Southern Tier Health Care System, Olean General Hospital and the Cattaraugus County District Attorney's Office created the Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (S.A.F.E.) program to comfort and protect victims of rape and sexual assault and gather evidence to convict rapists and abusers.
Rape and sexual assault are more common than most think. National statistics show one in three women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Statistics also show that in 75 percent of cases, the attacker and victim knew each other before the assault occurred.
The Southern Tier is no different. The S.A.F.E. program started September 1, 2008. By July of 2009, 22 victims of rape and sexual assault had been helped by S.A.F.E. providers.
A Safe Place
Sexual assault is an extremely serious trauma and an extreme injustice and no one should have to go through the trauma alone.
You are not alone. You're in the Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (S.A.F.E.) Room at Olean General Hospital. The S.A.F.E. Room and S.A.F.E. program were created to protect and help sexual assault victims like you. A specially trained Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner is on the way. A S.A.F.E. provider is a doctor or nurse trained to help sexual assault survivors and collect physical evidence to hold their abuser accountable if the victim wishes.
You matter, not the circumstances that led to your assault
If you were drinking at a party but you are underage, it doesn't matter. You won't get in trouble if the police are called because you were drinking or using drugs at the time of the assault.
Everything that happens here is completely confidential. Only you can consent to releasing the results of your forensic exam or any evidence gathered by the S.A.F.E. provider. If the assault occurred within the last 96 hours, forensic evidence, including DNA, can be collected.
You and the Law
Whether or not to press charges is up to you. You don't have to make a decision today. Many sexual assault survivors choose to wait and think about whether to press charges after the S.A.F.E. provider collects the evidence. You have up to 30 days from the date of your S.A.F.E. exam to decide if charges should be filed.
Just because you talk to the police and they fill out a report about what happened, that doesn't mean your attacker will be charged. That decision is up to you. We encourage you to make a police report so there is a record of what occurred that can be used to prosecute your attacker if and when you choose to do so.
If an arrest is made, the name of your attacker will be made public, but your name will not. All area media outlets have policies that prevent them from releasing the name of sexual assault survivors.
The S.A.F.E. process
Once the S.A.F.E. provider arrives, they will ask you a series of questions. Be honest and give them as much detail as you can. The sexual assault forensic exam is designed to protect you and gather evidence. We know this is a difficult time for you, but the exam is necessary to hold your abuser accountable. The following steps will be taken during the examination by the S.A.F.E. provider:
- Examine your entire body, including your groin for evidence of trauma such as bumps, abrasions, or cuts, carefully taking notes and photographing each
- Examine your hands and nail clippings and scrapings. Your attacker's hair, blood, or skin can be found on your hands or underneath your fingernails
- Photograph any bite marks and swab them for saliva, which may contain biological evidence, including DNA
- Swab any stains found on you because they may contain saliva or semen
- Collect vaginal, anal, and oral swabs to check for DNA
- Comb your pubic hair for foreign fibers and hairs
- Search your clothing for stains and take samples from your clothes. Your clothing will also need to be collected and sent to a crime lab for further analysis. You will be given other clothes to wear home