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PERK Questions and Information

What is a PERK?
PERK stands for Physical Evidence Recovery Kit.  A PERK is a special medical exam performed by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE)  to collect evidence that may be helpful in a criminal prosecution or investigation of a sexual assault. The PERK gathers forensic evidence and initial testing and treatment for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.  SANEs have received special training in the identification, collection and documentation of forensic evidence that may be found on a victim's body or clothing, and they have received specialized education in the care of patients who have experienced sexual assault or abuse.

Are PERKs useful for university investigations?
DNA evidence is not particularly useful for university investigations as the identity of the perpetrator is typically known.  Other evidence that may be collected such as photographs or notes from the nurse can be useful for the university process.

If I want to get a PERK is it ok to take a shower?
If you are able, to preserve as much evidence as possible, it is best not to bathe, shower, use the bathroom, change your clothes or brush your teeth after an assault.  However, you can still have an exam performed even if you have done any of these activities.  You did NOT do anything wrong by bathing, showering, using the bathroom or brushing your teeth.  Other useful evidence can still be collected. 

What if I really need to change my clothes?
Place your clothes in a paper or plastic bag to safely preserve evidence.  It is important to remember that evidence cannot be stored in paper or plastic bags long term because the evidence will be destroyed.  Generally, no longer than 24 hours. 

Where can I go to get a PERK?
Riverside Doctor's Hospital, Williamsburg
1500 Commonwealth Avenue, Williamsburg, VA 23185
*A mobile unit sends SANE nurses to Riverside Doctor's Hospital as soon as they get a page that one is needed.  You can page the nurse at 757-881-3375

Riverside Regional Medical Center

500 J. Clyde Morris Boulevard, Newport News, VA 23601
757-594-3983 SANE number;  757-594-2000 main hospital number
Riverside's ER is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week for medical care.  Riverside can provide Physical Evidence Recovery (PERK) services.

What if I am still wearing the same clothes when I arrive at the hospital?
Bring a change of clothing with you.  The nurse will collect your clothing. If you do not have a change of clothes, that is ok.  The hospital will provide one for you.

How soon after an assault do I need to get a PERK?
In most cases, DNA evidence needs to be collected within 120 hours.  But, an exam can reveal other forms of evidence beyond this timeframe that may be useful such as photographs and documentation of injuries or pain. Photo-documentation and forensic evaluation can take place anytime after a sexual assault, or dating and/or domestic violence, regardless of time since the incident took place.

If I get a PERK does that mean I have to report the assault to police?
No.  The decision to criminally report a crime is completely yours.  The Blind Reporting Law in Virginia allows victims to have a PERK done without pressing charges.  Having an exam ensures that forensic evidence will be safely preserved if you decided that you want to report later.  Note that health care providers are mandatory reporters and must report the assault if the victim is under 18 or if a weapon such as a knife or gun are involved. 

Do I have to pay for the PERK?
No.  The Commonwealth of Virginia will pay for the exam. 

Will my parents find out if I have to provide my insurance information to the hospital?
You do not need to give the hospital any information about your health insurance.  You are a crime victim and they will treat you without insurance.  If you get a PERK, the hospital will file with the state for reimbursement for the costs of the PERK.

Do I have to go by myself?
No, you can have anyone you want accompany you to the hospital.  A trained advocate can provide support during the exam, answer questions about the exam, and connect you to resources and options after the exam in completed.
You can contact Avalon  at 757-258-5022 or 757-258-5051 (24 hour hotline) or The Haven at 757-2449 to request a trained advocate to accompany you.

What if I change my mind during an exam?
You can change your mind and withdraw consent for the PERK at any time. 

How long will the exam take?
The exam itself usually takes about an hour.  The entire process of obtaining history, completing paperwork, performing the exam and packaging evidence may take several hours.  There may also be wait time when you arrive at the hospital. 

What happens during a PERK?
If you have injuries that need immediate attention, those will be taken care of first.  You will be asked about your medical history and general health questions.  You will also be asked about sexual activity and history.  The nurse will ask you to describe the assault and ask for your help in identifying areas of potential injury or places on your body or clothing where there might be evidence.

You may receive a full-body examination, including internal examinations.  Samples of blood, urine, swabs of body surfaces and sometimes hair samples are taken.  Pictures may also be taken to document any injuries. 

Will I be tested for sexually transmitted infections?
Yes, you will be tested for sexually transmitted infections during the PERK exam.  You may also be offered prevention treatments for STIs, such as antibiotics and emergency contraceptives.