Learn how you can receive care after sexual assault

If you’re a victim of sexual assault or abuse, first, remember that you are not at fault. Then, know that health care professionals are ready to help you navigate this trauma. It is critical to seek medical care immediately after experience any form of sexual assault or abuse.

If you have more questions or concerns about seeking medical treatment for sexual assault, contact Magee-Womens Hospital Emergency Services at 412-641-4950, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4653.

What to Do After Sexual Assault

Sexual assault occurs when someone is forced into any type of sexual activity without their consent. If you or someone close to you experience sexual assault, it is important to receive timely treatment.

  • In the hours after the assault, call 911 if you are still in danger or need emergency medical attention.
  • Do not change your clothes, take a shower, or brush your teeth after an assault. Avoid eating or drinking before you seek help. If you do change your clothing, bring everything with you to the emergency department.
  • For support, contact a trusted friend or family member.
  • Find a local hospital or clinic. If necessary, hospital staff may perform a forensic examination and/or evidence collection. The emergency department at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital is staffed with sexual assault nurse examiners who have been trained to care for sexual assault victims.

Why Should You Go to a Hospital After Sexual Assault?

Although you may not appear to have physical injuries, you should still seek emergency treatment following a sexual assault.

The emergency department at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has a private room designated for victims of sexual assault. Staff members are trained to collect evidence and provide medicine to prevent infections or sexually transmitted diseases. You can also receive a more in-depth evaluation to determine if you have any internal injuries.

In additional to treating any physical injuries, a hospital can connect you with counselors and other options for continuing care.

Treatment for the Effects of Sexual Assault

When you arrive at the hospital, you will speak to a doctor or nurse. Provide as much detail about the incident as possible so they can determine the proper treatment.

Your care team will treat any immediate injuries. With your permission, they will perform an exam that includes:

  • Documentation of any injuries, cuts, or bruises from the assault.
  • Testing and treatment to prevent infection.
  • Collection of samples, such as fingernail and saliva swabbing as part of an evidence kit.

A nurse may ask to photograph your injuries for evidence. If you feel uncomfortable at any point during the examination, let your nurse or doctor know. You may wish to have someone with you for support during the process, and you have the right to decline any part of the exam.

Be sure to follow your discharge instructions, including getting further treatment or following up with your primary care doctor.

You may also want to consider seeing a counselor or therapist, as many people experience emotional trauma from sexual assault.