Treating Sexual Assault
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 care. Medical treatment can help you recover physically as well as emotionally.
What to Expect in the Emergency Department
You will be asked about the assault. These questions may be painful, but are important to help you. A friend or counselor can provide support. A health care provider will then examine you gently. If you agree, photographs will be taken of any bruises, cuts, or other injuries you have. You will have blood tests to check for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. 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) and DNA. Other samples may be taken from under your fingernails or your clothes. Because of the extreme care that must be taken collecting the samples, the exam may take some time. It is important not to shower or bathe before going to the emergency department (ED). Bring all clothing. Do not discard anything. If you decide to file a police report, the samples can be used as evidence. A health care provider will also discuss the following:
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 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 (the virus that causes AIDS) from a sexual assault. You have the option of receiving medications to help protect against the virus.
Pregnancy. If you choose, a simple treatment can help prevent pregnancy. Your health care provider can discuss other options with you.
Be sure to visit your health care provider a week or two after the assault. You'll receive results from tests taken in the ED. Your health care provider can also help you find services and groups for sexual assault survivors. Also, know that it is important to care for your emotional and psychological well-being after a sexual assault. Visiting a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist can help. Many emergency departments have counselors available at the time of the visit.