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Survivors of sexual assault receive compassionate physical and emotional care at The Ottawa Hospital

Dr. Kari Sampsel

Dr. Kari Sampsel, Medical Director of the SAPACP, and others offer compassionate care to survivors of sexual assault.

When a sexual assault occurs, it can be hard for a survivor to know what to do or where to go. If they choose to go to The Ottawa Hospital, they will be met with compassionate care.

Survivors are encouraged to go to the Emergency Department as soon as they can after an assault. But coming forward can be difficult, and The Ottawa Hospital respects any choice that a person makes.

While it’s the police’s job to investigate the crime, it’s our job to support the survivor by providing compassionate medical and emotional care.

The Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Care Program (SAPACP), located in the Emergency Department at the Civic Campus, is designed to support survivors of sexual and gender-based violence who are at least 16 years old.

The SAPACP is made up of a compassionate team of health professionals who have a wide variety of skills. It includes doctors, nurse practitioners, sexual assault nurse examiners, and social workers. Their goal is to offer services and support to each person in a safe and private place.

“We will always believe survivors and offer the best possible care and support.”

Along with offering expert medical and emotional care, staff at the SAPACP can collect forensic evidence from the assault in a kind and sensitive way. It’s the only place in Ottawa that performs forensic evidence collection.

“At the program, the team of multi-disciplinary health care professionals provide the best possible care for survivors of sexual and domestic violence,” said Dr. Katherine Muldoon, Senior Clinical Research Associate at The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.

Once at the hospital, a survivor will get care right away for any physical injuries. A doctor or nurse will ask about their medical history. If the survivor wants to do so, they can talk to the medical staff about the details from the assault.

“We will always believe survivors and offer the best possible care and support,” said Dr. Kari Sampsel, Medical Director of the SAPACP. “Everyone will receive care they choose for their unique needs.”

If eligible, survivors will be asked if they want to complete a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit (SAEK). An SAEK collects forensic evidence that can be analyzed for DNA. If a survivor consents, the doctor or the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner will take swabs, collect bodily fluids and clothing. They may also take photos of any visible injuries.

The Sexual Assault Evidence Kit (SAEK)
The Sexual Assault Evidence Kit (SAEK) is a tool that a health care team uses to collect forensic evidence that can help prosecute the assailant.

The SAEK keeps any DNA evidence. That evidence can be used to help to prosecute and convict an assailant. It can also be used to confirm a survivor’s experience, which can help them begin to heal.

Staff and doctors will always support a survivor’s decision about whether to complete the SAEK.

The hospital only gives an SAEK to the police if the survivor wants us to do so. We will keep the SAEK for six months to give them time to make that decision.

We are always here for those who need us.


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