Helping Victims of Sexual Assault

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Sexual assault is another term used for rape which involves the victim being forced to carry out sexual acts. Women are common victims of sexual assault as at least 1 of 6 women is raped once in her lifetime and 1 of 33 men is raped once in his lifetime. Victims of rape are often physically and psychologically injured, therefore, prompt emotional and medical help is mandatory.

Important Disclaimer: this post on managing victims of sexual assault with first aid is for information purposes only. To learn to manage the wounds of victims of physical abuse enrol in workplace approved first aid training.

Risk factors

Common risk factors associated with sexual assault include:

  • Promiscuous partners
  • Alaskan native race
  • Native American Indian race
  • Violent spouse or sexual partner
  • Alcohol overdose or drug abuse in spouse or sexual partner
  • History of being a victim of rape, at least once
  • Sexual partner has a history of committing sexual assault or rape at least once

Signs and symptoms of sexual assault

The initially occurring types of symptoms of sexual assault include symptoms of physical injury and symptoms of psychological problems and disturbances which are followed by symptoms of sexually transmitted disease (if the sexually violent partner or rapist had it) and pregnancy.

Signs and symptoms of physical injury due to sexual assault may include any of the following problems:

  • Genital pain
  • Anal injury – anal pain, rectal bleeding, rectal foreign body
  • Vaginal injury – vaginal pain, vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding
  • Penis injury – penis pain, penis swelling
  • Scrotum injury – scrotum swelling, scrotum pain
  • Testicular injury – testicular pain, testicular swelling
  • Abdominal injury
  • Skin injury – laceration, abrasion, contusion
  • Chest injury
  • Arm and leg injury
  • Head injury

Signs and symptoms of psychological problems that may arise due to sexual assault include:

  • Anxiety and distress
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Feelings of fear – phobias
  • Depression – suicide attempts, persistent crying
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder


1. Make sure the victim is safe

  • Take the victim of sexual assault to a safe and secure zone
  • If you suspect that the assailant is still around and the victim may be in further danger, call the police immediately

Support the victim

  • Do not leave the victim alone as he or she may be having feelings of fear and distress
  • Call your local rapist center as they may be able to provide you with additional information which may help support the victim

2. Avoid cleaning up before medical personnel are present to investigate the condition

  • Make sure the victim does not go to the bathroom, take a bath, change clothes or comb his or her hair before being medically examined by a doctor. Additionally, you must make sure that the area of assault is not cleaned up as investigators may find proof of the assailant in the site of attack

3. Seek emergency medical help immediately

  • The doctor will administer a rape kit to gather and examine hair, clothing fibers, and other pieces of evidence that may indicate the assailant’s identity
  • If the victim does not want to report the case, get herself examined or is unsure of what to do, she may gather and preserve any evidence and provide it later, as it may help find out who the attacker was
  • If the victim does want to report the assault, the police will be called from the hospital

At the hospital, medical treatment will involve treating the injuries caused due to the assault. Additionally, the victim should request to be treated for STDs or sexually transmitted diseases and also ask about emergency birth control to prevent pregnancy. Make sure the victim receives birth control medication and STDs treatment within 3 days or 72 hours of assault to ensure optimum effectiveness.

Make sure you comfort the victim and tell her that she is not at fault regarding what happened.

Learn More

To learn how to manage and recognize wounds and other injuries enrol in workplace approved first aid classes (sign up here).

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