Medical advocacy after a sexual assault

Your options: Survivors have several options depending on when the assault took place and the survivors' individual needs. Please remember, you always have the option to not seek medical attention or certain medical services. 

How RVAP advocates can help: Advocates can help clarify and explain medical options. We can also accompany if you decide to go to the ER for medical care. Our services are free and confidential.  If you choose to go to the ER, upon your arrival, the ER should automatically call RVAP and request an advocate and specialized nurse (depending on location). If you do not want an advocate present, you may deny services. If you do want an advocate and the ER does not call, you may call our 24-hour crisis line at 319-335-6000 or 1-800-228-1625 and request an advocate yourself. 

Your rights: In the state of Iowa, per code 709.22, survivors of sexual assault have the right to a sexual assault examination (i.e., forensic evidence exam) performed at state expense and the right to an advocate during the exam. 

RVAP does not provide legal advice and the information on our website is not meant to substitute legal advice.

Within 120 hours (5 days) of the assault

  • Go to your local emergency room (ER)
    • Depending on your location, a specialized Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) and advocate will meet you at the hospital
      • At no cost to you, the following are some of your medical options at the ER:
        • Physical care
        • Forensic evidence exam and collection (aka- sexual assault kit)
          • What is a "forensic exam?" The gathering and preserving of physical evidence (e.g., DNA) via a variety of tools (e.g., swabs, photographs). Forensic exam contents are stored for 10 years in Iowa and can help aid criminal investigations. 
          • You also have the right to decline any portion of the forensic evidence exam if you don't want it (for example, wanting swabs taken but not photos of injuries). 
        • Sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention medication
        • Pregnancy prevention medication (if applicable)
  • TIPS before going to ER. If you have done any of the following that is okay, forensic evidence can be present up to 120 hours and your options remain the same. 
    • Don't bathe, shower or douche
    • Don't eat, drink or brush teeth
    • Bring clothes you had on during or after the assault in a paper bag

After 120 hours (5 days) of the assault

Go to your family physician or local clinic (e.g., Emma Goldman Clinic, Planned Parenthood) for a general check-up and/or sexually transmitted infection prevention or treatment. 


The forensic medical exam and preventative medication costs should be covered by the State of Iowa. Typically, the hospital bills the State of Iowa directly, avoiding any need for or documentation on insurance. If you seek services at a medical clinic, they will need to know how to bill the State of Iowa directly. Billing procedures vary by hospital and medical clinics. For more information please click here or call our 24-hour support line at 319-335-6000 or 1-800-228-1625.

General medical advocacy

Due to the personal nature of healthcare, getting care after experiencing sexual violence can be an alienating experience for many survivors. Advocates may accompany survivors to other medical appointments if desired. Advocates can help survivors understand treatment options, communicate more effectively with their providers, and get accommodations they need to make healthcare more comfortable to them. Advocates can also help survivors apply for health insurance through government programs and find funds to pay for certain healthcare costs. Check out our Queer Health Advocacy program and our Doula Services page to learn more.