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Time-Sensitive Information for Sexual Assault Survivors


Within 72 hours (three days): Start HIV prophylaxis

Within 96 hours (four days): Toxicology testing for drugs or alcohol

Within 120 hours (five days): 

  • Receive an evidence collection kit
  • Start STI prophylaxis
  • Start pregnancy prophylaxis (emergency contraception, such as Plan B

Why Should I Seek Medical Treatment?

  • There may be a risk of contracting an STI during a sexual assault and it is usually recommended to treat for STIs after an assault. A health care professional will recommend which tests are important to have now and which may need to be repeated in the future.
  • PEP is post-exposure prophylaxis that is used after possible exposure to HIV. It must be started within 72 hours after a possible exposure, including a sexual assault. The sooner it is started, the better. PEP involves taking medicines daily for 28 days. You can discuss this treatment with a health care provider.
  • Emergency contraception (EC) is birth control that prevents pregnancy after unprotected sex. You can use emergency contraception right away or up to five days after an assault. The sooner you can take it, the more effective it will be. EC does not protect against STIs, such as HIV. You may want to discuss all your options with a health care provider.

What is an Evidence Collection Kit?

  • You may wish to have a sexual assault forensic exam, sometimes called a “rape kit.” During this exam, someone specially trained to perform this exam, such as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), will collect DNA evidence that can help identify the perpetrator. You do not have to agree to a forensic exam to receive treatment. You can also consent or not consent to each part of the exam, which can include physical evidence collection and verbal recounting of the experience. Completing a kit may give you a stronger case against the perpetrator if you decide to report the crime now or later.
  • Survivors do not need to report to the police to get medical treatment or to have it collected. Every medical provider must complete an anonymous sexual assault kit reporting form and send it to the local police department and the evidence collection kit is transported to the appropriate crime lab. The kit will not be processed unless the survivor (over 15 years of age) reports the crime to the police.
  • If a survivor chooses to get an evidence collection kit, they should avoid bathing, showering, brushing their teeth, or going to the bathroom. It is recommended that they not change their clothes or they can bring their clothes in a paper bag to the hospital. However, a survivor who has bathed, washed clothes, etc. can still choose to have evidence collected and receive medical treatment.
  • An evidence collection kit and exam can take anywhere from 3-6 hours to complete, which can include wait time for the SANE nurse.
  • Most hospitals will automatically contact a medical advocate through the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center or North Shore Rape Crisis Center. A survivor also has the right to ask for an advocate.

Where are SANE-Designated Hospitals?

  • Northeastern, MA: Lawrence General Hospital and Lowell General Hospital
  • Boston, MA: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Cambridge Hospital, Children’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Newton Wellesley Hospital
  • See a full list of Designated SANE site hospitals in MA

How Much Does this Cost?

  • Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), survivors who have been sexually assaulted in Massachusetts are eligible to have the cost of their forensic examination covered by the state of MA. A victim is not billed for any services provided within the emergency department, unless a patient chooses to use their health insurance.
  • For questions regarding the payment of examinations, please contact the Attorney General’s Victim Compensation and Assistance Division at 617.727.2200 ext. 2160.

What can Salem State Health Services Offer?

Confidential services and support

Treatment, testing, and post-exposure prophylaxis for STIs and HIV

Emergency contraception is available at the front desk for $10-15 (no appointment is necessary)

Students can make an appointment through the Health Services Portal or call 978.542.6413

Who Else can I Go To for Help?

f you have experienced a sexual assault, it can be hard to know what to do. Consider reaching out to someone you trust for support. You don’t have to go through this alone.

  • Contact on campus confidential support by calling or texting the PEAR Program Advocate at 978.594.7089 or visit
  • Contact off campus confidential support by calling the North Shore Rape Crisis Center (available 24/7) at 800.922.8772 to talk to an advocate about your options.
  • Jane Doe, Inc. has a list of other resources across Massachusetts

Sources and Additional Information

Forensics for Survivors

North Shore Rape Crisis Center

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

PEAR Program: Prevention, Education, Advocacy, Response

This project was supported by Grant No.2015-WA-AX-0021 awarded by the Office of Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and recommendations expressed in this document are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women.