December 6, 2023 Dec 06, 2023 8 min read
If you’ve recently been the victim of sexual assault, you’re likely experiencing a wide range of complex emotions and perhaps even physical pain. Seeking out emergency services at a time like this shouldn’t be complicated or add to your existing stress. Through this article, you’ll find out where to get a rape kit exam near you (or where to go to find out who offers them).
First, here’s the simple answer – victims of sexual assault should go to a hospital or emergency room to receive a rape kit exam. Hospitals are the only places that stock official sexual assault evidence kits (SAEKs). At these locations, specially trained medical professionals known as sexual assault nurser examiners (SANEs) are on site to administer the exams.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as heading to any hospital or emergency room, as not all hospitals stock rape kits.
Across the US and Canada, not enough hospitals offer these critical services. Adding to the problem, lists and search tools for finding the locations that offer these services don’t exist everywhere (Canada doesn’t have one). So, figuring out where to go in the middle of a crisis can feel overwhelming or even impossible.
Thankfully, even if the hospital near you does not offer rape kit exams, they can point you in the direction of a location that does. And while not all hospitals stock rape kits, all hospitals and emergency rooms should be equipped to offer necessary medical care to sexual assault victims.
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The process of figuring out where to go for a rape kit exam looks different depending on where you live.
For those living in the US, this interactive map tool (developed by a team at NBC News) offers straightforward information about clinics and hospitals administering sexual assault forensic exams in all 50 states. Those in need can also use this other interactive map tool provided by the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), designed to help victims locate rape crisis centers and other resource organizations in all 50 states. While these locations do not directly offer rape kit exams, they can help connect victims and survivors with the resources they need.
In Canada, victims should locate a hospital with a sexual assault/domestic violence care centre (SA/DVCC). If you live in Ontario, you can find a comprehensive list of SA/DV care centres here. For those living in Toronto, a similar list can be found here (scroll down to where it says “Where will the SAEK be conducted?” and click to expand the list).
If you live outside of these provinces, comprehensive directories are unfortunately not available at this time, and you will need to contact your local hospital directly to find out if they offer sexual assault evidence kit exams. If they don’t, they should be able to tell you where to go instead. To find a hospital near you, use the Go Thrive Go search tool and search for “Hospitals / Clinics.”
Regardless of where you live, the following options can help you locate a hospital with rape kits:
No. Unfortunately, only a fraction of hospitals are equipped with rape kits and the trained professionals who administer them. For example, only 59% of hospitals in Canada definitively offer rape kit exams according to a 2021 study conducted by She Matters. In the US, this number is far lower, with estimates ranging from just 10-20%.
In most cases, evidence should be collected within 72 hours of an assault. However, the time you have to complete your exam varies depending on where you live. Timeframe requirements range from as little as 24 hours up to about two weeks. The sooner you have your exam done, the better.
In theory, no. In most countries that offer rape kit exams, including the US, Canada, and the UK, sexual assault forensic exams are supposed to be completely free for all patients. However, recent reports have shown that about 16% of sexual assault victims in the US end up facing sizable medical bills after receiving rape kit exams, with out-of-pocket costs ranging from $350 to over $4,000. If you get faced with a medical bill after receiving a sexual assault forensic exam, let your healthcare provider know that it is illegal to charge a sexual assault victim for a forensic exam according to the 1994 Violence Against Women Act.
While finding a rape kit exam location isn’t as easy as it should be, this article has hopefully provided some helpful information to point you in the right direction. Remember that if you’re in need of immediate medical care after an assault, you can visit any hospital or emergency room near you to receive care even if that hospital does not offer rape kit exams. While rape kit exams are helpful and often even necessary for those who plan to pursue legal measures against their perpetrator, ensuring you receive the care you need is the most important thing.
Rape kit exams, also known as sexual assault forensic exams, are administered at certain hospitals by specially trained nurse examiners. Unfortunately, not all hospitals are equipped to administer rape kits. The fastest way to find out if your local hospital offers rape kit exams is to call them directly. If you don’t, they should be able to let you know where to go instead. Rape kit exams should always be free of charge for the patient, although some hospitals in the US have been known to erroneously charge assault victims for their own forensic exams (which is illegal). These exams should be done as soon as possible after an assault has occurred, ideally within 72 hours (although some places require exams to be completed within 24 hours). Regardless of whether or not rape kits are available, all hospitals and emergency rooms can provide basic medical care to anyone who has experienced assault.
Dana Anastasia (they/them) is an independent writer, editor, podcaster, and artist. With a degree in interdisciplinary sociology and a background in domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy, Dana brings a keen awareness of victim and survivor needs and experiences to their work.
Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation – https://www.caase.org/er-after-sexual-assault/
“Examining the Availability of SAFE Kits at Hospitals in the United States,” House Hearing, 115 Congress, 2018 – https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-115hhrg36850/html/CHRG-115hhrg36850.htm
“Many hospitals don’t have rape kits. Proposed legislation aims to change that,” CBS News, 2019 – https://www.cbsnews.com/news/many-hospitals-dont-have-rape-kits-proposed-legislation-aims-to-change-that/
“Few Washington hospitals offer rape exams for victims,” King 5 News, 2015 – https://www.king5.com/article/news/investigations/few-washington-hospitals-offer-rape-exams-for-victims/281-140340804
“Hospital exams for sexual assault victims are supposed to be free. Many get large bills anyway.” NBC News, 2022 – https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/sexual-assault-victims-billed-hospital-exams-free-rcna47744
“‘Leaving victims with the bill’: Sexual assault survivors are often charged hundreds of dollars for rape kits,” The 19th News, 2022 – https://19thnews.org/2022/04/sexual-assault-survivor-bill-rape-kit/
RAINN – https://www.centers.rainn.org/
“Silenced: Canada’s Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Accessibility Crisis” – https://she-matters.mykajabi.com/silencedreport
“Uncovered Medical Bills after Sexual Assault,” The New England Journal of Medicine, 2022 – https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2207644