Sexual assault can leave survivors with trauma which can be both physical and emotional. Every assault survivor has different experiences, but more often than not, most rape survivors may be in too much shock to act, in the immediate moments after a rape.
This article has a breakdown of practical steps you can take soon after you’ve been raped to keep yourself safe, minimise health risks and strengthen your chances when it comes to reporting an assault, pursuing legal action and bringing the rapist to justice.
Get to a safe place
Prioritize your safety and well-being after the experience of sexual trauma, as you may still be in danger. In the immediate aftermath of a rape, a number of people tend to experience shock or a sense of being overwhelmed.
To establish a sense of safety and normalcy, use any coping mechanisms that have helped you feel comfortable after facing major stressing episodes in the past. This may include calling your closest friend or trusted family to come over and stay with you.
Preserve evidence of the rape
Don’t wash up! It goes against all instincts, we know, as the one thing you probably want to do is wash up. However, by doing so, you run the risk of washing away all physical evidence of the rape that can be pivotal in identifying the rapist.
It’s advised that you don’t bath, shower or wash your clothes. Any blood, semen, saliva or hair that could be used as evidence of the rape would be lost in the process. Injured or not, go straight to the nearest hospital, community health centre or doctor.
Decide whether you want to report the rape
There’s no need to decide immediately whether to report the assault to the police, however, it may go a long way in helping. The sooner you get examined by a doctor, the more likely it is they’ll find physical evidence they can link to the rapist.
Go to your nearest police station to report the rape, where the police officers will take your statement. From there they must take you to a health centre where you will receive medical attention and forensic examination.
Get preventative medication
Once you’ve completed the forensic examination, the doctor should provide you with the morning-after pill to prevent pregnancy and a course of antibiotics to prevent possible STIs. You will also be given an HIV test and if it is negative you will be given antiretroviral treatment for 28 days to prevent contracting HIV. This is called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
Get support to help you to recover
You can get the support you need further down the line by seeking counselling and therapy for sexual assault and rape victims. If you do fall pregnant or contract an STI it is important to seek follow up medical care and counselling for the options available to you, be it counselling for continuation or counselling for termination.