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Health Resources for Survivors

Traumatic events—whether physical or psychological—have short-term and long-term effects on your health. Even if you don’t have physical injuries, your health may be impacted. If you’ve experienced sexual assault/abuse or intimate partner violence, you may want to think about how those experiences are affecting your health. You may want to seek medical care. This webpage can help you get started.

GETTING HEALTHCARE

REPORTING TO POLICE

FORENSIC MEDICAL EXAM

GETTING SUPPORT

PAYMENT & INSURANCE

GETTING HEALTHCARE

If I go to the doctor for an injury I got due to sexual assault/abuse or intimate partner violence, what should I expect?

Your doctor, nurse, or other professional will ask you about your health history. They may ask about how you got the injury, past and chronic health conditions, surgeries, medications you are taking, and your sexual and relationship history.

You have the right to say as much or as little as you want about your experience of sexual assault/abuse or intimate partner violence.

You have the right to ask for an advocate to come to your location to support you during your medical exam. Advocates from RISE and the Women’s Shelter Program are here to support anyone in San Luis Obispo County any time of the day or night.

Your doctor wants to make sure you are healthy and safe. As part of their job, all medical staff (including doctors, nurses, and front office staff) are mandated reporters in California. This means that they are legally required to make a report to law enforcement when they treat a patient who they know or suspect has an injury from sexual assault/abuse or intimate partner violence.

Your doctor may ask you to explain what happened for a report or for your medical record. They may ask for photographs of the injury or recommend you receive a forensic medical (SART) exam.

You do not have to answer any questions or share any information that you do not want to.

How long will my appointment take?

How long your appointment takes depends on your questions, injuries, and the care you need. Your doctor’s first concern is your health and safety and treating your injuries. You have the right to leave at any time.

If I don’t have an injury, why would I tell my doctor I’ve experienced sexual assault/abuse or intimate partner violence?

Studies show that sexual assault/abuse and intimate partner violence can have short-term and long-term effects on your health(1) even if you don’t have physical injuries. Survivors commonly experience headaches, stomachaches, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep disturbances, and many other physical and psychological complaints. Survivors are:

  • 60% more likely to have asthma
  • 70% more likely to have heart disease
  • 80% more likely to have a stroke
  • 2 times more likely to suffer from depression and headaches

Talking to your doctor about your experience can help them better understand your health concerns and give you the best medical care. Your doctor can also help connect you with other useful resources.

Will there be any follow-up care if I tell my doctor I’ve experienced intimate partner violence?

Under the Affordable Care Act, you can get more access to resources for chronic health conditions that may result from abuse. Please visit the Department of Health and Human Services’ Family Violence Prevention and Services Program webpage for more information.

My partner will not let me go to the doctor or will not let me go alone. What should I do?

It can be very scary and frustrating to be unable to get medical care for yourself. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. If you are not having a medical emergency but find yourself in this situation, call an advocate to get support.

Many doctors will ask you to meet with them alone at the start of your appointment. You can also ask to meet alone with your doctor. If you are uncomfortable asking to meet alone, call an advocate to get support.

I am undocumented. Can I still get medical care?

Yes, emergency rooms treat all patients. If you go to an emergency room, California Medicaid may cover some fees on a case-by-case basis.

In San Luis Obispo County, the following clinics will serve people who are undocumented. They also have free, low-cost, and sliding-scale fees for people who don’t have insurance or need assistance to pay for medical care.

Use the map at the top of this webpage to find help near you.

REPORTING TO POLICE

If I tell my doctor I’ve been physically assaulted or abused, will my doctor contact the police?

Your doctor wants to make sure you are healthy and safe. As part of their job, all medical staff (including doctors, nurses, and front office staff) are mandated reporters in California. This means that they are legally required to make a report to law enforcement when they treat a patient who they know or suspect has an injury from sexual assault/abuse or intimate partner violence.

What are my rights if I tell my doctor I’ve experienced sexual assault/abuse or intimate partner violence and they file a report with the police?

You have the right to ask for an advocate to come to your location to support you during the entire process. Advocates from RISE and the Women’s Shelter Program are here to support anyone in San Luis Obispo County any time of the day or night.

You have the right to only answer questions you feel comfortable with. You have the right to skip questions.

You have the right to stop participating in the reporting process at any time. You have the right to leave at any time.

I am undocumented. What are my rights if a report is filed with the police?

You have the right to ask for an advocate to come to your location to support you during the entire process. Advocates from RISE and the Women’s Shelter Program are here to support anyone in San Luis Obispo County any time of the day or night.

You have the right to only answer questions you feel comfortable with. You have the right to skip questions.

You have the right to stop participating in the reporting process at any time. You have the right to leave at any time.

The police will not ask you about your immigration status when filing a report. Their job is to ensure your safety and investigate the suspected crime.

If you file a police report, you may be eligible for a U-Visa. You may also be able to self-petition for a visa under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). RISE and the Women’s Shelter Program can connect you with an immigration attorney to help you with this process.

If the person who hurt you is undocumented, the police may consider whether or not to report the crime to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

I don’t want to report my partner or injury to the police, but my doctor told me they are required to report.

All medical staff (including doctors, nurses, and front office staff) are mandated reporters in California. This means that they are legally required to make a report to law enforcement when they treat a patient who they know or suspect has an injury from sexual assault/abuse or intimate partner violence.

If your doctor files a report, you do not have to participate in the reporting process, answer any questions, or stay at the medical facility if you don’t want to.

FORENSIC MEDICAL EXAM

What is a forensic medical exam or SART exam?

The forensic medical exam or Suspected Abuse Response Team (SART) exam is a voluntary, free exam that is used to ensure the survivor’s health and to collect and document evidence of sexual assault/abuse that can be used in court.

SART exams should be done within five days of the assault. Specially trained nurses perform the exams at the San Luis Obispo Public Health office. You have the right to have a RISE advocate there to support you during the entire process.

If you decide to have a SART exam, here’s what you can expect:

  • The nurse will ask you in detail about your medical history and what happened during the assault, with a police officer present.
  • The nurse will check you head-to-toe for injury.
  • The nurse may take photos of injuries and collect samples like hair and saliva.
  • You may get treatment to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
  • You may get emergency contraceptives.
  • The nurse will refer you for follow-up medical treatment or counseling.
  • The entire process of the SART exam may take several hours.

You have the right to skip a part or stop the exam at any time. You have the right to leave at any time.

I want to get a forensic medical exam, but I don’t know if I want to report to the police. What can I do?

You can ask for a Restricted SART exam. The nurse will perform the same exam, give you medical care, and document evidence of sexual assault/abuse, but the police will not be present. Later on, you can decide to make a report with the police and use evidence from your SART exam for the police investigation and in court.

How do I get a forensic medical exam?

You can contact the advocates at RISE, law enforcement, Child Welfare Services, or the San Luis Obispo Public Health office to schedule a SART exam.

GETTING SUPPORT

Who should I call to learn more about getting support, counseling, legal services, emergency shelter, and a plan for safety?

The state-certified advocates at RISE and the Women’s Shelter Program are here to support anyone in San Luis Obispo County any time of the day or night.

RISE serves survivors of intimate partner violence in North San Luis Obispo County and survivors of sexual assault/abuse throughout the entire county. Friends and family of survivors can also call to get help.

RISE toll-free 24-hour support line: 855-886-7473



The Women’s Shelter Program serves survivors of intimate partner violence in the City of San Luis Obispo and South San Luis Obispo County. Friends and family of survivors can also call to get help.

Women’s Shelter Program 24-hour crisis line: 805-781-6400



Is there help beyond the doctor’s office?

Yes, call RISE or the Women’s Shelter Program to learn about resources in San Luis Obispo County:

RISE toll-free 24-hour support line: 855-886-7473



Women’s Shelter Program 24-hour crisis line: 805-781-6400



You can also call 2-1-1, which is free and confidential, or visit 211slo.org to find community resources.

PAYMENT & INSURANCE

I don’t have insurance. Can I still go to the doctor?

In San Luis Obispo County, the following clinics have free, low-cost, and sliding-scale fees for people who don’t have insurance or need assistance to pay for medical care.

Use the map at the top of this webpage to find help near you.

Under the Affordable Care Act, people who can afford insurance but don’t enroll may be penalized. However, survivors of intimate partner violence are exempt from this penalty. Please visit healthcare.gov to find out more and get an exemption form.

If you want to get insurance or change your plan, explore your options on the Covered California website.

If I've been the victim of a crime, what other help can I get? Can I get help with my bills?

Yes. The San Luis Obispo County Victim/Witness Assistance Program and the California Victim Compensation Board provide a variety of services including help paying bills and expenses that result from certain crimes.

How much does it cost to get a forensic medical exam or SART exam?

The forensic medical exam is free in San Luis Obispo County.

How much does it cost to get services from RISE and the Women’s Shelter Program?

RISE and the Women’s Shelter Program services are free or by donation.

SOURCES:
(1)
Black, M. B. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (VNVIS). Atlanta, CA: Center for Disease Control.

RISE is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides crisis intervention and treatment services to survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence and their loved ones. All services are provided confidentially, at low or no cost, to anyone regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or ability. All crisis services are available in Spanish and English. All staff members are mandated reporters and have an obligation to report under the following circumstances: reports of abuse or neglect to minors, dependent adults, elders, as well as if a client is in danger of hurting themself or others.