Receiving Medical Attention
After a sexual assault, you may wish to seek medical attention to treat any possible injuries and to check for injuries you may not be able to see.
How do I find medical care?
Once you’re in a safe place, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4653) to be connected with a local sexual assault service provider. They will direct you to the appropriate local health facility that can care for survivors of sexual assault. They can also send an advocate to help walk you through the process of receiving medical care during this tough time. If you can, it’s best to avoid showering or bathing before arrival. Bring a change of clothing with you if you are able.
In addition to receiving medical attention, you may wish to have a sexual assault forensic exam, sometimes called a “rape kit.” During this exam, someone specially trained to perform this exam, such as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), will collect DNA evidence that can help identify the perpetrator. You do not have to agree to a forensic exam to receive treatment, but doing so may give you a stronger case against the perpetrator if you decide to report the crime now or down the road.
What do I need to know about STIs?
There may be a risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) during a sexual assault. The only way to know for sure if you have an STI is to get tested. Based on what happened, a healthcare professional will recommend which tests are important to have now and which may need to be repeated in the future.
In some cases, a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) may suggest you do not get tested. Despite rape shield laws, there may be a concern that positive test results could be used against patients to suggest sexual promiscuity, according to the Department of Justice.1
You may also be offered prophylactic treatment, medication that is designed to ward off STIs before they take hold in your body. Some of these medicines have very strong side effects, especially medicines designed to prevent HIV. The healthcare professional should tell you what to expect and help you make an informed decision about these medications. If you have questions about what to expect or need clarification on how to take the medicine, you should feel comfortable asking.
What do I need to know about pregnancy?
Often survivors have questions about pregnancy. These questions are best answered by healthcare professionals who can discuss the survivor’s physical health. To learn more about medical health issues related to pregnancy visit the National Institutes of Health.
How much will it cost?
Like all healthcare, there may be some costs associated with medical attention and medication, but these costs shouldn’t keep you from getting the care you need. There are victim compensation programs that can help cover some of the expenses. Most victim compensations funds require you to report the crime to law enforcement within 72 hours in order to be eligible.