After sexual assault: A guide to the exams, your rights and your choices

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Sexual assault is a common yet underreported crime. According to a 2018 study, 27% of women and 7% of men reported experiencing sexual assault in their lifetimes.

If you or someone you know has experienced the trauma of sexual assault, the steps that follow — exams, kits, police, prosecutors — can be confusing and difficult. Whether the assault was in the last 48 hours or many years ago, this guide will help you or a loved one understand and navigate the process.

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  • Sexual assault: An umbrella term defined by the California Penal Code as the touching of another person’s intimate parts against their will. It encompasses sexual violence, rape and harassment.
  • Rape: The act of nonconsensual intercourse. According to the California Penal Code, it can take place if a person is drugged or asleep, or if a person changes their mind and withdraws consent.
  • Sexual abuse: This term is often used when the abuser is in a position of power and the victim doesn’t have the capacity to give consent.
  • Sexual harassment: An umbrella term for unwelcome sexual advances or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive environment.
  • SART: Sexual Assault Response Team. In California, these are specialized teams that include a trained nurse who collects evidence from victims in a way that complies with rules about criminal evidence.
  • SAK: sexual assault kit
  • SAFE: Sexual assault forensic exam/examiner
  • SANE: Sexual assault nurse examiner