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Effects of Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a personal and destructive crime. Its effects on you and your loved ones can be psychological, emotional, and/or physical. They can be brief in duration or last a very long time. It is important to remember that there is not one “normal” reaction to sexual assault. Therefore your individual response will be different depending on your personal circumstances. In this section, we explain some of the more common effects that sexual assault victims may experience.

Depression

There are many emotional and psychological reactions that victims of rape and sexual assault can experience. One of the most common of these is depression. The term “depression” can be confusing since many of the symptoms are experienced by people as normal reactions to events. At some point or another, everyone feels sad or “blue.” This also means that recognizing depression can be difficult since the symptoms can easily be attributed to other causes. These feelings are perfectly normal, especially during difficult times.

Depression becomes something more than just normal feelings of sadness when the symptoms last for more than two weeks. Therefore, if you experience five or more of the symptoms of depression over the course of two weeks you should consider talking to your doctor about what you are experiencing. The symptoms of depression may include:

  • Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells
  • Significant change in weight or appetite
  • Loss of energy or persistent fatigue
  • Significant change in sleep patterns (insomnia, sleeping too much, fitful sleep, etc.)
  • Loss of interest and pleasure in activities previously enjoyed; social withdrawal
  • Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or guilt
  • Pessimism or indifference
  • Unexplained aches and pains (headaches, stomachaches)
  • Inability to concentrate, indecisiveness
  • Irritability, worry, anger, agitation, or anxiety
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • If you are having suicidal thoughts, don’t wait to get help. Call us or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) at any time.

Depression can affect people of any age, gender, race, ethnicity, or religion. Depression is not a sign of weakness, and it is not something that someone can make him/herself “snap out of.”

Rate your risk for depression

Flashbacks

when memories of past traumas feel as if they are taking place in the current moment. These memories can take many forms: dreams, sounds, smells, images, body sensations, or overwhelming emotions. This re-experience of the trauma often seems to come from nowhere, and therefore blurs the lines between past and present, leaving the individual feeling anxious, scared, and/or powerless. It can also trigger any other emotions that were felt at the time of the trauma.

Some flashbacks are mild and brief, a passing moment, while others may be powerful and last a long time. Many times you may not even realize that you are having a flashback and may feel faint and/or dissociate (a mental process in which your thoughts and feelings may be separated from your immediate reality). If you realize you are in the middle of a flashback:

  • First, Get Grounded: The first thing to do is sit up straight and put both feet on the floor. This will help you to feel grounded.
  • Be In the Present: It can be helpful to remind yourself that the event you are reliving happened in the past and you are now in the present. The actual event is over, and you survived.
  • Breathing: Try focusing on your breathing. One way to do that is to count to four as you breathe in. Count to four as you hold that breath and then count to four as you exhale. If you do this and keep repeating it, you may find that you can become calmer and can be in the present.
  • Pay Attention to Surroundings: Another way to help yourself feel like you are in the present is to pay attention to your surroundings. What is the light in the room like right now? Touch something around you that is grounded like a table or a chair. What does it feel like? Can you smell anything? Do you hear any sounds?
  • Self-Soothing: Are there things that normally make you feel safe and secure like wrapping a blanket around yourself or making some tea?
  • Normal: Also, remember that it can take time to recover. You are not crazy. This is a normal reaction.
  • Take care of yourself: Give yourself time to recover after a flashback. Reach out to loved ones or counselors who will be supportive.

Rape Trauma

This is a common reaction to rape or sexual assault. It is a normal human reaction to an unnatural or extreme event. There are three phases to rape trauma:

  • Acute Phase: occurs immediately after the assault and usually lasts a few days to several weeks. In this phase, you can have many reactions but they typically fall into three different categories:
    • Expressed: when you are openly emotional
    • Controlled: when you appear to be without emotion, and act as if “nothing happened” and “everything is fine”
    • Shocked disbelief: when you react with a strong sense of disorientation
  • Outward Adjustment Phase: resume what appears to be your “normal” life, but inside you are still suffering from considerable turmoil. This phase has five primary coping techniques:
    • Minimization: pretending that everything is fine or convincing yourself that “it could have been worse”
    • Dramatization: you cannot stop talking about the assault and it dominates your life and identity
    • Suppression: you refuse to discuss the event and act as if it did not happen
    • Explanation: you analyze what happened, what you did and what the rapist was thinking/feeling
    • Flight: you try to escape the pain (moving, changing jobs, changing appearance, changing relationships, etc.)
  • Resolution Phase: the assault is no longer the central focus of your life. While you may recognize that you will never forget the assault, the pain and negative outcomes lessen over time. Often you will begin to accept the rape as part of your life and choose to move on.

NOTE: This model assumes that you will take steps forward and backwards in your healing process and that while there are phases it is not a linear progression and will be different for every person.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

This is a normal human reaction to an extreme or abnormal situation. Each person has a different threshold for what is perceived as a traumatic event. PTSD is not a rare or unusual occurrence, in fact, many people experience PTSD as a result of a traumatic experience such as rape or sexual assault. You may be experiencing PTSD if you have experienced the following symptoms for at least a month:

  • Shown symptoms of intense horror, helplessness, or fear
  • Experienced distressing memories of the event
  • Regularly avoided things or triggers that remind you of the event
  • Shown significant impairment or distress due to the event
  • Shown at least two symptoms of increased arousal (sleep difficulties, difficulty concentrating, hyper vigilance, an exaggerated startle response, or irritability or outbursts of anger/rage)

Pregnancy

Because rape, just like consensual sex, can lead to pregnancy, it is important for female victims to be tested after an assault. If you need additional information visit Medline Plus.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Victims of sexual violence are at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections.

  • If you went to the emergency room for a rape exam, you should have been offered preventive treatment (antibiotics) for sexually transmitted infections and given information about where to go for follow-up testing.
    • If you need more information about this, or did not receive preventive care, call us and we can help you figure out what resources are available.
  • If you did not get medical care after your attack, it’s still important to get tested for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
    • The Centers for Disease Control recommend follow-up testing two weeks after a sexual assault and blood tests to rule out HIV infection 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months after an assault.
  • If left untreated, STIs and HIV can cause major medical problems, so it’s very important to get tested (and treated, if necessary) as soon as possible.

Suicide

Some survivors of sexual assault may get so depressed that they think about ending their own life. Suicidal thoughts should be taken very seriously.

  • If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please get help immediately.
    • If you have already taken steps, or feel that you can’t avoid harming yourself, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
    • You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help 24 hours a day at 800-273-TALK (8255). If you are having suicidal thoughts or you know someone who is, they can listen and help.
    • If you are worried that a loved one is contemplating suicide, it’s okay to ask them about it directly. Suicide experts say that asking someone about suicidal thoughts will not lead them to consider suicide if they’re not already contemplating it.

Effects for Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Assault

There are many reactions that survivors of rape and sexual assault can have. But for adult survivors of childhood sexual assault there are reactions that may either be different or stronger than for other survivors. These include:

  • Setting limits/boundaries: because your personal boundaries were invaded at a young age by someone that was trusted and depended on, you may have trouble understanding that you have the right to control what happens to you.
  • Memories/flashbacks.
  • Anger: as a child, your anger was powerless and had little to no effect on the actions of your abuser. For this reason, you may not feel confident that your anger will be useful or helpful.
  • Grieving/mourning: being abused as a child means the loss of many things: childhood experiences, trust, perceived innocence, and a normal relationship with family members (especially if the abuser was a family member). You must be allowed to name those losses, grieve them, and then move forward.
  • Guilt/shame/blame: you may carry a lot of guilt because you may have experienced pleasure or because you did not try to stop the abuse. There may have been silence surrounding the abuse that led to feelings of shame. It is important to understand that it was the adult who abused his/her position of authority and should be held accountable, not you.
  • Trust: learning to trust again may be very difficult for you.
  • Coping skills: as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, you may have developed skills in order to cope with the trauma. Some of these are healthy (possibly separating yourself from certain family members, seeking out counseling, etc.); some are not (drinking or drug abuse, promiscuous sexual activity, etc.).
  • Self-esteem/isolation: low self-esteem is a result of all the negative messages you received and internalized from your abusers. And because entering into an intimate relationship involves trust, respect, love, and the ability to share, you may flee from intimacy or hold on too tightly for fear of losing the relationship.
  • Sexuality: many survivors have to deal with the fact that their first sexual experience came as a result of sexual abuse. You may experience the return of body memories while engaging in a sexual activity with another person.

Body Memories

When the memories of the abuse you experienced take the form of physical problems that cannot be explained by the usual means (medical examinations, etc.). These maladies are often called “psychosomatic symptoms” which does not, as many people think, mean that it is “in your head.” Rather, it means that the symptoms are due to the connection between the mind and the body. Physical problems that can come of these somatic memories include:

  • Headaches, migraines
  • Light headedness/dizziness
  • Stomach difficulties
  • Hot/cold flashes
  • Grinding of teeth
  • Sleep disorders

For more effects, please visit RAINN’s Effects of Sexual Assault Page

Reduce Risk

As with any violent crime, there’s nothing you can do to guarantee that you will not be a victim of sexual violence. But there are steps you can take to help reduce your risk of being assaulted.

Who are the Offenders?

  • It is not always the stranger hiding in the bushes. In fact, approximately two-thirds of victims know their perpetrators. It could be a social acquaintance, friend, neighbor, family member, coach, etc.
  • Many rapists show no evidence of psychological disturbance. Most are in control of their behavior and know it is illegal.

Avoid Dangerous Situations

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you to find a way to get out of a bad situation. Learn a well-lit route back to your place of residence and avoid putting headphones in both ears, especially if you are walking alone.
  • Try to avoid isolated areas and becoming isolated with someone you don’t trust or someone you don’t know well. It is more difficult to get help if no one is around.
  • Walk with purpose. Even if you don’t know where you are going, act like you do. Try not to load yourself down with packages or bags as this can make you appear more vulnerable.
  • Trust your instincts. If a situation or location feels unsafe or uncomfortable, it probably isn’t the best place to be.
  • Make sure your cell phone is with you and charged and that you have cab money.

In a Social Situation

  • When you go to a party, go with a group of friends. Arrive together, check in with each other and leave together.
  • Practice safe drinking. If someone offers to get you a drink from the bar at a club or party, go with them to the bar to order it, watch it being poured, and carry it yourself. Don’t drink from punch bowls or other large, common open containers. Don’t leave your drink unattended while talking, dancing, using the restroom, or making a phone call. Watch out for your friends, and vice versa.
  • Have a buddy system. Don’t be afraid to let a friend know if something is making you uncomfortable or if you are worried about you or your friend’s safety.
  • If someone you don’t know or trust asks you to go somewhere alone, let him or her know that you would rather stay with the group.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you to find a way out of a bad situation.

If You Are Being Pressured

  • Be true to yourself. Do what feels right to you and what you are comfortable with. Don’t feel obligated to do anything you don’t want to. “I don’t want to” is always a good enough reason.
  • Have a code word with your friends or family so that if you feel threatened you can call them and communicate your discomfort without the person you are with knowing.
  • Lie. If you don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings it is better to lie and make up a reason to leave than to stay and be uncomfortable, scared, or worse.
  • Try to think of an escape route. How would you try to get out of the room? Where are the doors? Windows? Are there people around who might be able to help you? Is there an emergency phone nearby?
  • If you and/or the other person have been drinking, you can say that you would rather wait until you both have your full judgment.

Online Safety

  • Never give out any personal information when you are online. If you post details about your life, people may be able to figure out your full name, where you work or go to school, and even where you live. Use privacy settings on MySpace, Facebook, and blog sites so only people you trust can read your personal info.
  • If you decide to meet up with someone you meet online (assuming that you’re of legal age), take sensible precautions. Take a friend with you, meet in a public place and make sure someone knows where you are going and when you will be back.
  • If you don’t already use up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware programs in order to keep your computer safer, we recommend that you either buy or download a free program that will help to protect you and your computer.
  • If you have any reason to think that your computer may not be safe due to spyware, keystroke logging, viruses, or someone monitoring your computer usage in some other way, please consider using an alternate computer. If you can’t borrow a friend’s, you may be able to access a free computer at your local public library or local community center.
  • Avoid websites with which you are unfamiliar. If you feel uncomfortable, log off.

Travel Safety

  • If you are walking— remain mentally alert, carry a small noisemaker (like a whistle) and/or flashlight on your keychain, take major streets and paths rather than less-populated shortcuts, keep some change accessible just in case you need to use a pay phone
  • While in the car— keep your doors locked, have extra car necessities (oil, jumper cables, etc.), try not to wait until the last minute to fill your gas tank, plan your route before you start driving
  • When taking a cab— if possible, talk to someone on your cell while you are in the cab to let him or her know where you are until you reach your home
  • When riding the bus or subway— consult a schedule to avoid waiting for a long time at a stop, use the busiest and best-lit stop possible, tell the driver or use the emergency signal if someone is bothering you

Protecting your Child

  • Abusers will sometimes tell a child that the abuse is a secret. Talking openly and directly about abuse-related issues teaches children that it is okay to talk to you when they have questions.
  • Teach children that it is not ok to be touched if they do not want to be touched — whether it’s by a stranger or someone they know or trust. Let children know that other people should not be touching them, and if such a situation does occur, the child should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
  • Ask your child about the people they go to school with or play with; get to know the other parents and adults around your child.
  • Create a code word so that if your child feels uncomfortable for any reason, they can indicate discomfort or fear discretely.
  • Role-play: Practice with your child about what to say and what to do in an uncomfortable situation. You may even try role-playing, so that they know what to do if they are uncomfortable.
  • Talk about the media. If your child watches a lot of television or plays video games, watch or play with them. Use examples from TV or games that you have watched or played together to start conversations about sexuality and sexual abuse.
  • Make time to spend with your child. If your child comes to you with concerns or questions, make time to talk to them.

Intervening to Help a Friend

  • If you see someone in danger of being assaulted, step in and offer assistance or create a diversion (ex. spill a drink, cut in on a dance, or interrupt the conversation) to make it easier for the prospective victim to walk away. NOTE: Before stepping in, make sure to evaluate the risk. If it means putting yourself in danger, call 911 instead.
  • There is evidence that the mere presence of bystanders reduces crime and that criminals try to avoid being observed while committing crimes. If you are witnessing an uncomfortable situation, don’t leave the room and keep your eyes indirectly on the interaction.
  • If you believe someone is dangerously intoxicated or has been drugged, do not leave them alone for any reason, get them immediate medical attention, and keep their beverage for drug testing.
  • If someone you know has been assaulted, listen, be there, encourage your friend to report the crime to law enforcement (call 911 in most areas), and let them know that professional help is available at this website or by calling us at 1-800-656-HOPE (press ONE at the menu).
  • Become knowledgeable about the issue and share your knowledge with others. Let friends know what to look for in a potential offender and how to react if ever in a dangerous situation.

Sexual assault is a crime of motive and opportunity. Ultimately, there is no surefire way to prevent an attack. If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. We are available 24/7 to help you — just call us at 1-800-656-HOPE (press ONE at the menu). You can also get live help through the Online Hotline.

Resources

Anti-Sexual Assault Organizations

CounterQuo
Darkness to Light
1-866-FOR-LIGHT (367-5444)
Men Can Stop Rape
202-265-6530
National Alliance to End Sexual Violence
202-289-3900
National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women
National Sexual Assault Hotline
800-656-HOPE (4673)
National Sexual Assault Online Hotline
National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)
717-909-0710
Speaking Out Against Rape
407-898-0721
State Coalitions Against Sexual Assault
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)
202-544-3064
Voices & Faces Project

Domestic Violence

National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV)
202-543-5566
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)
303-839-1852
National Domestic Violence Hotline
800-799-SAFE (7233)
Family Violence Prevention Fund
415-252-8900

Getting Help

ChildHelp Hotline
1-800-4-A-CHILD (22-4453)
International Resources
National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE(7233)
National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women
www.vawnet.org
National Sexual Assault Hotline
1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
National Sexual Assault Online Hotline
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)
National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC)
1-800-FYI-CALL

Federal Government Information

Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crimes (OVC)
202-307-5983
Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women (OVW)
202-30-6026
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR)
703-696-9422

Legal Resources & Information

American Prosecutors Research Institute (APRI)
703-549-9222
Mandatory Reporting Database
National Crime Victim Law Institute
503-768-6600
Victim Rights Law Center
617-399-6720

Was I Raped?

If you believe that you have been raped or sexually assaulted please call at 1.800.656.HOPE (press ONE at the menu) to discuss options for care and support. If you’d like to report the attack to police, call 911.

There are three main considerations determining whether or not a sexual act is consensual or is a crime. “Consensual” means that both people are old enough to consent, have the capacity to consent, and agreed to the sexual contact.

  1. Are the participants old enough to consent?
    Each state sets an “age of consent” which is the minimum age someone must be to have sex. People below this age are considered children and cannot legally agree to have sex. In other words, even if the child or teenager says yes, the law says no.
    • In most states, the age of consent is 16 or 18. In some states, the age of consent varies according to the age difference between the participants. Generally, “I thought she was 18″ is not considered a legal excuse — it’s up to you to make sure your partner is old enough to legally take part.
    • Because laws are different in every state, it is important to call us to find out more about the laws in our state.
  2. Did both participants have the capacity to consent?
    States also define who has the mental and legal capacity to consent. Those with diminished capacity — for example, some people with disabilities, some elderly people and people who have been drugged or are unconscious — may not have the legal ability to agree to have sex.
    These categories and definitions vary widely by state, so it is important to call us and find out more about the laws in our state.
     
  3. Did all participants agree to take part?
    Did someone use physical force to make you have sexual contact with him/her? Has someone threatened you to make you have intercourse with them? If so, it is rape.
    • It doesn’t matter if your partner thinks you meant yes, or if you’ve already started having sex — “No” also means “Stop.” If your partner proceeds despite your expressed instruction to stop, they have not only violated basic codes of morality and decency, they may have also committed a crime under the laws of your state (check your state’s laws for specifics).

Common Questions

I didn’t resist physically — does that mean it isn’t rape?

People respond to an assault in different ways. Just because you didn’t resist physically doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape — in fact, many victims make the conscious decision that physical resistance would cause the attacker to become more violent. Lack of consent can be expressed (saying “no”) or it can be implied from the circumstances (for example, if you were under the statutory age of consent, if you were temporarily incapacitated, or if you were afraid to object because the perpetrator threatened to harm you or a loved one).

I used to date the person who assaulted me — does that mean it isn’t rape?

Rape can occur when the offender and the victim have a pre-existing relationship (sometimes called “date rape” or “acquaintance rape”), or even when the offender is a victim’s spouse. It does not matter whether the other person is an ex-lover or a complete stranger, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex in the past.

I don’t remember the assault — does that mean it isn’t rape?

Just because you don’t remember being assaulted doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen and that it wasn’t rape. Memory loss can result from the ingestion of GHB and other “rape drugs,” and from excessive alcohol consumption. Note, without clear memories or physical evidence, it may be more difficult to pursue prosecution (talk to us or your local police for guidance).

I was asleep or unconscious when it happened — does that mean it isn’t rape?

If you were asleep or unconscious, then you didn’t give consent. Note, though, that without clear memories or physical evidence, it may be more difficult to pursue prosecution (talk to us or your local police for guidance).

I was drunk or he was drunk — does that mean it isn’t rape?

Alcohol and drugs are not an excuse — or an alibi. The key question is still: did you consent or not? Regardless of whether you were drunk or sober, if the sex is nonconsensual, it is rape. If you were unconscious due to drug or alcohol consumption, that means you were unable to give consent.

I thought “no,” but didn’t say it — does that mean it isn’t rape?

It depends on the circumstances. If you didn’t say “no” because you were legitimately scared for your life or safety, then it may be rape. Sometimes it isn’t safe to resist, physically or verbally.

If you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted, or even if you aren’t sure, contact us at 1.800.656.HOPE (press ONE at the menu) or get live help from the Online Hotline.

What Should I Do?

What Should I do if I have Been Raped or Sexually Assaulted?

  1. 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 1-800-4-A-CHILD.
      • 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.
      • Learn 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 question.
      • 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.
  4. 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%.)

  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 health:
     
    Physical Self-Care
    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 sleep.

    • 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 nutritious diet.
    • 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.

    Emotional Self-Care
    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 for suggestions.
    • 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 yourself!
    • 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.
  6. 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 visit: http://www.rainn.org/get-information/effects-of-sexual-assault.