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What should I do if I've been sexually assaulted?

Lisa Moment
Lisa Moment on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Nursing Specialist

You should seek help as soon as possible to make sure you are medically stable and to get treatment for any possible exposure to infectious diseases, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia or HIV. You can also get emergency contraceptive at this time.

In addition, the sooner you seek help, the more likely there will be evidence, such as injuries and DNA, to collect and document. Some emergency departments will do an evidence collection kit anywhere from three to seven days after a sexual assault, but the longer you wait to do an evidence collection kit, the less evidence there will be to collect.

It is also important to think about emotional support. By seeking help right away, you can get referred to valuable resources that offer counseling.

These are important steps to take right away after an assault:
Get away from the attacker to a safe place as fast as you can. Call 911 or the police. Call a friend or family member you trust. You also can call a crisis center or a hotline to talk with a counselor. Feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and shock are normal. It is important to get counseling from a trusted professional. Do not wash, comb, or clean any part of your body. Do not change clothes if possible, so the hospital staff can collect evidence. Do not touch or change anything at the scene of the assault. Go to your nearest hospital emergency room as soon as possible. You need to be examined, treated for any injuries, and screened for possible sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or pregnancy. The doctor will collect evidence using a rape kit for fibers, hairs, saliva, semen, or clothing that the attacker may have left behind.

While at the hospital:
If you decide you want to file a police report, you or the hospital staff can call the police from the emergency room. Ask the hospital staff to connect you with the local rape crisis center. The center staff can help you make choices about reporting the attack and getting help through counseling and support groups.

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

If you have been sexually assaulted, if possible, quickly get away from the person who assaulted you and go somewhere safe. If you've been raped or physically assaulted, call 911 if you need medical care or are in danger, and to report the assault to the police. Save everything that could have the attacker's DNA. That means don't comb, brush, clean or wash any part of your body, including not changing your clothing if possible. And don't alter or touch anything from the assault location.

Go to the nearest hospital emergency room so you can be examined and treated for injuries. You can be given medicine to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. If you think you were drugged, ask to be tested for the presence of date rape drugs.

Record details about the person who assaulted you and what happened so you have documentation of the events.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.