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Treating Sexual Assault

Woman talking to therapist.
Talking with a counselor and to others who've experienced assault can help with your recovery

After a sexual assault, it's normal to feel angry, afraid, and even ashamed. But try not to let these feelings keep you from getting medical and psychological care. Medical treatment can help you recover physically as well as emotionally.

In many communities hospital emergency rooms and special clinics have staff who are specifically trained to treat rape and sexual assault victims. You can contact the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network at www.rainn.org or 800-656-HOPE (800-656-4673). The police should also have this information.

What to expect in the emergency room (ER)

You will be asked about the assault. These questions may be difficult, but they are important to help you. A friend or counselor can provide support. A healthcare provider or nurse will then examine you gently. If you agree, photographs will be taken of any bruises you have. You will have blood tests to check for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Samples may also be taken from your mouth, vagina, or rectum. These will be tested in a lab for semen (the fluid that carries sperm). Other samples may be taken from under your fingernails or your clothes. If you decide to file a police report, these samples can be used as evidence. A healthcare provider or nurse will also discuss the following:

  • Sexually transmitted infections. Sexual assault can place you at risk for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and viral hepatitis (hepatitis B or C). You may choose to be treated for some of these diseases right away. Or you may decide to wait for your test results.

  • HIV. You have a very slight risk of getting HIV from a sexual assault. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. You have the option of getting medicines to help protect against the virus.

  • Pregnancy. If you choose, a simple treatment can help prevent pregnancy. Your healthcare provider can discuss other options with you.

  • Date rape drugs. You can also ask the hospital or clinic to test your urine for date rape drugs such as Rohypnol or GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid). These drugs pass through your body quickly, so if too much time has passed when you get to the hospital, the drugs may not be found.

Follow-up care

Be sure to visit your healthcare provider a week or two after the assault. You'll get the results from tests taken in the ER. Your healthcare provider can also help you find services and groups for sexual assault survivors. It's very important to care for your emotional and psychological well-being after a sexual assault. Visiting a rape crisis center, counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist can help.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Paul Ballas MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2019
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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