What should I do after I have been sexually assaulted?
- Relocate to a safe place. If the location where the sexual assault took place is not safe, leave that location immediately and go to a safe place, like a friend’s or neighbor’s home, where the perpetrator cannot harm you.
- Seek medical attention. If you are injured, call 911 or go straight to your local emergency room. Requesting medical care does not require you to report the crime to the local or campus police.
- Preserve any and all evidence of the sexual assault.
Should I report the incident to law enforcement?
Survivors may notify law enforcement authorities, but they are not required to do so. An issue of immediate concern may be the ability to keep your identity confidential until you have had time to decide how you want to proceed. Depending on whether you want to make a report or just talk to someone and have your identity remain confidential determines to whom you should make the report.
An anonymous “Jane/John Doe” report can be filed with the police while deciding whether to pursue criminal charges. Speaking with law enforcement can help a survivor understand the process of obtaining orders of protection (e.g., protective orders), no contact orders, restraining orders, or similar lawful orders issued by the courts. Making an anonymous report does not mean that you have to press charges later on.
What are some confidential reporting options?
If you want to maintain confidentiality, you may:
- Contact your local police department (or campus police department if you are a college student);
- Visit a medical center or student health center;
- Contact a local women’s shelter; or
- Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673).
Should I seek medical attention even if I do not intend to make a report of the sexual assault?
Yes. Hospitals have trained medical staff that deal specifically with victims of sexual assault. For example, they have registered nurses, called Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE), that specialize in conducting sexual assault evidentiary exams (typically referred to as a “rape kit”) for sexual assault victims. The exam is free and participation in this exam does not require a victim to make a report. This exam does, however, allow the evidence collected to be stored for later use in the event a report is filed and you want to press charges.
Additionally, although you may not have apparent physical injuries, you may be at risk for pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, sexually transmitted diseases including Chlamydia, Genital Herpes, HPV/Genital Warts, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis, HIV, or additional health concerns. Also, pregnancy prevention and prevention medications for sexually transmitted infections generally must be given within 72 hours of the assault to be effective.
Should I still seek medical attention even if it is more than 72 hours since the assault?
Yes. Even if more than 72 hours have passed since the assault, you can still have an examination performed by a SANE nurse and/or be treated for any unknown injuries you may have suffered.
Why is it important to preserve evidence of the sexual assault?
After a sexual assault, the last thing on your mind may be collecting evidence. However, even if you are unsure whether you are going to report the incident, preserving the evidence could aid in criminal prosecution or in obtaining a protective order against the perpetrator. The first 72 hours following an assault are the most crucial for collecting and preserving physical evidence.
How can I preserve evidence?
- Do not shower, bathe, douche, urinate, wash your hands, brush your teeth, change your clothes, eat or drink, or change or wash bedding;
- Make notes of any details that you remember about the assault;
- Retain any communications and document any contact with the perpetrator;
- If possible, write down dates, times, and locations of contact with the perpetrator; and
- Preserve any text messages, emails, and/or social media postings related to the incident
If you do urinate, collect a sample so medical professionals can determine whether you were given a date rape drug such as Rohypnol, GHB, Ketamine, or Valium. If you change clothes, place each separate article of clothing into a paper bag, not a plastic bag, so that the clothing is not contaminated. If you were assaulted in your home, do not clean up. Leave everything exactly where it is.
Why do I need to collect evidence immediately?
Engaging in some activities (e.g., shower, bathe, douche, urinate, wash your hands, brush your teeth, change your clothes, eat or drink, or change or wash bedding) can result in the loss of vital DNA evidence that could be found on your body, under your fingernails, or in your mouth. Some drugs used to incapacitate victims metabolize quickly, meaning they only remain in your system for a short period of time.
What type of information should I include in any notes I make following an assault?
Making notes about an assault may seem odd or illogical. However, when, or if, you decide to make a report these notes will be essential when providing the details of what happened. Include the following in your notes:
- what occurred prior to and during the assault;
- who was present;
- where the assault took place;
- a description of the perpetrator;
- whether alcohol or drugs were present; and
- any other details you can recall or that you think are important.