I’ve Just Been Raped, What Should I Do?

If you have Been Raped, or Suspect that you Have, Follow these Steps:

In the immediate aftermath of sexual violence, you might feel confused and hurt. You might not know what to think or do.   

1 – Get to a Safe Place

Make sure that you are safe. 

Remove yourself from any immediate danger. 

If your attacker is close, get yourself to a safe place.

2 – Contact Someone you Trust

Contact someone you can trust. 

Try not to isolate yourself, even though this might be your first impulse.

The best place to be is among people you trust. 

3 – Don’t Destroy Evidence

If possible:

Do not get washed or take a shower or bath. 

Avoid drinking, eating, urinating or brushing your teeth. 

(These actions may compromise important physical evidence. If you have to urinate before seeing a medical expert, do so in a jar and take it with you.)

Try not to change clothes before reporting the crime or going to a doctor. (Doing this can destroy forensic evidence.) 

If you already changed clothing, place the clothes and undergarments you wore in a paper or cloth bag or pillowcase, and either take it with you or store it safely for future use if you decide not to seek help immediately.  (Do not wash the clothing.  Avoid plastic coverings or bags.)

 

4 – Gather Items that you’ll Need

If possible, before going to a doctor or the police station, either pack, or ask a friend to bring to you, a small bag containing items you might need, such as:

  • Clean clothing and underwear
  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Facecloth/small towel
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Hairbrush/comb

5 – See the Doctor

See a doctor as soon as possible, even if your injuries are not visible.

  • You can request a female or male doctor.
  • Remember that you can request a break at any time. Do not feel rushed. Take the time you need to cope to the best of your abilities. 
  • The doctor will not force you to take part in any examination process. Typically, the doctor will ask questions regarding what happened, and then based on that information suggest treatment of any visible injuries, examine tenderness and maybe do a pelvic exam.
  • If you have female sex organs, the doctor will also ask questions about your menstrual and contraceptive history. This is to determine the risk of pregnancy.  In case pregnancy is a risk, the doctor will give you the option of the “morning after pill”.
  • The doctor might ask you to take a test for any sexually transmitted diseases.
    • You might be offered STI (sexually transmitted infections) prophylaxis or a drug called PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), which is an anti-retroviral medication that reduces the risk of HIV transmission. If you take PEP, you should receive adherence counselling and a follow-up appointment should be scheduled.
  • The doctor may also give you the option to collect forensic evidence. This is also known as a rape-kit. This procedure might feel invasive, especially at a time when you are at your most vulnerable, but it is important for evidence in the future.  Even if you do not want to lay a charge, it is helps to have forensic evidence available in case you change your mind in the future.  
  • This procedure entails the following:
    • The medical personnel might ask you to disrobe. This might feel like you are re-living the event. Remember, in this step you are in the presence of caring, professional and safe people
    • The personnel might ask to keep the clothing the attack happened in.
    • They will look for any suction or bite marks on the skin, and perhaps take photos of these marks. They will not take any photos that expose you.
    • They might pass a purple light over your mouth, body and genitalia and/or sex organs to look for any traces of saliva or semen. If they find any traces of these, they will take samples for further testing. This might include swabs of the mouth, vagina and/or rectum. These samples of DNA will be very helpful to proving a case against a perpetrator. 
    • The medical personnel might take blood and urine samples. 
  • A forensic examination can be effective up 72 hours after the assault, but such an examination should preferably be done as soon as possible.
  • It might help to take a friend or someone close to you as emotional support. Taking someone with that is unafraid to speak up for you might ease the process and offer much needed support.

6 – Report the Event

It is your choice whether or not you would like to report the crime. You are not obligated to do so. You can even change your mind in the future, and then lay a criminal charge. 

The first person you confide in is called the “first witness”. This person might also be asked to give a statement, testifying to what they experienced, how they perceived the event affected you and the events that followed from their perspective.  

If you do decide to report the crime go to your nearest police station. Once again, take someone you trust with.

  • At the police station, you may request a female or male officer, and you may make your statement in a private room.
  • No one is allowed to be turned away for reporting a sexual crime, no matter where or when the crime took place.
  • Make your statement in your language of choice. Make sure you read over your statement before signing it. Ask for a copy of your statement.
  • If you were drunk or high during the attack, do not let this stop you from reporting the crime. Being intoxicated is not a crime, sexual violence is.
  • All police stations should have a ‘rape-kit’, and forensic evidence should be stored, until you make the decision to lay a formal charge or not.
  • Write down every detail you can remember from the event. This might re-traumatise you initially, but it is a very useful resource for laying a claim in the future. 
  • Remind yourself that you are not to blame, but that you are a victim of a crime.

Being a victim of sexual violence can leave you in a state of emotional turmoil, and the journey from victim to survivor may be long, however follow this link to to find some practical steps that may help you to recover and rebuild your life.

 

REFERENCES

 

Birch, J., 2021. What you need to know about getting help if you’ve been sexually assaulted. [online] Teen Vogue. Available at: <https://www.teenvogue.com/story/sexual-assault-help> [Accessed 25 January 2021].

College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University. 2021. Sexual Assault Survivor’s Guide – CSB/SJU. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.csbsju.edu/chp/sexual-assault-survivors-guide. [Accessed 29 January 2021].

College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University. 2021. Sexual Assault Survivor’s Guide – CSB/SJU. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.csbsju.edu/chp/sexual-assault-survivors-guide#GettingBackOnTrack. [Accessed 31 January 2021].

Melinda. 2021. Recovering from Rape and Sexual Trauma – HelpGuide.org. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/recovering-from-rape-and-sexual-trauma.htm. [Accessed 27 January 2021].

Myths about rape | Rape Crisis England & Wales. 2021. Myths about rape | Rape Crisis England & Wales. [ONLINE] Available at: https://rapecrisis.org.uk/get-informed/about-sexual-violence/myths-vs-realities/. [Accessed 27 January 2021].

nhs.uk. 2021. Help after rape and sexual assault – NHS. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/help-after-rape-and-sexual-assault/. [Accessed 29 January 2021].

Rape and Sexual Assault. 2021. Rape and Sexual Assault. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.supportline.org.uk/problems/rape-and-sexual-assault/. [Accessed 28 January 2021].

Rape and sexual assault – Citizens Advice . 2021. Rape and sexual assault – Citizens Advice . [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/family/gender-violence/rape-and-sexual-assault/. [Accessed 29 January 2021].

Rikosuhripäivystys. 2021. Advice for victims of rape – Rikosuhripäivystys. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.riku.fi/en/guides-and-instructions/advice-for-victims-of-rape/. [Accessed 25 January 2021].

South African Government. 2021. Where can I find an organisation that offers assistance to victims of violence? | South African Government. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.gov.za/faq/justice-and-crime-prevention/where-can-i-find-organisation-offers-assistance-victims-violence#. [Accessed 31 January 2021].

Tears Foundation. 2021. What to do if you are raped? – Tears Foundation. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.tears.co.za/what-to-do-if-you-are-raped/. [Accessed 31 January 2021].

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