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Services and Support for Survivors of Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault

This article provides resources and general information about what to do if you are sexually assaulted in Texas.

Here, find out what you need to know about medical treatment, sexual assault exams, and safety after sexual assault.  

The information in this article was written by Texas Health and Human Services, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA), and Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)

Revised by on February 28, 2023. 

What do I need to know about getting a sexual assault exam and medical treatment?

A sexual assault exam is usually performed within 120 hours after a sexual assault. 

You have the right to receive an examination for medical treatment and to have evidence collected. You have this right even if you decide not to make a police report.  


You also have the right to have a sexual assault advocate present during your examination. Many victims find the presence of an advocate very helpful. Advocates provide support and counseling, and they are specially trained on your legal rights during this time of crisis.  


If no one offers you an advocate, you can request one from the nearest sexual assault program. You can find out where the nearest sexual assault program is by calling 800-656-4673, or visiting the Crisis Center Locator, provided by Texas Association Against Sexual Assault

Who will perform the sexual assault exam?

Depending on what hospital you arrived at, you might have a choice to make about where to receive the exam. Some hospitals have specially trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (“SANEs”), but others do not. If you are at a facility without a SANE, Texas law gives you the right to choose whether to be transferred to a SANE facility, or to receive an examination where you are. 

Receiving an examination from a certified SANE is ideal, because of their extensive training and experience. If it’s possible for you to accept a transfer to a SANE facility, that is usually best. SANEs are trained to provide compassionate, sensitive, and comprehensive care to victims and are prepared to testify in court proceedings if necessary. However, sometimes victims are unable to make the trip to another hospital, and that’s okay. You can still receive the medical care you need and have evidence collected where you are now. Texas law requires staff from every emergency room to have at least basic training on forensic evidence collection. It’s up to you. 

To find out which local emergency rooms have SANEs, contact your nearest rape crisis center. To find a crisis center in your area, visit the Crisis Center Locator provided by Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) also maintains a list of SANE facilities in Texas. Contact DSHS at 888-963-7111. 

What does a sexual assault exam involve?

A sexual assault exam includes two parts: forensic evidence collection to be used in the investigation of the criminal case, and medical care for the evaluation and treatment of injuries.  

During the medical portion of the examination, injuries or other medical conditions are identified and treated. Results from medical testing will be available from the medical facility where you have the exam.   

During the forensic portion of the examination, evidence is collected. The evidence may be used in an investigation.   

Depending on the nature of the assault, the following items may be collected during the exam:  

  • hair combings,   

  • swabs from areas of the body with potential DNA deposits,   

  • swabs from areas of genital contact,   

  • fingernail swabs/clippings,   

  • debris items, and   

  • clothing.   

Photographs may be taken of body surface injuries or genital injuries during the examination.   


Can I get a sexual assault exam without the police getting involved?

Yes. If you are at least 18 years old, you do not have to report the sexual assault to the police when you have a sexual assault exam.   

When a survivor has a sexual assault exam and does not make a police report it is called a “non-report sexual assault exam.”  

Why would I decide to have a sexual assault exam if I am not going to make a police report?

Sexual assault exams have benefits whether you make a police report or not. You may want to consider having a sexual assault exam because:   

  • Your health matters. Sexual assault can affect your physical health. You may have injuries and trauma related to the assaults that aren’t immediately visible. During an exam you can access treatment for these injuries, receive preventative treatment for STIs, and obtain emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy.  


  • You can have time to decide if you want to report. The decision to report the crime is entirely yours. It may take some time to decide what to do. Having a sexual assault forensic exam ensures that the forensic evidence will be safely preserved if you decide to report at a later time.   


  • If you decide to make a report at a later time, having the evidence preserved increases the likelihood of prosecution. The importance of DNA evidence in sexual assault cases cannot be overstated. Not only does DNA evidence carry weight in court, but it may prevent future sexual assaults from occurring. Even if the perpetrator is not prosecuted, their DNA may be added to the national database, making it easier to connect the perpetrator to a future crime.  


How do I get a non-report sexual assault exam?

Go to an emergency room and request a forensic medical exam. Notify the facility of your desire not to contact police. 

To learn more, visit Sexual Assault Examinations Without Police Involvement

How long do I have to decide whether to report and release the evidence?

The Department of Public Safety (DPS) is required to store any evidence collected during a non-report sexual assault exam for either five years or until the survivor releases the evidence, whichever comes first.  

The fact that DPS only stores evidence for five years does not affect the amount of time a sexual assault survivor has to report her assault to police.   

The statute of limitation for sexual assault of an adult in Texas is ten years.  

There is no statute of limitation in cases of sexual assault of adults where evidence has been DNA tested and does not match the victim or any other person whose identity is readily determined.  

To learn more, visit the Non-Reported Sexual Assault Evidence Program page on the DPS website.  

How much does a sexual assault exam cost?

A sexual assault examination has two parts: the medical portion, and the evidence collection (“forensic”) portion.   

Medical facilities will bill you for the portions of the exam that are purely medical. 

Under no circumstances should you receive a bill for services related to evidence collection. The Department of Public Safety pays for the “forensic” portion of the exam and then seeks reimbursement from Office of the Attorney General’s Crime Victims’ Compensation fund.   

If you report to police, you can receive reimbursement for the medical portions of the exam through the Crime Victims’ Compensation program. Be aware that if you do not report to the police you are not eligible to receive reimbursement for the medical portions of the exam through the Crime Victims’ Compensation program.  


How can I start to feel safe after I was sexually assaulted?

It’s normal to feel afraid or worried for your safety.  

It may be helpful to create a safety plan or apply for a protective order.  

A safety plan is a written document created by a survivor that sets out ways the survivor can stay safe and reduces the risk of harm. A safety plan is tailored to meet the survivor's individual needs and safety concerns. 

A protective order makes it a crime for the perpetrator to communicate with you or your household members in any manner, harm you, harass you, or go near your home, workplace, or school.  

To get a protective order, you don’t have to press criminal charges, or even make a police report, although you should expect to testify in court to provide the judge with reasonable grounds to believe that you are the victim of a sexual assault.  

There is no requirement that you have any relationship with the offender.  

For help making a safety plan or to learn more about protective orders, contact the statewide Legal Aid for Survivors of Sexual Assault hotline. Services are free and confidential. Call Monday - Friday, 9:00 AM - 7:00 PM at 844.303.SAFE (7233), Option 1. 

What if I need to move after a sexual assault?

Texas has special laws that allow victims of sexual assault, stalking, attempted sexual assault, and parents of child sexual abuse victims to break their lease early without being penalized if the assault occurred on the leased premises. Visit Sexual Assault and Early Lease Termination to learn more.   

Visit the Texas Attorney General’s Crime Victims’ Compensation fund to learn how you may be able to get reimbursed for some of your moving expenses.   

Who can I talk to if I’m not sure what to do next?

Crisis Centers offer safety planning, counseling, and other types of information and support. To connect with a crisis center in your area, visit the Crisis Center Locator provided by Texas Association Against Sexual Assault

You can also contact the statewide Legal Aid for Survivors of Sexual Assault hotline for free and confidential legal services. Callers speak directly with an attorney, who will explain your rights, the justice system, and legal options.  


More information

For assistance, contact the LASSA Statewide Hotline, Monday - Friday, 9:00 AM - 7:00 PM at 844.303.SAFE (7233), Option 1. 

To locate a crisis center near you, visit the Crisis Center Locator, provided by Texas Association Against Sexual Assault

For information on safety plans, visit Sexual Assault Safety Planning

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