Your Rights in the Emergency Room

Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act (SASETA)

If you go to the emergency room to seek treatment after a sexual assault, Illinois law grants you certain rights under the Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act (SASETA). It is advisable to bedcome familiar with these rights, as hospital staff and police are not always aware of all aspects of this law.

SASETA, 410 ILCS 70/5, is an Illinois law that has been in effect since 1987. It mandates that all licensed hospitals provide emergency care to sexual assault victims. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services is the institution that hospitals apply to with their sexual assault treatment plans to be listed as authorized treatment centers. The following outlines key components of this law:

  • Sexual assault is prioritized as a Code R in the emergency department, which alerts hospital staff to respond to victims second only to life and death patients.
  • Hospital staff shall respond within minutes of the patient’s arrival and move the patient to a closed environment to ensure privacy and shall refer to such patients by code.
  • Head-to-toe medical exam and a gynecological exam are required to document any trauma, major or minor (e.g. cuts, scratches, bruises, red marks, etc...). The medical record shall only reflect trauma and injury found; it should not include any conclusions regarding whether a crime occurred, merely record “reported sexual assault,” or “patient states…”
  • All patients who enter the emergency department within 7 days of the sexual assault shall be offered an Illinois State Police Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit (ISPECK). If the patient consents to the ISPECK but chooses not to release it immediately, the hospital must hold the ISPECK for 2 weeks while the patient decides.
  • Minors do not need to have parental consent for medical treatment, evidence collection, and release of evidence for sexual assault in the ER. *However, if the survivor is a minor under 13 years of age evidence needs to be released by the parent, guardian, DCFS or law enforcement officer.
  • People with disabilities do not need a guardian present to consent for medical treatment, evidence collection, or release of evidence for sexual assault in the ER. *However, if a survivor is unable to consent to the release of evidence, a law enforcement officer may release the evidence if the guardian is unavailable or unwilling to do so.
  • Tests for sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy (if applicable) or for other potential infections that are deemed medically necessary are to be completed for each patient, with the patient’s informed consent.
  • The patient shall receive oral and written information concerning the possibility of infections, STI, & HIV transmission, including a description of the more common symptoms, signs and complications of these diseases.
  • The patient shall receive oral and written information concerning pregnancy resulting from the assault, available types of prevention of unwanted pregnancy and side effects, significant contraindications and limitations of the method employed. *Catholic hospitals that fall under Peoria Protocol are required to give a referral for emergency contraception if they are unable to provide it in the ER.
  • Medications, not prescriptions, are to be made available to the patient in the ER; for treatment at the hospital and after discharge (Section 5(a) of the Act) This includes, but is not limited to, HIV, pregnancy, and STI prophylaxis, as deemed appropriate by the attending physician. The patient shall receive oral and written information about all medications dispensed.
  • The patient shall receive appropriate counseling that provides emotional support and confidentiality. *Many hospitals contract with agencies like Rape Victim Advocates to provide the crisis intervention counseling in the ER and follow-up counseling resources.
  • The patient shall receive oral and written information about the need for a follow-up exam to test for pregnancy, STI’s and HIV. A patient is eligible for up to 90 days worth of follow-up care after their emergency room visit if they return to the hospital emergency room.
  • The patient should never receive a bill for any services provided in the ER. If the patient has listed health insurance, the hospital will first attempt to receive payment from their insurance agent. Whatever the health insurance company will not pay, or if the patient does not have health insurance listed, the IL Dept. of Healthcare and Family Services will reimburse the hospital for any procedures, medications and follow-up tests.

Rape Victim Advocates, 2011