After Sexual Assault
This page offers information and resources for people who have experienced sexual violence. Some of the information is more relevant to those who have recently experienced an assault, while others may be useful for a broader range of people. All pieces of information listed are suggestions that some victim-survivors find helpful. However, none is mandatory. You should choose whichever course of action makes you feel safest at the time. A list of links at the bottom of this page offers resources for getting help and for those who would like to learn more about what to do after sexual assault.
Immediately following sexual assault, a victim may choose or may be asked if they are willing to undergo a forensic examination to collect any evidence left behind in the assault and document any injuries the victim sustained from the assault. These exams are typically referred to as rape kits. A rape kit allows healthcare providers and/or law enforcement to gather DNA evidence through blood, saliva, and semen samples after an assault. The DNA can then be used as proof of the assault if the victim decides to press charges against the perpetrator. If you are interested in getting a rape kit done, you can call 800.656.HOPE(4673) at any hour to arrange to have the procedure done at a place near you if you live in the United States. You can also go to https://centers.rainn.org/ to find a sexual assault service provider and/or organization that helps victim-survivors of sexual assault near you. In the United States, a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) will ideally perform these exams. Otherwise, another healthcare professional such as a doctor or nurses SHOULD perform the procedure FREE OF CHARGE.
Whether or not you choose to report a rape and gather evidence is a personal choice. If you decide to request a rape kit, the procedure should be done within 72 hours of the assault. The exam can take up to six hours. It is recommended that, prior to having evidence collected, you not shower or clean yourself, change clothes, brush your teeth or comb your hair in order to avoid tampering with any potential evidence.
If the assault occurred at your college or K-12 school, you have the option of reporting the assault to the administration, to the police, to both, or to neither. If you are under the age of 18, certain authority figures may be legally obligated to report your assault to an official. If you were sexually assaulted and/or experienced gender-based violence at a school or university, you may want to check out the following organizations:
If the assault included vaginal intercourse and you are a person who is able to become pregnant, you have a few options. Within the first 72 hours after the assault, you can use emergency contraception, what you may have heard of as “the morning after pill.” Emergency contraception pills greatly reduce your chances of pregnancy and are more effective the sooner you take them following the assault. Emergency contraception can be purchased over the counter at a drug store. It may or may not be covered by your insurance plan. Hospitals in some areas are required to provide free emergency contraception to sexual assault victims. A copper IUD may also be inserted by a professional up to 5 days after sexual intercourse as a form of emergency contraception used to reduce the likelihood of pregnancy.
If you do become pregnant, the decision of whether or not to get an abortion or not can be very difficult. You can consult healthcare and mental health professionals, as well as discuss the issue with people you trust and care about, although the decision to terminate or not terminate a pregnancy is ultimately your decision and is legally permitted in most countries in the case of rape.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) can be transmitted through oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse, as well as through skin-to-skin contact and the use of shared objects (e.g. sex toys). Some STIs are passed on through bodily fluids, while others are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, meaning that there is a risk of infection even in the absence of insemination or other bodily fluids. STIs may be present in the absence of noticeable symptoms.
Different STIs have different incubation periods, the amount of time it takes for a positive case to appear on a test, so it may be a good idea to get a full screening six months after the assault. Fortunately, most STIs are curable or very manageable with medication and careful monitoring particularly when caught earlier.
Experiencing sexual violence is often very traumatic and can strongly affect victims, even years after the trauma occurs. Victims face a heightened risk of experiencing mental health problems such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can cause loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities, sleep disturbances, nightmares, flashbacks, self-blame, anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, hyperarousal, thoughts about death and/or suicide, and many other symptoms that can have a profound negative effect on a person’s life.
Several types of mental health professionals specialize in treating people who have experienced gender-based violence or sexual violence. However, therapy can be very costly, even with health insurance, meaning that many are not able to afford it. In April 2017, we partnered with the U.K. based organization survivors.of.rape project, to help provide survivors access to FREE ONLINE COUNSELING. You can find more information about accessing free online counseling with the survivors.of.rape project and online forums for victims-survivors such as these:
survivors.of.rape.project online counseling: For more information on accessing free online counseling through the survivors.of.rape project email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in receiving FREE ONLINE counseling, please complete and email email@example.com, the following form. After they have received your completed intake form, they will be in contact with you to schedule your online counseling sessions.
You may also do a Google search for live support group meeting and/or rape crisis centers in your area. If you are a student at a college, ask about free counseling services at your health center. A primary care physician or psychiatrist may also recommend prescribing certain medication you can use to try and help manage some of your symptoms.
If you wish to report being assaulted anonymously without providing identifying information, and/or alert the community around you to unsafe areas, you may want to check out The RADAR Project's app, which allows victims to report anonymously. By using the app, survivors are not required to report to authorities or go through the criminal justice system. Instead, a victim-survivor of sexual or domestic violence can feel empowered by reporting minimal identifying information and alerting other potential victims to possible predators in the area.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Injury Prevention & Control: Division of Violence Prevention: Sexual Violence.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Injury Prevention & Control: Division of Violence Prevention (2016): Sexual Violence: Definitions.
EndTheBacklog.org, "What Is a Rape Kit and Rape Kit Exam?"
KnowYourIX.org, "Title IX for High School Students".
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Population Services: Reproductive Health, "Emergency Contraception Fact Sheet".
Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), Sexual Assault Resources
WebMD.com, Sexual Conditions Health Center, "Sexually Transmitted Infections: Treatment - Topic Overview"