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Sexual Assault

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What Is Sexual Assault?

The term “sexual assault” means any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.

How To Get Help

If you are in immediate danger, call 911. OVW does not provide services directly to the general public. Find local help on our map or call the national hotline:

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network
800-656-HOPE (800-656-4673) 
Advocates are also available to chat 24/7.

National Center for Victims of Crime
855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846)

StrongHearts Native Helpline 

Medical Forensic Exams: DOJ and OVW Resources

This companion to the SAFE Protocol offers a framework for the specialized education of health care providers who wish to practice as sexual assault forensic examiners. The training standards include recommendations for training objectives and topics that will enable a sexual assault forensic examiner to implement effectively the guidelines and standards outlined by the protocol.

Download the training standards

This white paper presents reasons why OVW cautions against submitting sexual assault kits to forensic laboratories if the person from whom the kit was collected has not chosen to report a sexual assault to law enforcement and has not otherwise consented to its submission.

Download the white paper 

The Pediatric SAFE Protocol offers guidance for multidisciplinary agencies that coordinate with health care providers to facilitate medical care that addresses both the acute and longer-term health needs these children face. The goal of the Pediatric SAFE Protocol is to provide evidence-based, trauma-informed recommendations for health care providers who conduct sexual abuse medical forensic examinations of children.

Download the protocol

The Confinement SAFE Protocol is designed as a guide to assist administrators of prisons, jails, and community confinement facilities in drafting or revising protocols for an immediate response to incidents and reports of sexual assault. It also identifies issues and recommendations for administrators of lockups and juvenile corrections. This guide extends the efforts of the PREA Commission and the Department of Justice to address an immediate response to sexual assault in correctional environments by offering guidance on how to comply with the PREA Standards, follow a uniform evidence protocol and coordinate response activities, and help correctional facilities strive towards the standards in the SAFE Protocol.

Download the protocol

This is a revised edition of the original SAFE Protocol. Released in April 2013 by OVW, it maintains the same commitments of standardization and quality as the first SAFE Protocol, but is updated to reflect current technology. It also increases the emphasis on victim-centered care and includes additional information reflecting changes from the Violence Against Women Act of 2005.

Download the protocol

Mandated by the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act of 2013, this guide from the National Institute of Justice contains 35 recommendations for collecting evidence during a medical forensic exam of a sexual assault patient, investigating sexual assault, storing, maintaining, tracking, and processing evidence, as well as maintaining communication with victims.

Download the report

Sexual Assault Resources 

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention produced a video about sexual violence in the United States. Learn more
  • The Office on Women's Health provides resources for survivors of sexual assault and has specific resources for survivors who were assaulted on college campuses. Learn more
  • The Department of Justice issued guidance on how to report sexual misconduct by a law enforcement officer. Download the guidance

If you’re looking for information that used to be on OVW's website, you can visit OVW's archive.

Updated May 8, 2023