Evidence Preservation

Call 911 in an Emergency or if You or Someone Else is in Imminent Danger

Caution: Please take care when searching for resources. Phone, tablet, computer and other device activity may be monitored. Visited websites may be tracked or viewed by another person. It may be safer for victims and survivors to obtain information using a device a perpetrator does not have potential access to. 

For more information, review the National Domestic Violence Hotline page on Tech and Social Media Safety. The Hotline can also be contacted at 800.799.7233 or 800.787.3224 (TTY) for assistance.

Federal and California laws and CSU/Cal State LA policies prohibit dating and domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking. This prohibition applies to students, employees, and others. These laws and policies apply to conduct both on and off-campus.

Campus sanctions include suspension, expulsion, and employment termination. Perpetrators may face arrest and criminal prosecution. Offenders may have to compensate victims for crime and misconduct related expenses.

Survivors and victims have numerous rights granted by federal and state laws. These rights include fair treatment, confidentiality and campus-based accommodations.

General Recommendations

All survivors are encouraged to preserve evidence—even when not intending to report a crime to law enforcement or campus officials. Evidence preservation is important in the event a survivor decides to report the crime or file a civil lawsuit at a future date.

Detailed evidence preservation information, including facts on the sexual assault forensic exam, are available through 24-hour hotlines and law enforcement agencies. If an incident is not going to be immediately reported, evidence should be kept in a safe place where a perpetrator is not likely to discover it.

Survivors also have the right to decline to preserve evidence.

How evidence is preserved depends on circumstances. If an incident is not going to be immediately reported to law enforcement or campus officials, evidence should be kept in a safe place where a perpetrator is not likely to discover it.

To preserve evidence survivors can:

  • Keep a log of incident dates, times, witnesses and descriptions.
  • For sexual assaults, place the following in a paper bag:
    • Clothing and undergarments
    • Bed sheets, sofa pillows or other items
  • Save texts and email messages.
  • Take screenshots of online posts.
  • Save unwanted gifts.
  • Take pictures of injuries.
  • Save and take pictures of vandalized property.
  • Have assaults and injuries documented by a healthcare provider.

Evidence Preservation While Waiting for Law Enforcement to Arrive

It may be difficult to do, but while a survivor is waiting for law enforcement it is very important to try to avoid anything that might inadvertently alter or destroy evidence. Depending on the crime or misconduct, survivors should not:

  • Disturb the location where the crime occurred
  • Change clothes
  • Bathe or shower
  • Go to the bathroom
  • Douche
  • Delete messages
  • Throw away unwanted items
  • Clean up vandalized property

Evidence Preservation for Sexual Violence and Misconduct Survivors

Forensic Exam

Sexual misconduct and violence survivors can consider a forensic exam to preserve evidence. This exam is commonly referred to as a "rape kit." If able, survivors choosing this option should avoid doing anything that might inadvertently alter or destroy evidence. These activities may include:

  • Showering
  • Douching
  • Changing clothes
  • Brushing teeth
  • Going to the bathroom
  • Throwing out sheets
  • Eating and drinking
  • Cleaning the area where the assault occurred

The forensic exam is typically performed within 72 hours of an assault. Some hospitals and centers, such as the Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica • UCLA Medical Center may perform the exam up to 120 hours (5 days) after an assault, depending on circumstances.

When sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement, the responding police department will assist survivors in obtaining the forensic exam.

Survivors who choose not to report assaults to law enforcement may contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.4673 to obtain the location of the nearest facility that conducts the exam.

Per federal and California laws, the forensic exam is available at no cost to survivors. These laws also allow survivors the right not to file a report with law enforcement. This enables timely evidence collection and preservation while at the same time giving survivors time to consider how they want to proceed.

All sexual violence survivors have the right to have an advocate from a local domestic and sexual violence treatment center and another support person of their choice present at the forensic exam.

Local hospitals offering 24-hour sexual assault forensic exams and other care include:

  • Rape Treatment Center at the UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica: 1250 Sixteenth Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404 | Phone: 424.259.6000, extension '0' - request rape hotline from the hospital operator

For additional information on the forensic exam, visit the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network's What is a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam?

Other Evidence Preservation Methods

Survivors who choose not to report to law enforcement or complete a forensic exam are encouraged to call a 24-hour hotline to obtain recommendations on how to best preserve evidence, based on their circumstances.

Phone and Online Assistance

Note: Call 911 for emergencies.

Phone and online chat assistance are available through:

  • Safe Helpline • Sexual Assault Support for the DoD Community: 877.995.5247 

Help 24/7 ►  |  1in6 for Men Who Have Experienced Sexual Abuse or Assault National Domestic Violence Hotline  |  National Human Trafficking Hotline  |  National Sexual Assault Hotline  |  National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  |  National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline  |  Safe Helpline - Sexual Assault Support for the DoD Community  |  The Trevor Project Helpline for LGBT Youth (Ages 13-24)  |