Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Tuscaloosa SAFE Center?
The Tuscaloosa SAFE Center is a private facility that provides compassionate, patient-centered healthcare to victims of sexual assault, including medical and forensic examinations as well as medical and court advocacy, counseling, and support group services.
Where is the Tuscaloosa SAFE Center?
The SAFE Center is located in the Phillip Bobo Medical Center’s Emergicare building at 1601 University Boulevard East, Suite 150. We are an independent, free-standing center – away from the busy emergency department of the hospital.
What are the hours of the Tuscaloosa SAFE Center?
The Center’s administrative hours are 8:30 am-4:30 pm Monday through Friday. However, the SAFE Center staff is available every day, at any time of the day or night by calling 205-860-SAFE (7233).
Who can be seen at the Tuscaloosa SAFE Center?
Anyone age 14 years old or older, regardless of gender, who has been subjected to sexual assault can be seen at the SAFE Center. (Individuals younger than 14 years old should go to Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham as they have a pediatric program at the hospital.) We serve the nine-county West Alabama region including Tuscaloosa, Bibb, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Marengo, Pickens, and Sumter Counties.
What services are provided at the Tuscaloosa SAFE Center?
We provide services to victims of acute sexual assault. Acute means that the sexual assault occurred within the past three days (72 hours). These services include:
Evidence collection based on the information you give us in an interview and what we find on a head-to-toe exam;
Treatment against specific sexually-transmitted infections;
Treatment against pregnancy;
Follow-up care including medical and court advocates as well as counseling and support group services.
What is a SANE?
SANE is an acronym for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. At the Tuscaloosa SAFE Center, our SANEs are specially-trained registered nurses who work with sexual assault patients to begin the healing process from the moment you step into the center.
What is a rape kit?
A rape kit is a state-issued kit that includes materials used for the collection of evidence during a forensic exam. It may also be referred to as a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit (SAEK).
Why is it important to have a forensic exam?
After a sexual assault, it’s hard to know what to do or how to feel. The staff of the SAFE Center will be there to help you. The decision to have a forensic exam is completely up to you. However, it will preserve the evidence that is needed should you desire to seek justice now or later.
What should I do if I have been sexually assaulted?
If you need immediate medical attention because of significant bleeding, broken bones, or if you are pregnant, go directly to the nearest hospital. If you are medically stable, call the SAFE Center at 205-860-SAFE (7233), and a nurse will meet you at the Center within one hour.
What if I am unsure about what might have happened to me?
You may still call the SAFE Center in order to speak with a SANE to determine your level of risk and need for treatment.
How should I get to the SAFE Center?
You can travel to the SAFE Center by private car or any means of transportation available to you. Remember, if you have immediate medical needs, please go directly to the hospital. With your consent, the hospital staff can contact the SAFE Center for you. After treatment at the hospital, you can then come to the SAFE Center for a forensic exam.
What can I expect when I arrive at the SAFE Center?
You will be met at the Center by a nurse and an advocate. An advocate is trained to help you through the exam and can connect you with post-assault healthcare such as counseling services, support groups, and/or assistance in maneuvering through the legal system. Your advocate will be by your side throughout the exam.
Family and/or friends who may accompany you to the SAFE Center will be shown to a comfortable waiting room, and you will be escorted to a private exam area. The nurse will first interview you to gather basic information and determine the specifics of the assault, all of which will guide her exam and evidence collection.
**Due to COVID-19, friends and family members will need to wait in their vehicle until the exam is complete.**
The examination is conducted in a room with state-of-the-art equipment. A head-to-toe exam is completed, and forensic evidence is collected.
The exam generally lasts two-to-three hours. During this time, you are working one-on-one with a nurse. You will be offered medications as needed to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, and your follow-up needs will be discussed.
After your exam, you will be given the opportunity to shower and will be given new, clean clothes to wear. If you prefer to bring your own clothing to change into for comfort, please feel free to do so.
Your advocate will make sure you have a safe place to go and will give you information about the services you may need or want.
Is there anything I should or should NOT do before coming to the SAFE Center?
You should NOT:
take a bath/shower or clean yourself in any way
brush your teeth
go to the bathroom
brush your hair
change your clothes
eat or drink anything
If you have changed clothes, you SHOULD bring any clothes you were wearing during the assault, bedsheets, towels, washcloths, condoms, or anything that may contain evidence, with you when you come to the SAFE Center. Bring these items in a clean, paper (shopping) bag. If you do not have a paper bag, you may use a plastic bag (like one used at a grocery store), but tell the nurse immediately upon arrival so that she may transfer them to a paper bag.
Do I have options as to whether I should press charges and/or disclose to the police?
Although it is always our hope that you will seek justice through the court system, that is a personal choice only you can make. The staff of the SAFE Center will not make decisions for you, but they will inform you of the available options and will help you maneuver through those options. Please be aware that federal law mandates that you do not have to file a police report to receive a forensic exam. However, if you do choose to file a police report, we will work with you to make this as easy as possible.