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What is the PERK Exam?

DNA evidence and samples following crimes of sexual assault can be collected through a Physical Evidence Recovery Kit, also known as a PERK exam. The exam is sometimes referred to as a SAFE or Sexual Assault Forensic Exam. During this exam forensic evidence is collected from a survivor’s clothing, body, and personal belongings and the survivor receives appropriate medical attention. Although it is not a requirement for an individual to report the crime to authorities, the PERK exam can be beneficial to the criminal investigation and prosecution processes. It is important to also note that the decision to report does not have to be immediate and evidence can be stored for up to two years if the decision to report is made at a later time.

What Happens During the PERK Exam?

The PERK exam is a forensic exam and is performed by a SANE Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) nurse, who has received and have undergone specialized training and education to perform the exam. Locally, both Sentara and Riverside hospitals have a SANE nurse on staff to perform the PERK exam. You are allowed to have someone else in the room with you if you would like, and organizations like the Center may have victim advocates who can accompany you during the exam.

The initial priority of the SANE nurse and hospital staff is to treat any immediate injuries that have occurred as a result of the assault. The SANE nurse will then collect information regarding patient health history including health conditions, medication, and consensual sexual activity. Next, a comprehensive head- to- examination will be done to collect forensic evidence. The nurse will take DNA specimens including samples of blood and urine, and body swabs. The exam is both internal and external. The nurse may swab the inside of the mouth, vagina, and anus, as well as hair samples. Pictures may be taken of any injuries, and clothing and undergarments may also be collected as forensic evidence. The exam typically lasts a few hours, and at any time the exam can be stopped or paused at the discretion of the survivor.

Emergency contraception and other preventative treatment for STDs and STIs may also be given, and the SANE nurse may suggest follow-up care, appointments to be made with a medical professional, and additional community resources. If an individual elects to report the crime, they will also speak with law enforcement after receiving medical attention. Some hospitals may provide clothing and resources for transportation following the exam.

A PERK exam must be completed within 120 hours of the assault to collect as much viable evidence. It is beneficial to preserve as much evidence as possible before the PERK exam, but it is ok to choose to bathe, use the restroom, or brush your teeth before undergoing the PERK exam. If you choose to change clothes attempt to place clothing in a plastic bag to preserve evidence. It is mandatory that the SANE nurse must report the assault to law enforcement for individuals under the age of eighteen. Survivors can report anonymously as well if they choose to do so. Male survivors can also undergo the PERK exam.

Benefits of Considering a PERK Exam

PERK exams are of no cost to the individual. The exam is paid for by state governments under the Violence Against Women Act. The decision to report the assault is completely up to the discretion of the individual and gives time to make the decision to report. If an individual decides to report, the PERK exam could increase the likelihood that an individual will be prosecuted. Lastly, the PERK exam allows individuals to get proper medical attention and treatment following the assault and can offer resources for individuals after the assault and connection to organizations such as the Center for Sexual Assault Survivors.


  • The PERK exam is a forensic exam performed by a SANE nurse.

  • The exam typically lasts for a few hours

  • You can stop the exam at any time

  • The exam must be performed within 120 hours.

  • The exam consists of immediate medical attention, health history, and a head-to-toe examination.

  • Try to preserve the most evidence, but you are not wrong to bathe, use the bathroom, or brush your teeth.

  • You are not required to report the crime immediately.

  • There is no cost to undergo the PERK exam.

  • The PERK exam is also for male survivors.

  • SANE nurse must report to law enforcement if the victim is under the age of 18.

  • The hospital may provide or offer information regarding resources after an assault.

  • You may be given emergency contraception and preventative STI treatment.

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