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 407-497-6701.
- 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.
- 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 407-497-6701.
- 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.
- 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%.)
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/she 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 407-497-6701.