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 experiencing any form of sexual assault or abuse.

If you have more questions or concerns about seeking medical treatment for sexual assault, contact UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital Emergency Services at 412-641-4950, Pittsburgh Action Against Rape at (412) 431-5665, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4653.

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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 (ED).
  • 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 EDs at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, UPMC Mercy, and UPMC Hamot are staffed with sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) 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 still should seek emergency treatment following a sexual assault.

A SANE-trained nurse is available at all times at UPMC Magee, UPMC Mercy, and UPMC Hamot. The nurse collects evidence, does a detailed interview, takes forensic photos, documents injuries on a body map, and writes the victim’s narrative.

“What we’re doing is more than just a physical evidence collection,” said Janet Scholl, MSN, RN, CNL, CEN, SANE-A, senior clinician and forensic coordinator at UPMC Magee. “We are providing comprehensive care to the s. We’re addressing their psychosocial needs, we’re giving them medications to prevent any unwanted infections, we’re providing them with emergency contraception.”

The ED at UPMC Magee 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 also can 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. UPMC Magee calls in a victim’s advocate, Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, for all cases. The group provides counseling and legal advocacy.

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.

“We’re collecting evidence, but we’re doing it with a healing intention,” Scholl said. “The way that we approach the patient is all very patient-driven and very focused on trauma-informed care.”

Be sure to follow your discharge instructions, including getting further treatment or following up with your primary care doctor. UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital also advises women to schedule an appointment with the gynecology department.

In addition to physical injuries, sexual assault victims may experience emotional trauma. Pittsburgh Action Against Rape provides counseling services and support for sexual assault victims.