What to do if you have been harmed

If you've been abused, harmed, or assaulted, take immediate action to protect yourself. The following instructions from Women's Health Magazine lay out a step-by-step procedure for you to take to protect yourself moving forward.

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    Get to a safe place

    Call 911 if you can. The most important thing after a rape is your safety.

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    Don’t wash or clean your body

     If you shower, bathe, or wash after an assault, you might wash away important evidence. Don’t brush, comb, or clean any part of your body, including your teeth. Don’t change clothes, if possible. Don’t touch or change anything at the scene of the assault. That way, the local police will have physical evidence from the person who assaulted you.

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    Get medical care

    Call 911 or go to your nearest hospital emergency room. You need to be examined and treated for injuries. The doctor or nurse may give you medicine to prevent HIV and some other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy.

    The National Sexual Assault Hotline(link is external) at 800-656-HOPE (4673) can help you find a hospital with staff members who are trained to collect evidence of sexual assault. Ask for a sexual assault forensic examiner (SAFE) or a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE)(link is external). A doctor or nurse will use a rape kit to collect evidence. This might be fibers, hairs, saliva, semen, or clothing left behind by the attacker. You do not have to decide whether to press charges while at the hospital. You do not need to press charges in order to have evidence collected with a rape kit.

    If you think you were drugged, talk to the hospital staff about testing for date rape drugs, such as Rohypnol and GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid). Date rape drugs pass through the body quickly and may not be detectable by the time you get tested.

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    Reach out for help

    The hospital staff can connect you with the local rape crisis center. Staff there can help you make choices about reporting the sexual assault and getting help through counseling and support groups. You can also call a friend or family member you trust to call a crisis center or hotline for you. Crisis centers and hotlines have trained volunteers and other professionals (such as mental health professionals) who can help you find support and resources near you. One hotline is the National Sexual Assault Hotline(link is external) at 800-656-HOPE (4673). If you are in the military, you may also call the Department of Defense Safe Helpline(link is external) at 877-995-5247.

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    Report the sexual assault to the police

    If you want to report the assault to the police, hospital workers can help you contact the local police. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. If you want to report sexual assault that happened in the past, call your local police non-emergency number or make a report in person at the police station.

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    Talk to someone about reporting the assault to the police

    If you want to talk to someone first about reporting the assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline(link is external) at 800-656-HOPE (4673). An advocate or counselor can help you understand how to report the crime. Even though these calls are free, they may appear on your phone bill. If you think that the person who sexually assaulted you may check your phone bill, try to call from a friend’s phone or a public phone.

    If the person who assaulted you was a stranger, write down as many details as you can remember about the person and what happened. This will help you make a clear statement to police and medical providers about the sexual assault. With good information, they will be better able to help you and find the person who assaulted you.