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Obtaining medical treatment and support after rape

Even if you decide not to go to the police to report a rape or sexual assault, you would still be strongly advised to seek medical attention. As well as injuries which may require attention, you may also want information about emergency contraception or about sexually transmitted infections. This could be through the NHS though you are likely to be advised to go to a sexual assault referral centre, which will assist with immediate care and support.

Seeking medical assistance does not mean that the incident will be reported to the police; medical staff would only contact them with your full cooperation. However, if you do decide to report the matter to the police then you should inform the medical staff as they can arrange for forensic swabs to be taken which can be used as evidence. Victims can arrange to have the swabs taken and still decide not to go to the police.

The risk of pregnancy

Women faced with this position also have the awful realisation that there is a risk of pregnancy arising out of the attack. Therefore emergency contraception will be an option and there are two main methods; the morning after pill and the copper intrauterine device.

The morning after pill is a single tablet which needs to be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. It is only recommended for use up to 72 hours after the sex took place. After that time the chances of it working are drastically reduced.

The copper IUD can be fitted into the womb by a doctor or nurse within five days of the unprotected sex taking place or the earliest time you could have released an egg. This method has almost a 100% success rate as long as it is fitted within the specified timescale.

Checks for STIs should be done at the same time and these tests should take place even if you do not have any symptoms. They can take place at a sexual assault referral centre (SARC) or at an open sexual health clinic.

The SARCs have a crucial role to play for victims of rape or sexual assault. Their aim is to provide victims with everything they need from medical care to sexual health services. They do not generally offer specialised counselling but this can usually be found at Rape Crisis Centres. Most SARCs can offer medical services to anyone concerned including those not intending to report the matter to the police. They have the option of having samples stored for them while they decide whether to inform the police or not.