What Should I do if I have Been Raped or Sexually Assaulted?
Make sure you are in a safe environment. If you believe you
are still in danger, call 911.
- Once you're out of physical danger, contact someone you know and
trust, such as a friend, relative, teacher, school counselor, friend's
parent, doctor or religious leader.
- Call us for advice, support and help. We have
trained rape crisis hotline staff and volunteers available 24/7 to
answer your questions and help you through the recovery process. You
can reach us at 1.800.656.HOPE (press ONE at the menu).
If you are under 18, tell a trusted adult. (But
remember, not every adult is able to help. You may need to tell more
than one person before you find someone who can help.) It's important
to be aware that, if you disclose your identity and location and that
you are being harmed, the person you tell may be required by state law
to alert authorities.
- If you do not have any trusted adults in your life or wish to
talk confidentially for now, you can call the Child Help hotline at
- You can also call Child Protective Services for your area. You
can usually find the number in the blue pages of your phone book, or by
contacting the local police department.
more about mandatory reporting requirements..
If you are thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide
Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK.
- If you have already taken steps to harm yourself or feel
that you can't stop yourself from committing suicide, call 911
or go to the emergency room.
Consider reporting the attack to police. If you would like to
report, call 911.
- While many survivors find pursuing justice an important part of
their recovery process, only you can decide if it is the right choice
for you. If you have questions about the process, call us and we can
explain what to expect.
- If you do plan to report the attack to police, or think there's a
chance you will want to in the future, write down all the details of
the attack that you can remember — while the memory is still fresh.
- If you do report: Most successful prosecutions end in a plea
agreement, without trial, which means that the victim does not have to
testify. However if your case does go to trial, you will generally have
to testify. If you are worried about having to testify about intimate
matters, let the police or prosecutor know about your concerns. They
can explain the laws in your state and help you understand what might
happen if you do go to trial.
Complete a forensic exam (sometimes called a "rape kit").
- To find a hospital or medical center near you with forensic exam
capability, call us at 1.800.656.HOPE (press ONE at the menu).
After a rape or sexual assault, there is certain evidence of the
attack left behind on the victim's body and clothing. A forensic exam
collects this evidence and documents the physical findings to provide
information to help reconstruct the details about the attack in
- If you intend to report the attack to police, or think that
there is a chance you will want to in the future, it is important to
have a forensic exam as soon as possible —while the evidence is still
able to be collected.
- Under federal law, you are entitled to receive a free forensic
exam even if you do not report the attack to police. This frees you from
making an immediate decision about reporting — you can preserve the
evidence now, and decide whether to report later.
Don't bathe or brush your teeth before visiting the
emergency room in order to preserve the forensic evidence.
The forensic exam involves collecting evidence of the attack, such
as hairs, fluids and fibers, and preserving the evidence for forensic
analysis. If you suspect you may have been drugged, ask that a urine
sample be collected during the evidentiary exam.
Seek medical attention (even if you don't intend to report the
attack to police).
There are medical concerns that arise both immediately following the
assault and much later. Even with no visible physical injuries, it is
important to be tested for STIs and pregnancy.
- If you visit a hospital, ask for testing and preventative
treatment. They may provide you with antibiotics for STIs as well as
help you to arrange follow-up testing.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends post-exposure HIV
prophylaxis for victims of sexual assault (prophylaxis is treatment
meant to prevent, rather than treat or cure, a disease).
- CDC recommends follow-up testing as well as other blood tests
to rule out HIV at two weeks, six weeks, three months and six months
after an assault.
Rape, just like consensual intercourse, can lead to pregnancy.
Therefore, it is important for female victims to be tested after an
assault. For more information, visit Medline
Plus. (According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy
following one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is about 5%.)
The effects of sexual assault on victims and their loved
ones can be felt psychologically, emotionally, and physically.
They can be very brief or end up long-term in duration; they may even
last a lifetime. It is important to remember that there is no one
"normal" reaction to sexual assault. Every individual's response will be
different depending on the situation. Healing from rape or
sexual assault takes time. Here are some common issues that
survivors may need to consider in working toward physical and mental
We all function better when our bodies are in top condition.
Therefore, those who take better care of themselves, have some key tools
to better handle the aftermath of a stressful situation like sexual
assault. We tend to underestimate the value of things like eating a
healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and getting a good night's
- Adequate Nutrition: To better concentrate on
dealing with the emotional aspects of sexual assault recovery, ensure
that you are receiving the nutrition you need. Learn more about eating a
- Exercise: The Center for Disease Control
recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week. Even just a
quick walk at lunchtime, can help combat feelings of sadness or
depression and prevent chronic health problems.
- Stay busy: Many survivors have full time jobs,
go to school, volunteer and have families. Finding time to do
activities that you enjoy is an important aspect of self-care. Get
involved in a sport or hobby that you love! If you have a spouse or
partner, make a date night and stick with it. Treat leisure activities
as seriously as work or school appointments.
- Sleep: Make sure your body is getting the rest
it needs. Although every person is different, a reasonable guideline is
that most people need between 7-10 hours of sleep per night.
Understanding the importance of your emotional well-being is the
start of living a healthy lifestyle. You must be willing to feel and
express emotions about what you've gone through in the past and what you
will go through in the future. Whether it is with one other person, a
group of people, or on your own, knowing, accepting, and saying how you
feel are steps in the right direction.
- Counseling: Seeing a psychologist, a clinical
social worker, or a therapist, one-on-one or as part of a support group,
can help you and your loved ones process what has happened. Contact us
- Journal or Diary: Some survivors find that
recording their thoughts and feelings in a journal or diary helps them
manage their emotions after an assault. Meditation or relaxation
exercises help many survivors as well.
- Surround yourself with positive people: It's
important to make sure that the people in your life are supportive.
Nurture relationships with people that make you feel good about
- Look out for yourself: Be wary of friends or
family who leave you feeling tired or depressed when you see them, never
have time to listen to you, or dismiss or belittle your experience as a
survivor. Focus on spending time with those you care about and who care
about what is best for you.
- Know that it is never too late to call for help.
Even if the attack happened years ago, it's never too late to get help.
Many victims do not realize they need help until months or years later.
Call us at 1.800.656.HOPE (press ONE at the menu) to speak with
someone about your attack.
To learn more about the possible effects of sexual assault, please