It varies by state. Consult your local rape crisis center to find out about applicable state laws. click here
Most importantly, find someplace safe, away from the attacker (e.g. the nearest hospital, police station or trusted neighbor). Call 911 for immediate police and medical response.
Preserve all evidence of the attack-don't bathe or even wash your hands or brush your teeth. Do not change your clothes. If you think you have been drugged, do not urinate until you get to a hospital where they can take a clean specimen. If you absolutely can't wait, urinate into a clean container and take it with you.
Contact a trusted friend for moral support.
Go to the hospital as soon as possible and ask them to conduct a rape exam (also known as a rape kit) to collect forensic evidence. The exam can be done within 72 hours of an assault, but the earlier the better.
As part of the medical (i.e. non-forensic) portion of the exam, the hospital may also test for pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. Most hospitals will also offer HIV prophylaxis and emergency contraception. If they don't, feel free to ask.
Call a rape crisis center and ask if a counselor can meet you at the hospital. You can reach a counselor through the National Sexual Assault Hotline, operated by RAINN: 800-656-HOPE. The call is free, confidential, and accessible 24-hours a day. You can also find the list of local rape crisis centers-searchable by city and state. click here
Yes. Even if the victim does not have a rape kit done for the purpose of forensic evidence collection, it's important to have a medical exam to check for pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, and consider an HIV prophylaxis and emergency contraception. The medical exam can be performed at any time after the rape or sexual assault, but the sooner after the rape, the better.
Yes. A rape victim can bring a civil suit against the perpetrator. In a civil suit, the victim is seeking financial restitution from the rapist instead of jail time. Under certain circumstances, a landlord, business or institution can also be sued if a case can be made that their negligence contributed to the rape.
These lawsuits must be brought within a specific time period, sometimes as little as thirty days. Civil laws vary by state, so you should consult an attorney to determine applicable statutes.
Given the financial and emotional toll of any lawsuit, the rape survivor must decide whether it's worth it to sue. Unless the party being sued has significant assets, it's unlikely the victim can collect enough in damages to compensate for the pain and trauma the rapist caused. Also, she may have a difficult time finding a lawyer to take the case at all unless there's the potential for a large award and a good chance of winning.
If they accept the case, most attorneys will take the case on contingency (i.e. there is no up-front fee, but they take a percentage of the award or settlement). Unlike the situation with the district attorney, the attorney in a civil suit represents the victim, and the victim controls the civil suit. In some states, a criminal trial is not required in order to proceed with a civil case. Also, a victim may still be able to bring a civil suit even if a "not guilty" verdict has been rendered in the criminal case. The burden of proof in a civil suit is not as stringent as in a criminal case.
Ask the police or prosecutor about obtaining a protective order at arraignment that will prohibit the perpetrator from coming within a certain distance of you. This is not failsafe, but sends the message that you have the backing of the local authorities.
There’s no "correct" emotional reaction following a rape or sexual assault. Some survivors withdraw and are uncharacteristically quiet. Others lash out in anger. It's important to realize that whatever emotions you're seeing on the outside, there is a lot more emotional trauma and uncertainty happening inside.
Keep in mind that the rape did not happen in a vacuum. The woman has an entire life history preceding the rape, and the experience may bring to the forefront traumatic childhood memories or troubled relationships.
Listen to her and try to understand her as best you can. Remember, her feelings are her own. She may not be sharing everything that happened during the rape with you because it is too painful, embarrassing, or humiliating.
There are several books written by survivors that talk about their experience. Another book, Working With Available Light, was written by the husband of a rape victim.
These resources are indexed on our Recommended Reading page with direct links to Amazon for purchase. If you purchase through our site link, It Happened to Alexa Foundation will receive a percentage of the sale.
Don't try and rush her healing process. The experience is also traumatic for the support person, and you might feel compelled to suggest that she "put it behind her and move on." Don't do that. Support her as she finds her own way. She will deal with it on her own timeline and the bad memory will eventually fade further into the background.
Avoid expressing your own anger and rage about the rapist, about the rape, about the situation in front of her. Don't verbalize your "what ifs" and "should haves" around her. Don't repeat questions to her for the sake of your own understanding. There are simply some parts of the attack that you will never understand or that will never make sense to you because you weren't there. Accept that. If you continually try to understand these aspects of the assault, it will seem to her as if you don't believe that it happened, or you may make her question herself.
Your role is to provide strength. It's okay to express your hurt by sharing tears, but try not break down in front of her. It's taking all of her strength to be strong for herself. She can't be strong for you also.
A sexual assault wreaks havoc on a victim's psyche, and strains personal relationships. It is not unusual for friends to abandon the victim, as it raises uncomfortable issues for them, or for whatever reason they don't feel they can handle it. It can be a lonely time for the rape victim. Having a connection to family during this period can be a safe and stabilizing force.
Be supportive, be strong, but don't force her into any decisions, even simple ones. It's important for her to regain control, since she lost control during the rape. Listen, but do not judge. Reassure her that it was not her fault.
Do not express your own anger or rage. Be patient. Be calm. Be aware of your tone of voice. Make sure she is eating, sleeping and getting some form of exercise, even if it is only a walk in the backyard. Be reassuring. Listen without talking. You can't change what happened and you can't fix it.
Let her know it's okay to need and ask for help. She is not weak because of what happened. Reinforce her positive ideas and thoughts about her self-worth, strength, courage, survival skills, happiness, etc. Don't tell other family members that she was raped without her consent (i.e., don't take it upon yourself to tell the neighbors or other family members if she does not want to tell them). Be considerate of her privacy.
Get counseling for yourself, even if it is only one visit. You can't help support her if you aren't taking care of yourself. Friends and family members can contact their local rape crisis center for ideas about how to best support the rape victim. You can reach your local center by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline-1-800-656-HOPE. Press "1" at the main menu.
There's no single answer--every woman reacts differently. Do not assume that once the physical injuries have healed, the emotional trauma should be over as well. With regard to recovery, think in terms of years, not days, weeks or even months.
Even if the perpetrator is caught, the victim can still experience extreme fear and distress. The nights can be especially difficult due to insomnia and/or nightmares. Progress can be uneven. You'll see signs that she's taken a step forward, but it's not unusual to then take a few steps backwards.
In general, it is better for the victim to work through her feelings soon after the experience. Counseling with a trained professional can help focus that process. The criminal justice process can also factor into the victim's recovery. Don't expect closure just because the trial is over and a conviction is secured. The experience in court can bring back the rape more vividly, even if years have already passed and the victim has worked through her feelings prior to trial.
Some victims go into a sort of denial immediately after the assault. They believe that if they don't think or talk about it, it will simply go away. Not dealing with the issues can lead to years of symptoms such as relationship problems and self-destructive behavior (e.g. eating disorders, substance abuse). Usually what happens is that an event triggers the memory of the rape years later, bringing it to the surface. The trigger can be a life event (e.g. marriage, birth of a child) or even watching a TV show or movie about a rape.
You can't force her into counseling. You can suggest it and make the information available to her. Tell her you'll accompany her so it won't be as frightening. But let her reach out on her own timetable. The National Rape Hotline, operated by RAINN, is 1-800-656-HOPE. The RAINN hotline is free, confidential, and accessible 24-hours a day.
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico have established compensation programs to reimburse victims for crime-related expenses. Among the items victim comp programs generally cover are medical costs, mental health counseling, lost wages and relocation assistance. Each state has its own eligibility requirements. Some states require that a police report be filed in order for a victim to be eligible. To find out about resources in your state, go to Victims Comp State Contacts.