Sexual Assault, Rape

Sexual assault can be physical, verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to have unwanted sexual contact. You are being sexually abused if you are forced to have sexual contact of any kind (vaginal, oral, or anal). Sexual assault is called rape if penetration has occurred. Sexual assault and rape are never the victim's fault.

The physical dangers of rape include pregnancy, injury, and catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Your caregiver or emergency room doctor may recommend a number of tests to be done after a sexual assault or rape. A rape kit will collect evidence and check for infection and injury. You may be treated for an infection even if no signs of one are present. This may also be true if tests and cultures for disease are negative. Emergency contraceptive medications are also available to help prevent pregnancy, if this is desired. All of these options can be discussed with your caregiver. A sexual assault is a traumatic event. Counseling is available.


  • Go to an area of safety as quickly as possible and call the police. This may include going to a shelter or staying with a friend. Stay away from the area where you have been attacked. Many times, sexual assaults are caused by a friend, relative, or associate.

  • Do not wash, shower, comb your hair, or clean any part of your body.

  • Do not change your clothes.

  • Do not remove or touch anything in the area where you were assaulted.

  • Go to an emergency room or your caregiver for a complete physical exam. Get the necessary tests to protect yourself from disease or pregnancy.

  • If medications were given by your caregiver, take them as directed for the full length of time prescribed. If you have come in contact with a sexual infection, find out if you are to be tested again. If your caregiver is concerned about the HIV/AIDS virus, you may be required to have continued testing for several months. Make sure you know how to get test results. It is your responsibility to get the results of all testing done.

  • File the correct papers with the authorities. This is important for all assaults, even if they were done by a family member orfriend.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.


  • Carry mace or pepper spray for protection against an attacker.

  • Do not try to fight off an attacker if he or she has a gun or knife.

  • Be aware of your surroundings, what is happening around you, and who might be there.

  • Be assertive, trust your instincts, and walk with confidence and direction.

  • Always lock your doors and windows.

  • Do not let anyone who you do not know enter your house.

  • Get door safety restraints and always use them.

  • Get a security system that has a siren if you are able.

  • Protect your house and car keys. Do not lend them out. Do not put your name and address on them. If you lose them, get your locks changed.

  • Always lock your car and have your key ready to open the door before approaching the car.

  • Park in a well lit and busy area.

  • Keep your car serviced. Always have at least half of a tank of gas in it.

  • Drive on lighted and frequently traveled streets.

  • Do not go into isolated areas like open garages, empty offices, buildings, or laundry rooms alone.

  • Do not walk or jog alone, especially when it is dark.

  • Never hitchhike!

  • If your car breaks down, call the police for help on your cell phone, put the hood of your car up, and a put a "HELP" sign on your front and back windows.

  • If you are being followed, go to a busy store or to someone's house and call for help.

  • If you are stopped by a police officer, especially in an unmarked police car, keep your door locked. Do not put your window down all the way. Ask them to show you identification first.

  • Beware of "date rape drugs" that can be placed in a drink when you are not looking and can make you unable to fight off an assault. They usually cause memory loss.

If you know someone who has been sexually abused or raped, take them to a hospital or to the police or call your local emergency services for help.


  • You have new problems because of your injuries.

  • You have problems that may be because of the medicine you are taking. These problems may include rash, itching, swelling, or trouble breathing.

  • You develop belly (abdominal) pain, you feel sick to your stomach (nausea), or you vomit.

  • You have an oral temperature above 102° F (38.9° C).

  • You need supportive care or referral to a rape crisis center. These are centers with trained personnel who can help you get through this ordeal.

  • You have abnormal vaginal bleeding.

  • You have abnormal vaginal discharge.


  • You have been sexually assaulted or raped. Call your local emergency department (911 in the U.S.) for help.

  • You are afraid of being threatened, beaten, or abused. Call your local emergency department (911 in the U.S.) for help.

  • You receive new injuries related to abuse.

  • You have an oral temperature above 102° F (38.9° C), not controlled by medicine.

For more information on sexual assault and rape call the National Women's Health Information Center at 1-800-994-9662.