collect physical evidence, but there is no time limit for disclosure. It’s important to know that you can come in any time.

What if I don’t want to report the assault to law enforcement?

  • The FNE or care provider may be required to report an assault due to mandatory reporting laws, but you are not required to disclose any information. Whether mandatory reporting applies depends on how old you are, whether you were seriously injured, if a weapon was used or if children are involved. Every FNE exam begins with a talk about mandatory reporting, your rights and your options so you know exactly where you stand before proceeding.

What if I don’t want my abuser to know I’m at the emergency room?

  • When domestic violence or intimate partner violence is involved, we immediately make you a “no information” patient. This means no information will be given to anyone – including family members. This is for your safety and for the safety of our staff.

What if I can’t afford an ER bill?

  • You will not be charged for an FNE exam if you come to the ER for a sexual assault, evidence collection (rape kit) or any prophylactic medications related to the assault. State and federal laws prevent billing a patient for the sexual assault exam. You may be billed for care after intimate partner violence, but resources are available to help with the cost and these bills take high priority for charity care.

What if I’m scared of being examined?

  • That’s understandable and that’s why an FNE is specially trained. Our exams are patient-led. The FNE will explain each step fully and ask for your consent before proceeding. You will never be rushed or required to do anything you don’t want to do. Click here for detailed information about what happens during an FNE exam.

What if I don’t want to be examined by a man because I was assaulted by a man?

  • Our FNEs are currently all women. If you don’t want to be seen by a male doctor, we will do our best to honor this request.

What if I want someone with me for moral support?

  • We allow anyone to accompany you other than the abuser. A friend or family member can provide emotional support but should not answer questions for you or try to influence your decisions.

What if I decide I want to leave?

  • You can leave at any time. Your wishes will be respected at all times. You can also come back at any time.

At any time, if you or a loved one are assaulted, visit a CHI Health Emergency Room for care.

Jodi Hayes, RN, BC, SANE-A
Jodi Hayes, RN, BC, SANE-A

Jodi Hayes, RN, BC, SANE-A is the SANE Supervisor at CHI Health.

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