No matter how careful you or your friends are, it may not be possible to prevent a rape. Then it becomes important to know what to do to help yourself or a friend feel safe again. Remember that it is not your fault or her fault. No one asks to be raped, and no one deserves it.
After a rape occurs, female victims should:
- Get to a safe place as soon as she can.
- Try to preserve all physical evidence. The victim should not bathe, shower, douche, use the toilet, or change clothing until she has a medical exam.
- Contact the police. Rape is a crime; it is important to report it. However, reporting a crime is not the same as prosecuting. The decision to prosecute can be made at a later time.
- Get medical attention as soon as possible. An exam is not only essential for her well-being but will determine the presence of physical injury, sexually transmissible diseases, or pregnancy. The exam, if done within 72 hours following the rape, can obtain evidence to assist in criminal prosecution.
- Contact a close friend who can be with her for support. The friend can accompany her to the medical exam and/or police department.
- Consider talking to a counselor. She may be feeling a variety of strong emotions - fear, anxiety, depression, guilt, powerlessness, shame, shock, disbelief, embarrassment, denial, and anger. She may also have some physical problems such as sleep disturbances and nausea. Therefore, seeing a counselor may be important in helping her understand her feelings and begin the process of recovery.
- To learn more about medical care options, emotional support services, and police and legal services please refer to Guide for Sexual Assault Victims (Health and Wellness Center, Penn State Altoona)
As a friend of a victim, there are things you can do to help. The kind of support she gets determines how quickly she will heal from the rape.
- It's important to listen in a non-judgmental way.
- Let her know she is not to blame.
- Encourage action.
- Let her regain control of her life by making decisions she needs to make.
- Understand that each victim reacts and recovers differently.
Most likely you will be affected too, take care of yourself and your own needs as well.
While most victims of sexual assault are women, men can be victims too. At Penn State the same medical, emotional, and legal services are available to men. Health care is provided through Penn State Altoona Health and Wellness Center or Altoona Regional Health Services.