Health Care Following a Sexual Assault
Part One: The Initial Exam
An initial medical/evidentiary exam is done for the following three purposes:
- to begin a determination of your physical injuries,
- to provide you with physical and emotional care,
- to collect evidence of the sexual assault should you choose to have the crime investigated.
For medical and legal reasons, it is very beneficial to have this exam done as soon as possible following a sexual assault. If you have not yet received any medical attention, consider discussing this with a Sexual Assault advocate. The advocate can assist you with information about that in our community does the exams, what happens during the exam and how payment is handled. An advocate will also accompany you to an exam if you would like them to.
Part Two: Follow-up Care
After an initial medical exam, it is important to remember that follow-up tests and visits to a physician are extremely important in determining any long term health concerns. If you were seen and treated at the Stevens Community Medical Center, you should have received information on whom to contact to schedule a follow-up appointment. If you received medical attention in another setting, you may be expected to pursue follow-up appointments on your own. In either situation, a Sexual Assault Program advocate is available to discuss any questions you have about follow-up medical care.
Part Three: Learning More About Health Concerns
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Depending how soon after the sexual assault you were able to seek medical attention, you may have received medication to help prevent you from becoming infected with a sexually transmitted disease or STD. While this early treatment can be beneficial, follow-up testing is necessary to accurately determine whether or not you were infected with an STD.
If you did not complete follow-up testing, or you have not yet sought STD testing since the sexual assault, you may want to consider doing so. Many sexually transmitted diseases do not exhibit symptoms or may have periods of time when symptoms disappear. Even though they may not cause noticeable discomfort, untreated STDs can create long term health problems. Early detection and treatment can help prevent these long term health complications. Sexual Assault Program advocates are available to talk with you about your concerns and provide referrals to confidential testing sites.
Victims of sexual assault frequently express concerns about having been infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. You should know that experts believe that most victims of sexual assault face a low risk of contracting the virus. The best way for you to learn more about your potential risk is to be tested at a confidential or anonymous testing site. Trained health professionals offer the test along with pre and post-test counseling. Although it may be necessary to wait between 6 to 12 weeks after the sexual assault before it is possible to detect the presence of the virus, earlier testing can document your status prior to the assault.
Sexual Assault Program advocates can talk with you further about these considerations and your other concerns. We can also provide referrals to testing sites and other available services.
If you received a medical exam soon after the sexual assault, you may have been offered medication to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. If you did not seek medical services or did not take the medication, you may consider getting a pregnancy test. It may be necessary to wait 1-2 weeks after your expected next period to be tested. Since there are several variables involved in making an accurate determination, consult a health care professional about the best time to be tested. You may consider requesting that this be done in conjunction with other STD testing.
For many sexual assault victims, seeking medical attention may not be a priority, especially if they are experiencing little or no physical pain. Others may be very concerned about knowing whether they were infected or have become pregnant through the sexual assault.
Both reactions are very understandable. As you consider your own health issues, keep in mind that early detection and treatment of any health problems can be an important step in regaining control in your life and reducing any long-term complications. Sexual Assault advocates can assist you with support, and referrals for any questions you may have.