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After a sexual assault, it's normal to feel angry, afraid and even ashamed. Please don’t let these feelings keep you from getting medical care. It’s important to remember that even if you do not have visible signs of physical injury, medical treatment can help you recover physically as well as emotionally. Talking with a counselor and to others who've experienced assault can help with your recovery.

What to Expect in the Emergency Department

You will be asked about the assault. These questions may feel invasive but are important to help you. A friend or counselor can provide support. You will be examined by a sexual assault nurse examiner. This is a nurse who has been specially trained in the medical, psychological and forensic examination of someone who has experienced a sexual assault.

If you agree, photographs will be taken of any bruises or injuries you have. You may have blood or urine tests to check for pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection. Samples may also be taken from your mouth, vagina or rectum. These will be tested in lab for semen (the fluid that carries sperm).

Other samples may be taken from under your fingernails or your clothes.

In the emergency room, the doctor or nurse will discuss the following:

Sexually Transmitted Infection and Pregnancy Prevention

  • Sexually transmitted infection. Sexual assault can place you at risk for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and viral hepatitis (hepatitis B or C). You may choose to be treated for some of these diseases right away.
  • HIV. You have a very slight risk of getting HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) from a sexual assault. You have the option of receiving medications to help prevent the virus.
  • Pregnancy. If you choose, a simple treatment can help prevent pregnancy. Your doctor can discuss other options with you.

Follow-Up Care

Be sure to visit your doctor 1 to 2 weeks after the assault. You will receive results from any tests that may have been taken in the emergency room. Your doctor can also help you find services and support groups for sexual assault survivors. Also, know that it is important to care for your emotional and psychological wellbeing after a sexual assault. Visiting a counselor or psychologist can help.

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