Specialized Sexual Assault Healthcare Options for Survivors

Some hospitals and sexual assault centres/clinics have a team of clinicians that have specialized training in trauma-informed medical and forensic care. Services can include:

  • Assessment and treatment of injuries, pregnancy and STIs.
  • Forensic sample collection and storage.
  • Crisis support.
  • Referrals to health, legal, and community-based support services.


A forensic exam is the documentation of injuries and collection of legal evidence to support a criminal investigation (Population + Global Health, BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre, n.d.). It can include a physical examination of areas related to the sexual assault and taking samples of blood, urine, body fluids, and clothing (Leduc-Robert et al., 2020). 

Where available, a forensic exam will only be conducted with the survivor’s consent. The survivor can choose to consent to any portion of the forensic exam.  

A survivor can get a forensic exam up to seven days after the sexual assault (BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre, n.d.). It can take several (e.g., two to eight hours) to complete a forensic exam (Leduc-Robert et al., 2020). The time it takes to complete a forensic exam is case specific and can vary depending on injuries sustained, specimens collected, or other supports required (Toronto Police Service, n.d.).

Survivors that complete a forensic exam can choose to have:

  • Their samples collected and transferred to police by the Sexual Assault Examiner.
  • The Sexual Assault Examiner store the samples for up to one year if the survivor decides to report to police at a later time (Ludic-Robert et al., 2020). Not all programs/hospitals have the capacity to store forensic samples. The length of time a healthcare facility can store samples varies and may be extended on request.


It is important to familiarize yourself with specialized sexual assault healthcare services in your area, including forensic exam and sample storage options. 

Questions? Contact our Community Coordination for Survivor Safety (CCSS) team at ccss@endingviolence.org.