Sexual Health

Surviving and Healing After Rape

June 9, 2018

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 876,000 rapes occur annually in the USA. The American Medical Association (AMA) reports more than 700,000 sexual assaults yearly, and the National Crime Victimization Survey conducted a survey that places the amount at 433,000. Accurate sexual assault statistics are hard to come by however, regardless of which reports you are reading, the amount is too large.

If you have been attacked, it can feel as if there is no coming back in the experience. And in truth, for many, it may color the rest of their lives. However, there are steps you can take immediately after a sexual assault to be able to acquire the care you need, find justice, and continue living your own life as a whole human being.

What to Do If You’ve Been Raped

Starting from the very start, your first instinct might be to have a shower or bath to wash away what has occurred to you. This impulse is clear. However, doing this may wash away physical evidence that could be used for prosecution. It is very important that before washing yourself or changing, you find a medical practitioner as soon as possible.  Call a friend, family member, or rape crisis counselor to accompany you to the hospital in case you don’t feel comfortable going alone. It’s always fine to ask for help.

What Happens During the Hospital Exam?

When you arrive at the clinic, a doctor will search for signs of injury and collect evidence in case that you decide to file criminal or civil charges.

While you’re able to refuse to be examined for evidence, many physicians have special programs to ensure rape victims get the support and information necessary to make the best decisions about the health services they accept.

The examination also contains a verbal history of the rape or sexual assault.

You might find it hard to recount the event, but these details can provide important information about physical injuries that may otherwise have gone unnoticed.

A rectal examination will also be done to detect the presence of semen, as well as any harm, even though it is possible for no semen to be current after a rape. Your pubic hair will be combed to search for the existence of your assailant’s pubic hairloss. The physical evidence gathered during this test will be made available to the police only with your written consent.  Pictures of your injuries are also taken to be used as evidence. 

It is a fantastic idea for you and a friend or counselor to examine the record of your rape test within 24 hours to ensure its accuracy.

What Health Care Services Will Be Offered To Me?

Emergency contraception is available if you feel that pregnancy is possible as a result of your own rape.  A shot of an antibiotic can also be given from the buttocks to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs); this will be followed by a dose of oral antibiotics. You don’t need to accept the shot butif you are relying on symptoms to assist you make your decision, be aware that some STIs might not appear for many weeks.  The CDC recommends that victims of sexual assault are reevaluated for STIs and HIV two, six, 12, and 24 weeks after a rape.

How Can You Help When Someone You Know Has Been Raped?

If you know someone that has been raped, understand that victims experience a broad range of powerful emotions as a consequence of this experience.  There are a number of things that you can do to encourage a friend or family member That Has Been raped:

  • Only allow her to express her feelings; listen to her and validate what she is saying 
  • Help her make changes to her surroundings that make her feel safer
  • Remind her that the rape Wasn’t her fault 
  • Advocate for her if she wants your help confronting the legal and medical procedures
  • Let her know you believe in her, and that you understand that she has the strength and courage to heal and survive

    The Key to Being a Rape Survivor–Not a Rape Victim

    Survivors of rape often experience changes in their overall health. Sleep disorders like insomnia or eating disorders frequently occur after rape or sexual assault. Some women experience nightmares and flashbacks. Others experience body aches, headaches, and fatigue.

    Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the most common disorder seen in victims of rape or sexual assault. Rape victims occasionally experience anxiety, depression, self-injury, or suicide attempts, as well as other emotional disorders. They sometimes attempt to deal with their feelings by indulging in drugs or alcohol.

    Women who were raped often face an enormous uphill psychological struggle to regain self-respect, self-esteem, self-assurance, and self-control. It’s a battle which can be won with the support of caring and inviting friends, family members, counselors, and doctors.

    The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) supply a toll-free 24-hour hotline for victims of sexual assault at 1-800-656-HOPE as well as an online chat hotline. RAINN also keeps a searchable database of rape crisis centers intended to assist you find counselling locally.

    There’s hope–but you must take the initial step and ask for it.