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According to RAINN, the rape, abuse, incest national network only 40% of rapes are reported. Which means the majority of rapes and sexual assaults are never reported to the authorities.  Men make up 10% of sexual assault cases but are the least likely to report.

If  you are the victim of a sexual assault remember it’s not your fault.  There is nothing that you did to cause someone to sexually assault you regardless of the misconception.  Teenagers and young adults are likely to fall victim to a belief that they caused their own assault.   “I was drunk and I should have known better.”  “I really wanted to kiss him but then he wouldn’t stop.”   “I don’t even know who it was that raped me.”  “I don’t remember if I said no.”  It’s is illegal and unlawful to have sex with someone under the influence of drugs and alcohol.   No one ever has the right to assault another human being.   So remember  it’s not your fault.

Although we can not decide for you what is the best course of action we do adhere to the recommendation that you should seek medical attention immediately post assault.   It is here where you can discuss your options for treatment and intervention in safe and non judgemental environment.  The first seventy two hours are critical . After that evidence degrades rapidly.  Furthermore treatment for possible exposure to the human immunodeficiency virus must be started within 72 hours of the assault or it is  ineffective.   The same applies to taking the morning after pill should you choose to do so.

If you are the victim of a sexual assault seek immediate medical care.  In many urban settings there are sexual assault response teams that work with law enforcement to provide both medical and forensic services.   Call your local sexual assault or rape treatment hotline.  These advocacy organizations can help direct you.  You may also call your local police department.

During the assault try to make a mental note of anything specific about your assailant.   Note the manner of speech.  Is there an accent present?  Make of mental note of the height and weight of the assailant.   Note the presence of tattoos, missing teeth, crooked teeth, facial hair, balding,  eye color, hair color and presence of body odor, or strange odors on the breath such as cigarettes or cologne.  Try to make a mental note of your surroundings to include street names, businesses,  street signs, intersections.  If you are assaulted in a vehicle notice the interior. Make a mental note of the color of the seats, odors,  make and model.  If you are inside of an apartment or building make a mental note of the furniture, other occupants, the layout or anything else that would help to identify the location.  If you are in the position to note whether or not the assailant is circumcised then do so.  How does the assailant walk and what was the assailant wearing? Did the assailant try to kiss you. Try to make a note of where on your person because the assailant may have left saliva which can be used to formulate a DNA profile.

In the midst of the actual assault try to remain calm if possible. Do not do anything that may escalate the assailant.  Ask the assailant to use a condom. Asking the assailant to do so does not imply consent.

If the assailant has a weapon note the type of weapon and color if possible.  Note whether the assailant appears to be right-handed or left-handed.   Note anything the assailant says to you during the assault. Threats of harm, violence, language, use of slang or derogatory statements.

Immediately after the assault try call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.  Remember that evidence degrade quickly.  All though most people want to shower immediately post assault sexual assault response teams discourage showering, eating, changing clothes until after the medical examination.  If you are wearing a tampon please leave it in.  It can be used as evidence.  The primary reason for this is to facilitate the collection of as much evidence as possible.  Showering or bathing, and eating can degrade the pool of evidence.

If you choose to speak with the police they will often take you to a facility to have a forensic exam.  A forensic exam, unlike a gynecological exam, is for the expressed purpose of collecting evidence. A specially trained nurse, nurse practitioner, physician assistant or physician will collect various swabs depending on the nature of the assault, blood test, urine and slides to be processed by the crime lab.

Occasionally people are the victim of drug facilitated sexual assault.  Often these individuals must contend with the loss of memory and the worry that “something terrible happened.”   Our recommendation is to trust your gut.  As soon as you can contact your nearest police department or seek immediate  medical care.  Do you have unexplained bruises on your body. Does your vaginal or rectal region hurt.  Are you bleeding vaginally or rectally.  Do you have finger pad marks on your thighs, wrists, or arms.  Do you have unexplained vaginal discharge.

What happens in a sexual assault exam? What do they do?

Typically sexual assault response teams are guided by a standard a care.  This means that there are certain things that must be done to maintain the integrity of the evidence and the exam.  Once you present to the hospital you will be given an opportunity to tell what happened. You will be asked to detail your day and how you came to meet the person the assaulted you.  You may have your statement recorded and some municipalities may elect to video your statement and examine.  Although some victims feel exposed during the recording and video of the exam.  Video and recorded data are powerful tools in  a successful prosecution.  The health care provider will typically collect a battery of swabs for evidence, as well as a urine sample and blood work to document the presence of suspected drugs and rule out possible sexually acquired infections.   They may take photographs of  bruises or wounds.  The health care provider will likely need to do a special exam of the vaginal and or rectal area. This can be done lying on one’s side or in a more traditional position with the knees up.  Once this is completed the swabs, and slides will be placed in a air dryer. Your clothes will be bagged and packaged as evidence.  Your blood and urine samples will also be packaged as evidence and sent with the police as part of your forensic kit.  The health care provider will discuss your risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infection during the assault and will offer you antibiotics if necessary.  Some assault are associated with a risk of  acquiring human immunodeficiency virus.  The health care provider will also discuss this with you and may offer you post exposure prophylaxis.

Finally, most sexual assault response programs offer some form of therapeutic intervention.  You will given an opportunity to meet with a skilled clinician at some point to discuss how you might feel.  Many people do not realize the importance of being able to talk through the events surrounding the incident.  Remember silence is the enemy of healing.

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