Sexual assault is any sexual activity that involves someone who did not agree to the sexual activity. Sexual assault can be verbal, visual, or physical. Rape is sexual intercourse done without consent. Rape is a kind of sexual assault. Sexual assault and rape may be done by a stranger but it may also be done by someone you know, as in the case of date rape or domestic violence. All forms of sexual assault and rape are crimes. Sexual assault is a crime even if you were drinking, taking drugs, given drugs, or unconscious when it happened.
Each state defines rape differently. Many states include homosexual rape, incest, and other sex offenses in the definition of rape. Statutory rape is intercourse with someone who is not yet old enough to legally consent. An example of this is a 25-year-old man having intercourse with a 13 year-old girl.
The effects of rape are both physical and psychological.
If you have been sexually assaulted, call the police and then go to the hospital.
It is best to follow the recommendations below to help provide evidence of the assault:
There may be a rape victim support service in your area. These services are usually available 24 hours a day. They will usually send someone to go with you to the police or emergency room and help you find counseling afterward.
Child victims need to be evaluated by a provider right away. It is best for the child to see a counselor trained to work with abused children.
At the hospital you will be given a thorough exam, including a pelvic exam, to check for injuries. To collect potential evidence to use against the attacker, the provider will look for specimens such as patches of torn clothing, blood, and strands of hair from the attacker. These specimens can be tested against body fluid or skin samples from suspects.
After your exam the healthcare provider may recommend that you do the following:
You may be prescribed medicine to help with anxiety, depression, or trouble sleeping.
The physical effects of sexual assault can last from a day to a few months, depending on your injuries.
The mental and emotional effects are less predictable. It may take weeks, months, and in some cases, many years to recover after sexual assault. Sometimes friends and family may push you to "get over it" before you're ready. Appreciate that they are trying to help, but let them know that it takes time, and that's normal. Crisis counseling and rape support groups can help lessen long-term effects. Counseling can also help you cope with feelings of isolation, guilt, helplessness, depression, or anxiety.
Children are especially vulnerable to long-lasting mental and emotional effects. They need special counseling and care.
Schedule a follow-up visit so your healthcare provider can make sure that any injuries are healing properly. It is also important to get emotional support. Contact a hospital, social worker, or rape crisis center. You may benefit from a rape support group where you can share your feelings with others who have had a similar experience. Remember, if you were raped, it is not your fault.
Do not isolate yourself. Let family members give you support. There are also family counseling programs to help them deal with their concerns.
For child victims, find a counselor who specializes in working with child abuse and incest cases. This may be critical in reducing long-term emotional effects for the child.