Emergency Medical Assistance and Preserving Evidence

Emergency Medical Assistance and Preserving Evidence

After experiencing sexual assault, harassment, intimate partner violence, or stalking, it can be helpful to talk through your options with a trained advocate. You can reach an advocate at MIT’s Violence Prevention and Response hotline at (617) 253-2300.

The What You Need to Know handout provides an overview of your options immediately following an incident, how to obtain assistance (including a no contact order, academic support, and housing accommodations), reporting options, and resources. 

Collecting Medical Evidence
If you need medical attention or wish to have medical evidence collected, you can go directly to the emergency department of an area hospital which provides adult and adolescent SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) services.

Massachusetts General Hospital (one stop on the Red Line from MIT)
Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center
Boston Children's Hospital (age 21 & under)
Boston Medical Center
Brigham & Women's Hospital
CHA Cambridge Hospital

When you arrive, inform the intake coordinator that you need to be seen for a sexual assault. They will escort you to a private room and you will be met by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, a nurse who is specially trained to perform the evidence collection. You may have someone accompany you. 

  • The Nurse will ask you if you want to report the assault to the police - the choice is yours. The evidence can also be collected anonymously while you take some time to decide.
  • The IDHR Office can reimburse your transportation costs, and you are eligible to have the cost of your examination covered by the State of Massachusetts. 

Why is evidence collection important?
Physical evidence could be pivotal in prosecuting a rape or sexual assault. You have several months to decide if you wish to prosecute the assault, but having medical evidence may improve the strength of your case.

  • You should not bathe, douche, change clothes, or remove anything from the area in which the incident occurred (bed linens, etc.). This will help preserve evidence in the event that you decide to prosecute. If possible, you should wear or bring the clothes with you to the hospital that you were wearing at the time of (or immediately after) the assault.
  • It can be helpful to write down everything that can be recalled about the assault, including a physical description and/or name of the perpetrator, specifics about the use of force or threats, the location, time and date of the assault, and any witnesses or others who may have seen you immediately before or after the assault. This written account should be kept in a safe place and may be helpful to you later if you decide to bring charges against the perpetrator.

Often, people ask if there is any urgency in reporting. The most important thing is to ensure that you receive care - you may consider reporting options when you are ready. That being said, there are some important time-limitations to keep in mind:

Immediately: If you believe you have been drugged, seek medical care immediately. Depending on the type of drug, it may leave your system quickly.

Within 5 days: You have five days after the assault to have forensic evidence collected. If you are interested in evidence collection, please visit one of the emergency departments listed above. Additionally, you can call VPR's 24-hour hotline for assistance at (617) 253-2300.

There is also a five-day window in which you can receive emergency contraception and there is similar time-sensitivity regarding some sexually transmitted infection preventions. If you have questions about this, you can call MIT Health.

Graduation: If you are interested in pursuing a disciplinary case, there is no official window in which you must report, but keep in mind that the options for Institutional action become very limited once the Respondent graduates.

6 years: If you are interested in pursuing a criminal case, there is a six-year statute of limitations for rape in Massachusetts. The period is longer, however, in certain situations, e.g., if you were a minor when the assault occurred. If you have questions, an advocate from VPR can assist you to work with the Victim Rights Law Center. The MIT Police Department's Detective Unit will assist with a criminal complaint, obtaining an order of protection, and answer any questions about reporting options.