Preserving Physical Evidence

Preserving evidence following an incident of sexual assault, domestic violence or stalking

Sexual Assault

Forensic evidence collection is best done within 72 hours of the assault and best collected immediately following an assault. Technological advancements are making it more likely to collect evidence even after 72 hours; however, it is important to remember that the more time passes between the sexual assault and reporting it to the police, the less likely it will be to collect physical evidence that may be very important to the prosecution of a criminal case.

To preserve evidence in the case of sexual assault, it is recommended that you do not shower or bathe, wash your hands, use the toilet, douche, eat, drink, smoke, brush your teeth, change clothing, or wash clothing or bedding before a medical exam. Even if you have already taken any of these actions, you are still encouraged to have prompt medical care.

Dating or Domestic Violence

In the case of dating violence and domestic violence, the resource you choose to report the crime to (a doctor, the police, an advocate, etc.) may recommend ways to preserve evidence such as logging incidents, photographing injuries, seeking medical care, etc. Be sure to keep this information in a place that it will not be found by the offender.


Stalking is demonstrated through a pattern of unwanted contact. In addition to logging unwanted contact, an advocate or police officer may recommend you save and photograph unwanted text messages, emails, letters and gifts and store them in a secure location and one that will not be found by the offender.