UofL Health is a leader in sexual assault and domestic violence victim care in the community.

SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner) Services at UofL Hospital connects sexual assault and domestic violence victims with much-needed resources including medical/forensic exams, safety planning, assistance with legal protections, and more.

UofL Hospital Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) are available 24/7 at all UofL Health Emergency Departments. UofL Health – UofL Hospital, UofL Health – Jewish Hospital, UofL Health – Mary and Elizabeth and UofL Health - Shelbyville Hospitals all hold Cabinet for Health and Family Services designation as SANE-Ready facilities.

Victims who need care after experiencing a sexual assault can visit any UofL Health location to meet with a SANE who will walk them through forensic exam options. Reporting to law enforcement is not required to receive a SANE medical-forensic exam.

Victims who don’t have significant medical injuries may also access 24/7 SANE services at the SAFE Clinic within The Center for Women & Families’ Joan E. Thomas, M.D. Campus, located in downtown Louisville (927 S. 2nd Street, Louisville KY 40203). Call ahead to notify The Center of your impending arrival (502-581-7222).

SAFE Services statistics

SAFE Services at UofL Hospital has continued to expand services and reach out to more victims in our community since its inception. In 2021, over 800 patients accessed domestic violence and sexual assault services through UofL SAFE Services.

Sexual assault continues to be the most underreported crime in our community and many victims are reluctant to seek medical care. While the number of sexual assaults reported to police has remained mostly unchanged, SAFE Services continues to work to encourage victims to come forward, seek needed medical care, and access resources for dealing with the physical and emotional impact of their assault – regardless of if they choose to report to law enforcement.

About the forensic medical exam

Who conducts the exam?

Exams are conducted by Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs), who are registered nurses trained in the forensic/medical examination of sexual assault and are credentialed by the Kentucky Board of Nursing. SANEs may conduct the exam, collect and preserve evidence, and testify in legal proceedings.

UofL Hospital has SANEs available 24/7. SANEs allow for minimal wait times, expedited care, and expert evidence collection.

For sexual assault

A complete head-to-toe forensic medical exam for sexual assault victims may be completed with patients 12 or older, male or female, within 96 hours (four days) of the assault.

The exam may include:

  • Prophylactic medications to prevent sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, and HIV
  • Documentation of injuries (written and photographed)
  • Body and genital exam to evaluate/document injuries, collect samples
  • Collect evidence in the form of swabs, photographs and possibly blood and urine samples
  • If you believe you were drugged, drug testing may also be part of the exam.

Patients younger than 12 who have recently experienced sexual assault can receive care from a medical provider at an emergency department near them.

For domestic violence

Victims of domestic violence who have visible injuries from the assault, or report strangulation, may also receive a forensic exam from a SANE.

A forensic medical exam for domestic violence victims may include:

  • Documentation of injuries (written and photographed)
  • Evaluation of strangulation symptoms and injuries
  • Safety planning and connection to community resources and

Frequently asked questions

Do I have to report the crime to law enforcement to receive medical care?

No. You can receive all the same services we offer regardless of whether you choose to report or not. Any evidence that is collected will not be tested or handed over to law enforcement until you decide you want to report it - evidence will be stored confidentially for up to a year.

Where can I go to receive an exam?

SAFE Services responds to 17 locations for sexual assault forensic exams. If you have been sexually assaulted and wish to have an exam, please go to your nearest UofL Health emergency department. UofL Health also works in partnership with Norton Healthcare and Clark Memorial emergency departments and will provide a SANE.

Currently, SAFE Services responds to two locations for domestic violence forensic exams: UofL Hospital and The Center for Women and Families (Joan E Thomas Campus, downtown Louisville). If you have injuries that require medical evaluation and treatment, please come to the UofL Hospital Emergency Department or your nearest emergency department. If you have life-threatening injuries, please call 911 immediately.

If you do not require medical attention and wish to avoid coming to the hospital, call the Center for Women & Families 24-hour hotline (502-581-7222) to coordinate an exam at the SAFE Clinic at The Center.

What should I do after a sexual assault to help with evidence collection?

The earlier you seek treatment after an assault, the more evidence there will be to collect. If possible, it is best to not shower, brush your teeth, change clothes, smoke, eat or drink after an assault. If you have changed your clothing, bring the items worn at the time with you to the exam. Even if a victim has showered or changed clothes, a medical forensic exam is still appropriate.

How long after an assault can you collect evidence?

The collection of forensic evidence is best performed within 96 hours (four days) of the assault. After this time most DNA evidence is gone, but other portions of the exam may still be performed. This may include forensic photography and medications to treat sexually transmitted infections.

Can my friend come with me to the exam?

Yes. We encourage bringing a friend or family member for support during the exam. If you choose, you may also have an advocate with you during the exam – the SAFE Services social worker and/or an advocate from The Center for Women & Families.

What should I do after my exam?

If you have any emergent medical concerns after your forensic exam, you can be seen at any UofL Health Emergency Department or the emergency department nearest to you. For non-emergent concerns, you can follow up with your primary care provider.

After experiencing strangulation, some symptoms can worsen over time or new symptoms can appear. These symptoms may be life-threatening, so please seek medical attention at your nearest emergency department if symptoms worsen.

If you have injuries, like bruising, that worsen after the time of your forensic exam, document those injuries and share photos with law enforcement.

Two weeks after your sexual assault exam, it is recommended that you get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Clinics that offer confidential STI testing:

If you received HIV prophylactic medications as a part of your sexual assault exam, please contact UofL Hospital Outpatient Pharmacy to fill the medication prescriptions you received at the time of your exam.

How do I access records from my exam?

If you would like a copy of your forensic exam documentation, including photographs, please contact UofL SAFE Services to arrange a pickup time.

To obtain a copy of your complete medical record, please contact UofL Hospital Health Information Management (HIM) at 502-562-3062

To track the status of your sexual assault exam kit through the Kentucky Crime Lab, please visit https://KSPOnline.KY.gov/Safekit/

Reporting to law enforcement

Victims have a choice on whether to report their assault to law enforcement or not. If a patient chooses not to report, all the same services are still available.

If a patient chooses to report the assault, records are shared with the investigating officer. Evidence collected will be turned over to law enforcement after processing by SAFE Services.

If a patient chooses not to report the assault, UofL Hospital will store the evidence for up to one year in case the victim later wishes to report it. Once collected, the evidence is well preserved and does not deteriorate with time.

In some cases where a vulnerable adult or child was injured or assaulted, healthcare providers are required to report to the appropriate agencies.

About Advocacy

SAFE Services has a social worker who can assist patients with filing emergency protective orders, provide emotional support, and connect them with community resources. The social worker will meet with patients during their inpatient stays at UofL Hospital.

In addition to the SAFE social worker, SAFE Services partners with The Center for Women & Families to offer advocacy and resources to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

After Trauma

After experiencing a traumatic event like a physical/sexual assault, it is likely that you may experience some of the following:

  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Feeling anxious and on edge
  • Feeling jumpy/easily startled
  • Feeling numb or withdrawing
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Changes in appetite
  • Avoiding people, places, and things that may remind you of the traumatic event

You may experience these things or you may not. Whatever you are feeling is normal. It is important to remember –

  1. It is not your fault – you may blame yourself, but it is not your fault that someone has chosen to harm or take advantage of you, it is theirs.
  2. You did not deserve it – you do not deserve to be abused or assaulted.
  3. You are not alone – you may feel alone and isolated, but there are people who you can lean on.

Individual and/or group counseling is crucial in healing from trauma.  The following is a list of local services providers with licensed, trained mental health professionals who can help to navigate the healing journey.

If you believe you are having a psychiatric emergency or are having thoughts of harming yourself, please call 911 or seek immediate mental health treatment at an emergency department near you

For more information

The SAFE Services office at UofL Hospital may be reached by email at Saneadmin@UofLHealth.org. You may also contact The Center for Women and Families Crisis Hotline for 24/7 assistance at 502-581-7222.

If you have sustained significant injuries or believe you are in imminent danger, please call 911 immediately.

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