Students have a couple of different confidential options when looking to obtain medical treatment.
At TCNJ Student Health Services, a nurse practitioner can perform a physical exam to check for injuries, perform STI and HIV testing and provide emergency contraception and treatment. You can call the office at 609-771-2889 to schedule an appointment or schedule online at https://tcnj.medicatconnect.com.
Local hospitals can also provide services to address physical injuries, including medical evidence collection. In the event of a sexual assault, hospital staff can help students start the Sexual Assault Response Team Activation Process. An advocate from Womanspace will be deployed to the hospital to help you through the process and talk about your options. Medical evidence collection is conducted by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) and can be useful if you decide to pursue criminal charges against the offender. Note, there is no statute of limitations on beginning a criminal process following a sexual assault however, completed forensic kits are stored for 5 years following collection and may not be available after that.
The exam needs to be done within 5 DAYS of the incident, though within 72 hours is the optimal amount of time. There is no cost for the forensic examination and no bill should be generated.
Local Hospitals in Mercer County: Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton, Capital Health Medical Center in Hopewell, St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, or RWJ University Hospital in Hamilton.
**Please note: Due to COVID-19, emergency rooms that are participating SART locations (Capital Health, RWJ, or St. Francis) are not allowing any visitors into the ER. What this means for SART activations is that an advocate from Womanspace cannot physically accompany you for the exam. SANE nurses are offering the services of the Womanspace hotline in order to provide information, support and resources to anyone who goes to the hospital for an exam.**
Preserving any available evidence, after an assault allows you or your friend to leave open the option for criminal prosecution in the future without the obligation to take that step. Because some kinds of evidence may only be collected within a short time period after an assault, delaying action to preserve evidence immediately reduces the changes for a successful criminal prosecution in the future. The optimal time window for the collection of evidence is less than 72 hours.
For evidence collection, it is encouraged that you:
- Save all of the clothing that you were wearing at the time of the assault, and do not wash them.
- Place each item of clothing in a separate paper bag, and do not use plastic bags.
- Do not disturb anything in the area where the assault occurred.
- Evidence can be collected at an emergency room, and you can decide later whether or not you want to press criminal charges.
- Write down as much as you can remember about the circumstances of the assault, including a description of the assailant, the assailant’s identity if you know it, and the use of threats or force.
- It is best to AVOID engaging in any of these activities, as they may wash away critical evidence: showering, brushing your teeth, urinating, eating/drinking, changing clothes, douching, and smoking.
The medical providers will, with your permission, collect physical evidence to be used if you decide to prosecute. Collecting this physical evidence is more commonly known as a “rape kit.” This cannot be done at Student Health Services, but must be done at an emergency room or hospital. Depending on the types of sexual contact that occurred, the search for physical evidence may include taking samples from the vagina, mouth, or rectum to test for sperm cells and semen.If you think you were drugged or consumed a sedative-like substance, ask the medical provider to take a urine sample. Other evidence may be obtained from fingernail scrapings, foreign matter on your body, and the clothes you were wearing at the time of the assault. All exam findings are completely confidential and can only be released with your written consent. If you have visible injuries, you may be asked to have photographs taken. Photographing injuries is important because by the time your assailant is prosecuted, the injuries may have healed. The exam can be done up to five days post assault even if you have showered or done any of the other things listed above.