Clinical Forensic Services
The care a person receives immediately following abuse or assault has a significant effect on their physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. The Saint Luke’s Clinical Forensic team is specially trained to provide compassionate evaluation and treatment; support emotional and physical healing; and preserve evidence for civil and criminal proceedings.
The Saint Luke’s Clinical Forensic team provides emergency trauma care for victims of:
- Sexual assault (14 and older)
- Domestic and intimate partner violence
- Elder and disabled abuse or neglect
- Child abuse or neglect
- Human trafficking
- Other forms of violence
When a victim of violence visits a Saint Luke’s Emergency Department, their evaluation can include a medical forensic exam. A specially trained forensic nurse performs a comprehensive evaluation at no cost to the patient. The patient can choose to decline any part of the exam.
In addition to the exam, Saint Luke’s Clinical Forensics offers:
- Bedside victim advocacy
- Preventive medications for exposure to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV
- Pregnancy assessment and emergency contraception
- Collection, preservation, and documentation of evidence
- Forensic photography
- After-care support, safety planning, and follow-up referrals
Unless required by statute, a patient is not required to file a police report to receive these services. Saint Luke’s Clinical Forensic Program collaborates with crisis advocacy centers, criminal justice agencies, and other experts to provide ongoing care for abuse victims.
Frequently asked questions
- What should someone do to prepare for a medical forensic exam?
- If possible, leave on the clothes worn at the time of the assault. If clothes were removed, bring them to the exam (in a paper bag if possible). To enable us to collect the most evidence possible during an exam, do not shower, wash, use the bathroom, eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum before an exam.
- What if someone doesn’t want to make a police report?
- An exam is about more than just collecting evidence. Forensic teams are specially trained to care for a person’s health following an assault. They will help identify injuries, potential complications, and give recommendations for follow-up care. Our services can help prevent unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. If someone chooses to file a report with the police later, the documentation and evidence collected at the time of the exam will be available for testing.
- How much does an exam cost?
- A medical forensic exam is always free. If additional emergency department testing or treatments are needed, and there are no confidentiality concerns, a patient or their insurance company may receive a bill. Crime Victims Compensation information is provided to seek reimbursement for other medical bills.
- What if there is no obvious injury from the assault or abuse?
- A forensic nurse can use special tools to identify subtle bruising and injuries that are difficult to see with the naked eye. Injuries can be documented with photographs, written descriptions, and drawings. Even if there are no visible injuries, there may still be risk of potential complications, especially if someone was strangled during an assault.
- Does an exam include a rape kit?
- If desired by the patient, a kit can be collected during an exam. In Missouri and Kansas a "rape kit" is called a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit (SAEK) and is used to collect physical evidence for DNA and trace evidence within 10 days after an assault. A modified exam can be provided any time after an assault.
- How long after an assault can someone obtain a medical forensic exam?
- A modified exam along with access to advocacy and other services can be obtained any time after an assault.
- What if someone was drugged and doesn’t remember anything?
- If drugs or alcohol are suspected to be a factor, a forensic nurse can collect blood and urine samples for toxicology testing at the crime laboratory within five days after exposure.
- Can an exam prove that someone was assaulted?
- A medical forensic exam may provide evidence that can be used during criminal investigation or a civil case, but the exam itself cannot prove that an assault did or did not happen. However, it may give useful information that can help in the decision of whether to proceed with a police report.