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Immediate Action is Key for Every Rape Victim

The moments after a rape are jarring but immediate action and preservation of evidence can ease a victims mind later on.

By: Julie Ratcliffe

There is a specific process every rape victim should go through to ensure the preservation of DNA that will, hopefully, lead to the conviction of their attacker.

ED Nurse Manager, Jill Harshman knows this process is”all about empowering the victims” and ” letting them chose the course of what happens next” but stresses the importance of immediate action.

There is only a small window to collect DNA evidence of about 5 days so there is no time to waste after an attack.

Firstly and as hard as it may be, never shower, drink anything or change your clothes after an attack as you may be erasing key evidence that could help you later on.

Next, call the police or victim advocate hot line. They will escort you to the hospital and begin the investigatory process.

Women in Need is a victim advocacy group in Chambersburg that specializes in emotional, physical and even judiciary support plus anything else a victim might need.

Specialists like Selena Miller, RN spend their days at Women in Need training schools, hospitals or any direct care staff about domestic violence and sexual assault. Miller is a SART, sexual assault response team, nurse and personally assembles task forces within area hospital to address violence issues.

Once detectives and women in Need have asked questions of the victim, the SART nurses begin the DNA collection process.

SART nurses use a very specific set of direction contained in a Rape Kit to be sure they are collecting all the necessary DNA evidence. The Rape Kit contains about 15 steps ranging from finger nail clippings to vaginal swabs. A victim has complete control over which steps of the kit is completed and may ask to stop the process if he or she feels uncomfortable.

Harshman says any victim can submit their Rape Kit anonymously to the lab. Rape Kits can be labeled with a patient number and tested with out anyone ever knowing the the victims name.

Once the kit is complete, it is sent to a lab where it will be tested and hopefully lead to a conviction.

Victims then have the choice: a criminal trial or judicial hearing, if the attacker is a fellow student.

Victims need to seek support from their community during the trial process and beyond to find healing and comfort.

Women in Need and other organizations offer local support but for campus help, The Women’s Center, Spiritual Center and Residence Halls all offer help for victims.

Women in Need has a 24/7 hot line for anyone who thinks they have been a victim of violence. Call 1-800-621-6660 now if you think you would like to talk to someone.


For more information about Rape Kits click here.

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