What services does DCFNE provide?
DCFNE provides medical forensic exams to victims of sexual assault and intimate partner violence (IPV).
IPV exams are available to individuals 12 years or older who have been assaulted by an intimate partner within the last 30 days in the District of Columbia. The exam is provided at no cost and without proof of insurance. No police report or proof of citizenship is required.
A forensic nurse will:
• Complete a head-to-toe medical exam, document injuries, and provide referrals
• Document current and past abuse that could be beneficial in criminal or civil legal proceedings
• Conduct a medical history
• Carefully assess for injuries, such as strangulation, using forensic photography and Alternative Light Source (ALS) that identifies barely visible or non-visible injuries
SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) exams are available to individuals 13 years or older who have been assaulted within the past 96 hours in the District of Columbia.
The exam is provided at no cost and without proof of insurance. No police report or proof of citizenship is required.
A forensic nurse will:
• Complete a head-to-toe medical exam
• Document injuries using tools like digital photography
• Collect DNA evidence (“rape kit”)
• Administer sexually transmitted infection, HIV, and pregnancy prevention medications
• Complete toxicology screening if drug facilitated sexual assault is suspected
What are the costs of DCFNE services?
There is no cost associated with the medical forensic exam, regardless of the decision to report to law enforcement. A patient may be billed for additional medical services received at the hospital, including the emergency room visit. DCFNE will assist patients with completing Crime Victims Compensation claims.
I was assaulted but I don’t have any visible injuries. Is it worth getting an exam?
Yes. Strangulation, for example, almost never leaves visible markings, yet it takes only 4 pounds of pressure to cause damage (about the same amount of pressure needed to open a can of soda). We use an Alternative Light Source (ALS) during the medical forensic exam to reveal and document what your eye can’t see, which can sometimes include even past injuries.
What kinds of injuries can an Alternative Light Source (ALS) show?
An ALS can show things not visible to the human eye, like fingerprints where pressure points were, slap marks, fluids, clothing fibers and possibly even a detailed imprint of a belt or other weapon, if used.
I was strangled. Is it normal to have a sore throat/difficulty swallowing?
These symptoms can be indicative of serious medical complications. Seek medical attention immediately.
I was strangled but now seem OK. If internal damage was done, will I know immediately?
Not necessarily. Even though you can’t see the injury, you could be experiencing serious medical complications up to several days after the assault. Signs of internal damage include dizziness, fainting, voice changes (hoarseness), trouble swallowing or breathing, facial or neck swelling, headaches and burst blood vessels (bruising).
Can the exam prove that I was assaulted?
A medical forensic exam might provide supportive evidence that can be used during criminal and civil legal proceedings but the presence or absence of such physical evidence cannot alone prove assault.
Can I get help from other agencies even if I don’t get the exam?
Absolutely. To find information about available services, contact the DC Victim Hotline at 1-844-4HELPDC.
Should I bring anything to the exam?
If you’re still wearing the clothes you were wearing at the time of the assault, leave them on. If you’ve taken them off but haven’t washed them yet, bring them to the exam (in a paper bag if possible).
Why should I get the exam if I don’t plan to press charges?
You may find it useful in divorce/custody matters or civil/temporary protection orders. You may also change your mind about pressing charges. Evidence will be held for 90 days even if you don’t report during that time (or until trial if you do).
Are DCFNE forensic services available at any hospital?
No, DCFNE services are only available at MedStar Washington Hospital Center (MWHC). However, if a patient is medically unstable and is not able to be transported to MWHC, DCFNE will perform the exam at the hospital that the patient is in.
DCFNE partners with the Network for Victim Recovery of DC (NVRDC) to provide advocacy services to survivors of sexual assault. NVRDC will also provide transportation to MWHC via Uber to patients who are in need of a SANE exam.
How does someone access DCFNE services?
To access DCFNE services, a patient can call the DC Victim Hotline at 1-844-4HELPDC or walk-in to MedStar Washington Hospital Center:
MedStar Washington Hospital Center
110 Irving St NW
Washington, DC 20010
If coming by Metro, exit the Brookland/CUA stop on the RED line. Exit the station to the right and take the H2 (Van Ness) or H4 (Tenley Town) bus to MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Buses leave every 10 minutes.
What is the time frame for completing a SANE exam?
For evidence collection purposes, SANE exams should be conducted within 96 hours after an assault. In rare circumstances, DCFNE will complete an exam after the 96 hour window.
What is the time frame for completing an IPV exam?
DCFNE typically completes IPV exams within 30 days of the incident. In certain circumstances, DCFNE may complete the exam beyond the 30-day time period.
Can a DCFNE nurse do an exam for domestic violence and sexual assault simultaneously?
Can the client determine what will be documented?
The patient controls every aspect of the exam and can choose which parts they participate in, including documentation of injury.
Are DCFNE nurses mandated reporters?
Yes. DCFNE nurses will explain their mandated reporting requirements at the beginning of the exam.
We are not required to report IPV in the District of Columbia unless:
• Injuries resulted from criminal activities
• Injuries were inflicted by a firearm
• The victim is not legally competent or is disabled physically or cognitively
• The abuser is a caregiver
• Child was harmed or placed in immediate danger during the assault
My boyfriend is an adult and I’m younger than 18. Will you report him to the police?
We are not mandated to report dating violence unless it included use of a firearm or sexual assault or rape.
I was (underage) drinking and/or taking illegal drugs when it happened. Will I get in trouble?
No. We maintain patient confidentiality during our exams and will not report to police without your permission, except in cases of mandatory reports (see above).
How long does DCFNE hold the evidence from the exam?
DCFNE is required by law to store SANE kits for 1 year after the exam. Prior to kit destruction, DCFNE will contact the patient to inform them.
DCFNE stores records from IPV exams indefinitely.
How long does the DCFNE exam take on average?
SANE exams can take 2-4 hours, IPV exam it can take 1-3 hours, depending on the extent of injury.
Does DCFNE serve victims of family violence?
No, DCFNE does not currently offer forensic exams to victims of family violence.
Does the client have to go through DC SAFE or NVRDC to obtain a forensic exam?
No, a client can call the DC Victim Hotline 1-844-443-5732 and request an IPV exam, or walk into MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Prior the exam, patients will be offered advocacy services through NVRDC or DC SAFE. Patients are able to decline advocacy services and still complete the exam and receive DCFNE services.
Does DCFNE have an office?
Yes, however the office is strictly administrative. If a patient, advocate, attorney, or member of law enforcement is seeking a patient chart, they can call DCFNE’s office at (202) 742-1736. To access forensic services, contact the DC Victim Hotline at 1-844-4HELPDC.