Immediate Steps After a Sexual Assault
- If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
- Go to a safe place.
- Call someone you trust for emotional support.
- Contact your nearest rape crisis center to talk to an advocate who can answer questions, provide emotional support, and try to arrange for someone to meet you at the hospital or with law enforcement. Rape crisis centers have free and confidential hotline services 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.
Whether you have been sexually assaulted or raped recently or some time ago, you are not alone. Please do not lose hope. You may have concerns about your safety, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, or telling your partner or family about the assault. You may be having feelings of shock, fear, disbelief, recurring memories, outrage, confusion, sadness, despair, and anger. All of your feelings are valid. You did not deserve this, and the offender is the only person who should be blamed.
Your local rape crisis center can assist you with crisis counseling and provide helpful information on everything from your health and safety to obtaining a restraining order.
Immediate steps you can take to help begin the process toward safety and justice.
Contact a rape crisis center. You will get an immediate response from a trained counselor/advocate who can talk to you about possible next steps, make sure that you’re safe, and support you. They will offer options, help you think more clearly, and provide referrals and resources based on your needs and concerns. Advocates are there to listen, not to judge or make decisions for you.
Consider contacting police. You can file a report and get help with safety and resources. You have a right to make your own decision about calling the police.
Preserve evidence. If you think you might want to report the crime to the police, do not shower or change your clothes. This can help preserve any evidence that might be on your body. If possible, do not urinate or have anything to eat or drink. Go to a hospital or medical center for a forensic exam.
Seek medical attention. We strongly recommend that you seek medical attention after a sexual assault. Even if you know that you don’t want to report the crime, a medical exam can also help you identify and treat any injuries, assess your risk, and provide options for prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
Receive a rape exam. If you are unsure about whether you want to report the crime to police, that’s okay. You can still have any evidence collected through a forensic exam (sometimes called a rape kit) and then decide about reporting at a later date. Collecting the evidence right away may provide you with more options in the future.
- Evidence collected is kept and stored for 6 months, because it is common for victims to decide about reporting later. You have the right to accept or refuse any portion of the exam if you choose.
- In Massachusetts, many of the hospitals (although not every hospital) participates in the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program (SANE). The SANE Response Team consists of SANEs delivering the medical/forensic component with the Rape Crisis Centers providing community-based support and advocacy. For more information about SANE and for a list of participating SANE hospitals, visit the SANE website.
Get toxicology testing. If there are indications that you might have been drugged, the hospital can offer you a toxicology test. Some indicators include loss of memory, waking up in a strange location or with your clothing off or changed, feeling of intoxication that exceeds the amount of alcohol or other drugs that you voluntarily consumed.
Control your reproductive choices. A hospital can provide you with options for pregnancy prevention. You can also seek a dose of emergency contraception from a pharmacist. This is most commonly known as Plan B.
Find more information
If you have been sexually assaulted, you are not alone. There are places and organizations there to help provide you with information, support, and options. You may be able to find answers to your questions on these two sites, as well as links to resources.
surviverape.org – This website provides detailed information about forensics including the purpose and steps of a sexual assault exam, issues related to toxicology, pregnancy prevention, evidence collection, DNA matching systems, and crime labs procedures.
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program – This program is part of the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance and coordinates all aspects of the SANE program including hospital certification, training of SANE nurses, and the Adult and Pediatric SANE Program. The website includes a list of SANE sites across Massachusetts and information about your health and safety in the aftermath of sexual violence.