Help, I’ve Been Raped What Should I Do?
If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, you are likely to be physically and emotionally affected. Most rape survivors are too shocked to act in the moments following the assault. One thing that is for sure, you will feel numb, scared, horrified and disoriented. But there are steps that you can take after being raped to keep yourself safe, minimize health risks and increase the chances of bringing the offender to justice. Everyone deals with trauma differently and there are no hard rules about exactly how you should feel or behave after being raped. These steps are just an ideal and advisory procedure that you can follow.
Get To a Safe Place
The first thing you should do if you are in any danger is to get yourself to a safe place.
After a rape incident, you should go to a place where you feel safe like the home of a family member or close friend. If you feel strong enough, consider talking about what has happened to you with someone you trust. If there is no one to share your story with, call a counselling organization and they will give you advice and support over the phone. You should not feel ashamed or guilty about what has happened to you because it is not your fault.
Don’t wash yourself or your clothes until you have decided whether or not you will report the matter to the police. DNA evidence to identify and prosecute your attacker can be retrieved from your body and clothes. Even if you don’t plan on reporting the incident to the police, you can seek help from sexual assault referral centre (SARC) where a forensic medical examination will be performed and samples stored for use in identifying future crimes.
Even if you can’t face up to making a police report right now, try not to destroy any of your clothes or underwear as these will be vital should you ever feel ready to make a legal complaint.
Whether you choose to report the matter to the police or not, it is important that you get medical support after being raped. When you go to a point of care, any injuries on your body will be treated and you will be guided on sexually transmitted infections as well as emergency contraception.
Doctors and nurses will attend to your medical needs confidently and nothing will be shared with the police without your permission.
If you intend to report the incident to the police, inform the doctor or nurse so that they can have forensic samples taken to be used as evidence.
You can attend a Sexual Assault Referral Centre near you, you find your nearest centre here. Attending a sexual assault referral centre does not mean you have to take legal action, they are simply there to offer you advice and medical, emotional and practical support. Should you wish to make a legal complaint thereafter, they will help you do this.
Women are given emergency pills as soon as possible after being raped. The pills which are given as a single tablet prevent the occurrence of pregnancy. The emergency pill should be administered within 72 hours since its chances of working after this time are low. Copper IUD can also be fitted in the womb within five days. It has a 100% success rate of preventing pregnancy if it is fitted within five days.
The other option after this is a copper IUD which can be fitted inside the womb within five days. It has a high success rate of preventing pregnancy if it is fitted within five days.
Both men and women should have a check-up for STIs after being raped. SARC offers STI testing after providing you with support and advice. If you don’t want to visit a SRAC, go to any sexual health clinic and take these tests. You can decide to have
Sexual assault referral centre’s offer STI testing after providing you with support and advice. If you don’t want to visit a SARC, you can go to any sexual health clinic and request that these tests be done.
It’s vital that you get an STI test as soon as possible, many STI’s have minor or no symptoms at all. The longer an STI goes undetected the more difficult it can be to treat and the more damage it can do to your body.
Reporting a Rape to The Police
Only you can decide whether to report the rape to the police. Police take sexual offences very seriously and you will be supported by specially trained officers within the police force who handle rape cases. You can report a rape case immediately after it has happened or at a future date. However, reporting the crime as soon as possible increases your chances of securing a prosecution, retrieving evidence and preventing the culprit from harming anybody else in the future.
If you report the matter to the police, an officer will take your details. You can ask to speak with a male or female police officer, whichever makes you feel safe and comfortable. When you are ready, the officer will go ahead and take a statement from you. The statement serves as the main evidence if the case goes to trial so you should try to provide as much information as possible. Another advantage to reporting a rape soon after it happens is so that everything remains fresh in your mind.
You may be asked to be interviewed via video and or tape. Each police force works differently and each case is different. A lot depends on the type of crime committed, when the crime is being reported and the age of the victim.
The Law and Legal Process in a Rape Case
Having made a rape complaint to the police, given a statement and undertaken a medical examination, the police will prepare an evidence file. The evidence file is needed for the case to continue after your attacker has been identified. The police send the evidence file to the Crown Prosecution Service who determine whether there is substantial evidence to charge the alleged offender in court.
When the perpetrator appears in court, the magistrate determines whether a crime has been committed based on the evidence presented before them. All sexual violence cases are sent to the crown court but the offender first appears before a magistrate court for a ruling on whether they should be kept in custody or released on bail.
At the Crown Court, the case is heard by a judge and jury when the accused pleads not guilty. The survivor is the main witness and is supposed to give evidence and be cross-examined by the defence barrister. If the defendant pleads guilty, they will only appear in the Crown Court for sentencing and the rape survivor will not be required to give evidence. The press is allowed in the courtroom to follow the hearings but names and addresses of survivors can’t be published.
After making a rape complaint to the police, there is no need for a survivor to engage the services of a solicitor. Any difficulties arising from the accused should be addressed to the police officer in charge of the case for appropriate action.
It is up to you to decide whether you want to pursue the case against your attacker or not. Some people are not strong enough to testify about what happened to them and taking the case to court will leave them with more pain, anguish and suffering.
Talk About It
Going through any sexual abuse is a difficult time. It often leaves people feeling hopeless, depressed, numb or even suicidal.
The most important thing you can do, when you’re ready, is to open up and talk to somebody about it. You’re not alone, there are people out there who care and can relate to what you’ve been through.
Just know, whatever you choose to do, that’s OK and every decision you make has to be personally right for you. If you really can’t take action against your abuser, don’t worry, that may change in the future. We all process things at different rates and we all heal at different paces. The most important thing is to not suffer alone and let things eat you up inside.
Even if you don’t want to talk to family or friends, there are counsellors or even websites like ours (Advice For All) that can be there to help you through your darkest times. Stay strong, don’t suffer alone.