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Sexual Assault Victim Advocacy

Bolton Refuge House, Inc offers victim advocacy for adult and child survivors of sexual assault. We are with you or your child for every step of your recovery - from legal advocacy, to SANE Exam accompaniment, to support groups. Call our 24/7 hotline if you need our assistance. All our services are completely free and confidential.

Our Services

This is an overview of our services, not a complete list. If you have questions or would like more information, please don't hesitate to contact us.

24/7 Hotline: If you have questions, need assistance, need advocacy or even emotional support, our hotline is completely free and confidential. Talk with a trained victim advocate who will listen without judgement and answer your questions on victim resources, legal processes, and more.

One-to-one Advocacy: Our victim advocates offer emotional support and information, as well as help finding resources and filling out paperwork. Personal advocacy offers victims information about the options available to them, and supports victims’ decision-making. 

Legal Advocacy: One of the challenges faced by many survivors is that you are thrust into the legal system through no fault of your own. We will answer survivors' questions on restraining orders, family law issues, and more. Click here to learn more about our legal advocacy services.

SANE Exam Accompaniment: As a victim of sexual assault, you have the right to have accompaniment during a SANE Exam. If you choose to have an advocate with you during the exam, we can be there to answer questions about the process, lend emotional support, provide medical advocacy (such as ensuring you get information about emergency contraceptives and STI testing), and assist with the reporting process if desired. We are a confidential agency, meaning that our advocates will not share information about you or your assault to anyone without your consent. For more information, jump to our section on SANE Exams.

Emergency Shelter: We offer emergency shelter to individuals in imminent danger of violence in their current living situation. We are the only emergency shelter agency in Eau Claire, WI with support staff available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Each person's situation is unique, so anyone seeking shelter meets with an advocate to talk about their individual needs and learn about their options. Just like all of our services, emergency sheltering comes at no cost to the victim.

Support Groups: One of the most important benefits of participating in a support group is a decreased sense of isolation - a feeling experienced by many who have suffered trauma. In group, feelings are expressed, validated by others, and accepted as normal. Participants learn to regain previous levels of coping or develop more effective coping skills. For information on support group offerings, follow us on Facebook or contact us.

Mental Health Counseling: Survivors of sexual assault can experience psychological and emotional effects as a result of their assault, including depression, panic attacks, PTSD, and dissociation. These effects can be hard to manage on your own, which is why we have a mental health counselor on staff. Contact us to learn more about this service. 

Community Education/Prevention: We are dedicated to preventing sexual violence in our community through education. Jump to our section on community education and prevention to learn more about our efforts. 

Our Services

Glossary & FAQ

We have compiled a list of frequently used terms and acronyms, and frequently asked questions surrounding sexual assault, including both legal terms and some slang. If you have any questions, please contact us. All our services are 100% confidential and free. 

Sexual Assault: In Wisconsin, a general definition of sexual assault is "sexual contact or intercourse with another person without the consent of that person." Wisconsin law breaks it down into three degrees of sexual assault. You can read the statutes here. 

Sexual Harassment: In Wisconsin, sexual harassment is defined as "unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome requests for sexual favors, unwelcome physical contact of a sexual nature or unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature." You can read that statute here.


Consent: Wisconsin statute 940.225 (4) defines consent as "words or overt actions by a person who is competent to give informed consent indicating a freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse or sexual contact." For a thorough explanation of consent, read this article from

SANE Exam: A SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) Exam is an exam used to collect evidence after a sexual assault. Jump to SANE Exam Accompaniment for more information


What to expect during a


Listen to our podcast episode on

"What to Expect During a SANE Exam"

* Please note that this episode was recorded before the passing of SB 71, the bill that created procedures for the handling and tracking of sexual assault kits. Some information may not be up to date.

What is a SANE EXAM?

A SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) Exam is an exam used to collect evidence after a sexual assault. The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner is a registered nurse who has completed advanced courses and training in medical forensic care and evidence collection specific to sexual assault and abuse. The evidence collected is then put into a sexual assault kit, which is sent either to a Wisconsin Law Enforcement agency or to a state crime laboratory for storage, depending on whether or not the survivor chooses to report the assault to law enforcement. For more information on what happens with the kit, see that FAQ below.


If I get a SANE Exam, do I have to file a police report?

No, you do not have to file a police report. This may have an effect on compensation for costs associated with the assault. (Click here to jump to the FAQ about compensation).

If I choose not to report, how long do I have if I change my mind?

You have 10 (ten) years to file the report if you change your mind.

How long after the assault can I get the exam? 72hrs

It is best to get the exam within 72 hours, or three days, of the assault for the most intact evidence. 

Can I bring anyone with me to the exam?

You are allowed to bring a community advocate (such as one of our sexual assault victim advocates) and a guest, such as a friend, parent, or partner. Due to COVID-19, some hospitals may have restrictions on guests. If you choose to report, you can have someone from Crisis Response or Law Enforcement accompany you as well.

How long will the exam it take?

The exam can take from 3-5 hours. You are allowed to opt out of any part of it at any time if the process is overwhelming or you are uncomfortable.

Can I shower?

It is best for evidence collection to not shower, however we understand that showering may be what you need to do for your wellbeing. Be sure to not wash the clothing worn during the assault and to bring that clothing with you to the exam in a paper bag, as it may be used for evidence collection.

What happens during an exam?

First, emergency medical needs are addressed. You will also be tested for STIs so that they can be treated. The Nurse Examiner will then move on to evidence collection. This is a full body exam. Photographs and measurements of injuries may be taken. DNA may be collected from under fingernails, swabbed from mouth or genitals, or combed from pubic hair. The Nurse Examiner will likely collect your clothing, as it may contain DNA or physical evidence. The evidence collection process is guided by what the victim says happened during the assault. All of this evidence is put into what is called a sexual assault kit. Remember that you can opt out of any part of the exam, or end it at any time. 

What happens to my sexual assault kit?

There are two possible paths for your sexual assault kit:

  • If you choose to report, the SANE Nurse must notify Law Enforcement within 24 hours of evidence collection. Then, the Law Enforcement agency must collect the kit within 72 hours of receiving notification. From there, it is sent within 14 days to a state crime lab for processing. After testing is completed, it will be returned to the Law Enforcement Agency.

  • If you choose not to report, the SANE Nurse will send the kit to a state crime lab for storage within 72 hours. It will be stored securely for 10 years, during which time you can still choose to report the sexual assault to law enforcement.

You can read the full procedure regarding sexual assault kits in SB 71, the senate bill that established procedures for the tracking and handling of sexual assault kits, passed and signed into law in December 2021.​

How do I track my sexual assault kit?

At the time of the exam, you will be provided with information on how to track your sexual assault kit through You can use this information to see the location of your kit and to opt in for notifications on when it's moved. Track-kit is secure and no personally identifying information is collected or stored on the site. If you no longer have your information, you can contact the medical facility where the exam was performed.

How is the SANE Exam paid for?

The Wisconsin SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Exam) Fund will pay for the exam if you:

  • Do not wish to report to Law Enforcement

  • Do not wish to cooperate with Law Enforcement, or

  • Do not wish to submit bill to insurance or other payee for the exam.

Read more about the SAFE Fund here.

If you choose to report and cooperate with Law Enforcement, you can also use Crime Victim Compensation to pay for the exam and other qualified costs. Crime Victim Compensation may also cover costs for continuing care needed. Click here for more information about Crime Victim Compensation.

What if the victim is a child?

If the victim is 11 years old or younger, they will work with a Pediatric SANE Nurse and go through what is called a Pedi-SANE Exam. This exam is similar to the adult SANE Exam, however the nurse who conducts the exam specializes in working with children. SANE Nurses are mandated reporters, meaning that if the victim is a minor, they are required to report the assault to Law Enforcement. 

What if I am worried about becoming pregnant?

Hospitals are required, through the CCRV (Compassionate Care for Rape Victims) to provide female victims with information about emergency contraception, as well as provide the contraception if the victim requests it. 

SANE accompaniment
Kit process

Community Ed/ Prevention

Bolton Refuge House, Inc. is proud to offer several programs and trainings that work to both educate our communities on the realities of sexual assault, and to prevent sexual violence in our homes, schools, and establishments. Visit our community education page for full descriptions of these programs. 

Negroni Cocktail

Bolton Refuge House, Inc, in partnership with SAFE Bar Network and WCASA, offers this training to alcohol-serving bars and venues. The SAFE Bar Training's goal is preventing sexual violence through bystander intervention. Learn more about the training here.

The Safe Dates Program works to prevent sexual violence and dating violence amongst teen and youth. A trained advocate will present and facilitate a conversation in the classroom to educate kids about healthy relationships and dating.

School Hallway
Kids for Peace

The Stewards of Children Training was developed to prevent child sexual abuse. It is a 2-hour training for anyone who works with or cares for children. Learn more here.

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