After a sexual assault, it’s hard to know how to react. You may be physically hurt, emotionally drained, or unsure what to do next. You may be considering working with the criminal justice system, but are unsure of where to start. Learning more about what steps you can take following sexual violence can help ground you in a difficult time.
There are emotional and physical outcomes of sexual assault. Here is some helpful information to keep in mind if you or a loved one were physically injured during the assault.
Call your doctor if you experience:
Strangulation is defined as a form of asphyxia and is characterized by closure of the blood vessels and/or air passages of the neck and may disrupt the delivery of oxygen supplying the brain. Strangulation is often incorrectly referred to as choking, which involves blocking or obstructing the windpipe.
The effects of strangulation may not be obvious, but they are numerous and can be life-threatening. Simple hoarseness or a complete loss of voice, and/or difficulty in swallowing or painful swallowing might result. Visible injuries to the neck may include scratches, abrasions, and scrapes. Redness on the neck may be fleeting but may demonstrate a detectable pattern. These marks may or may not darken to become a bruise. Bruises may not appear for hours or even days. Chin abrasions are also common, as are tiny red spots called petechiae.
Call your doctor if you have:
As a result of the assault, you may be at risk of getting infections that are transferred through bodily secretions. Not all sexually transmitted diseases can be prevented. It is strongly recommended that you abstain from sexual intercourse or use a condom until your follow-up exam.
A discussion between you and the Forensic Examiner and/or the Emergency Department provider will include your risk for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). You may be prescribed medication to prevent infections such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, bacterial vaginosis, and trichomoniasis. Preventing an infection is usually easier than treating one. Make sure you finish taking all medications as directed by the provider.
The forensic examiner can speak with you and assess the risk of contracting HIV from the sexual assault. Testing for HIV is strongly recommended immediately following the sexual assault and every 6 months thereafter for 18 months.
For information about testing, you may find us here.
Follow-up examinations are recommended to provide an opportunity to:
• An examination for STIs should be repeated within one to two weeks of the assault.
The Central Dakota Forensic Nurse Examiners (CDFNE) provides crisis services, advocacy, support and education for individuals and families impacted by sexual trauma.