If you have just been raped or sexually assaulted, here are some things you can do:
• Try to be somewhere that feels safe.
• You might be in shock, so try to keep warm.
• See if a friend or someone you trust can be with you.
• Talk to someone about what has happened. If you don’t feel like talking to a friend or family member yet, call the Rape Crisis National Helpline on 0808 802 9999 or contact your nearest Rape Crisis Centre.
• However you are feeling, try to remember that this is not your fault, you are not to blame, and you are not alone.
If you are not sure whether you want to report to the police or not yet, you can go along to your nearest Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC). It’s good to take a friend or trusted person with you if you can. At the SARC, you can have a forensic medical examination, as well as tests for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. The SARC should not pressure you into reporting to the police and they can store the results of the forensic examination (or evidence) until you make up your mind whether to report to the police or not. SARCs have specially trained experienced professionals who can give you medical help and advice. They can also help and support you through the immediate trauma.
You can find your nearest SARC by contacting NHS Direct on 0845 4647, calling your GP or the Accident & Emergency (A&E) department of your local hospital, or by visiting the NHS Choices website here.
If you do decide to report to the police, or if you want a forensic medical examination at the SARC, time is an important consideration. If you want forensic evidence to be collected, you should try and go to the SARC straight away if you can, or at least within 72 hours of the rape or assault. Also try, if possible, to take these steps:
• Do not wash
• Do not brush your teeth
• Do not have a cigarette
• Do not eat or drink
• Do not change your clothes
• If you do change your clothes, do not wash them and put them in a clean plastic bag
• Try not go to the toilet
• Do not clear up anything from the area of the incident
Don’t worry if you have already done some of these things. It’s possible that there is still forensic evidence to collect.
Everyone responds differently to a traumatic event. Whatever you feel is a completely valid response to what has happened. You might be experiencing some of the emotions listed below. You might feel none of these things at all. Whatever you do or don’t feel now or in the future, talking to a Rape Crisis Centre can help.
• If you have been attacked recently you might be in shock. This can mean that you feel numb or unemotional. You might be in total disbelief, be crying, shaking, laughing or physically being sick.
• You might feel to blame and responsible for what has happened.
• You might be having nightmares or experiencing difficulties sleeping.
• You might be ‘reliving’ the events (having flashbacks). This can be triggered by a sound, situation or smell and can be very frightening
• You might have lost confidence, trust in yourself and/or in others.
• You might be feeling worthless or be hating yourself.
• You might be finding it difficult to cope with day-to-day life.
• You might be feeling angry, irritable and be short-tempered with those close to you.
• You might feel dirty and ashamed about what has happened.
• You might be depressed, upset and tearful a lot of the time.
• You might feel suicidal.
• You might be afraid of people, of places, of being on your own.
• You might be experiencing relationship or sexual difficulties.
You are not to blame and you are not alone.
Find your nearest Rape Crisis Centre here.