“Rape” and “sexual assault” are terms used interchangeably to describe crimes that involve unwanted and illegal sexual acts. The legal definitions of rape and sexual assault vary from state to state. Most commonly, a rape involves the use of threat of force to penetrate a victim’s vagina, mouth, or anus. A sexual assault involves the use of threat of force but may not involve penetration. Fondling someone’s breast or genitals without consent is an example of sexual assault.
If You Are a Rape or Sexual Assault Survivor
You may have a variety of feelings, thoughts, and reactions to what has happened.
You may feel guilt about what happened, even though you did nothing wrong.
You may feel shocked that something so terrible could have happened to you, and sometimes you may even pretend to deny that it happened at all.
You may feel angry – angry at the person who hurt you, angry at the police and court system for not doing enough about what happened to you, angry at your family and friends for not understanding, and maybe even angry at the world for letting such a terrible thing happen.
You may feel depressed or hopeless and lack of interest in people or things you once enjoyed.
You may experience changes in your eating and sleeping patterns.
You may have nightmares or flashbacks about the assault or rape. Certain sounds, smells, or other sensory experiences may trigger these feelings and fears.
You may be afraid of being alone, or you may fear being in crowds.
You may also fear that the offender may have infected you with a sexually transmitted disease, such as HIV/AIDS, or that you may have become pregnant.
Support and help are available whatever your reactions may be. Local sexual assault programs in Waseca and Watonwan Counties staff will assist you, regardless of whether you decide to report the assault to the police.
If you have been raped or sexual assaulted what can you do?
Get to a safe place
Call a rape crisis center or local hospital
Don’t take a shower or comb your hair
Preserve the clothes worn at the time of attack
Get a medical exam
Inquire about tests for possible pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and sexual assaulted transmitted diseases
SEXUAL ASSAULT EVIDENTIARY EXAM PAYMENT
In Minnesota, victims of sexual assault who have an evidentiary exam done for the purpose of gathering evidence of sexual assault need not pay for that service. MS § 609.35.
What is an evidentiary exam?
Many hospitals in Minnesota are trained and equipped to conduct sexual assault evidentiary exams. The exams are designed to capture any physical evidence, such as hair, fibers, bodily fluids from the assailant, as well as to note any obserable injuly or trauma. The goal of the evidentiary exam is to locate and preserve anything that will prove an assault occurred and identify a suspect. The kit may be processed by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) at the time the victim decides to make a report to law enforcement. At the time of an evidentiary exam, medical personnel will also screen for and provide treatment for medical conditions that may require treatment, such as sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, and physical trauma. The statute is specific to cost of evidence collection, however, not treatment of injury.
Who pays for the exam?
In Minnesota, the county in which the assault occurred is responsible for covering the cost of the exam. The victim does not have to report the assault to law enforcement in order for the county to pay.The statute does not identify which county agency is responsible. It may be the sheriff's office, county attorney's office, or county financial office that adminsters this.
The agencies designate should take steps to carefully protect a victim's identity.
These covered costs include, but are not limited to: full cost of the rape kit examination, associated tests relating to the complainant's sexually transmitted disease status, and pregnancy status.
Victims can visit the hospital of their choice. They do not need to consult a hospital in the county in which the assault occurred. They do not need to be referred by the prosecutor or law enforcement officer.
What if the victim does not want the county to pay?
A victim may be concerned about her/his privacy and may not want the county to pay for the exam. In that case, the county can inform the victim that they may submit the cost to their insurance company for the payment. In order to ensure that the victims are not pressured to bill insurance, this option may not be addressed until the exam is completed. Victims must be informed that if they do not want their insurance billed, the county is obligated to pay. This will not negatively affect how the county proceeds with the case or the victim.
When should an evidentiary exam be done?
Most agree that the sooner as exam is conducted, the more likely it is that evidence can be collected. In most cases, hospitals will conduct exams within 72 hours of an assault. In some instances, exams can be conducted after that time.
Does a rape victim have to consent to the exam?
The exam is only done with the consent of the victim. The victim will also be asked to sign a release to share the results of the exam with law enforcement, if the victim has decided to report the assult.
Can a victim take time deciding whether or not to report the assault to law enforcement?
Yes. However, most hospitals will hold the evidence kit only a limited time (2 weeks to 6 months). Check with your hospital to determine if they have a time limit. Victims should be advised that, while they can always make a report, a delay in reporting can make a case more difficult to prosecute.
What exact costs are covered by the county?
What is considered evidentiary in nature depends upon the specifics of the assult. Costs that are considered primarily related to medical treatment are the responsibility of the victim. For the crime victims, some costs can be submitted to the Crime Victims Reparations Board for reimbursement in those instances when the victim is working with law enfocement. Other costs may be recouped from an offender as a part of sentencing via restitution claim. Also, many counties have crime victim emergency funds that may assist a victim with uncovered costs.
Is this a special service just for victims of sexual assault?
The reason these charges are covered is that they are the result of "processing the crime scene" for the local jurisdiction. This is not a special service for rape victims - but a criminal justice investigation procedure. The goal is to ensure that physical evidence is gathered if there is any potential of future criminal charges.
FAQs for advocates
Won't this lead to a dramatic increase of women who have not really been assaulted accessing exams- perhaps for free STD/STI checks?
Probably not. The process of a full rape exam is quite involved, lengthy and intrusive. There are a variety of other ways free STD/STI testing can be accessed in most communities. Additionally, professionals in hospitals and avvocacy are in the position to discuss with patientsthe reasons to have a rape exam conducted. Counties who have routinely paid for all exams have not experienced a large number of victims who have not choasen to report to law enforcement.
Why should the county be responsible for the costs of these exams if the victim is unsure about reporting the assault?
The primary for advocating for this language change is to remove barriers for victims who consider reporting an assault to law enforcement. The purpose behind the original and updated language is to avoud forcing a victim to decide, at the time of crisis, whether or not to have the evidentiary exam done based on their ability to pay if they choose to not report the incident to law enforcement. Forcing this decision effectively limits the choices of the victim. Furthermore, victims who choose to not have the exam done rather than risk having to cover the cost may destroy their chances of prosecution should they choose later to report the assault. Without the prompt collection of physical evidence, prosecution may not be able to go forward.
How do local jurisdictions find out about this change?
Often, they don't hear about new legislation such as this. We encourage local professionals who work with the sexual assault victims to come together and determine how this statute will be implemented in your county. For help, contact the SVJI at the number below.
Sexual Violence Justice Institue
Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault
161 St. Anthony Avenue, Suite 1001
St. Paul, MN 55103
651.209.9993 or 800.964.8847