What should I do if I have been sexually assaulted or abused?
If you have been sexually assaulted or abused, you have many options.
You can choose to go to the hospital for medical care and/or complete an evidence collection kit.
You can choose to file a police report, either at the hospital or your local police department.
You can call our crisis hotline at (800) 334-2094 to speak with an advocate.
You can call a counselor or advocate to schedule an appointment to discuss your options and rights as a survivor.
What happens if I choose to go to the hospital?
- It is important to protect your health by obtaining medical assistance immediately after an assault. Medical providers will treat any injuries you have and give you antibiotics to prevent infection. For those who have had a gynecological exam in the past, the vaginal exam after an assault will be very similar to an annual exam. However, you may experience some discomfort due to the trauma of the assault.
- All emergency rooms must provide treatment for all survivors of sexual assault, regardless of age or gender identity.
- If you go to the ER, the hospital should call an advocate from our Rape Crisis Services Program. The advocate is there to answer any questions you have, and help you make informed decisions about your healthcare and reporting to the police. They are also there to provide emotional support and counseling.
- For individuals who have had a gynecological exam, seeing a doctor after an assault will feel similar to an annual visit to the gynecologist. The doctor will treat any injuries you have and give you antibiotics to prevent infection. For men, the doctors will check for injuries and provide appropriate treatment. All survivors, regardless of gender identity need to protect their health by obtaining medical assistance immediately after an attack.
- You will want to watch your health carefully over the next few months. Stress can cause or exacerbate illnesses, and often injuries or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) don't show up right away.
Do I have to do an evidence collection kit (sometimes referred to as a "rape kit")?
While in the ER, you have the option to complete an 'evidence collection kit.' This kit’s purpose is to gather as much evidence as possible about the crime committed against you. Hospital staff and our advocates will respect whether you want to complete a kit or if you only want to complete certain parts. Your advocate is there to help you through this process in any way you'd like them to. Ideally completed within days or weeks after an assault, the kit is used to collect physical samples of evidence the perpetrator may have left. You can choose how much or how little of the kit to complete, or whether to do it at all. If you think you might want to press charges against the person who hurt you, the kit is essential to the process of prosecuting them. Completing the kit does not mean that you have to press charges. It just means that the State's Attorney has a better case if a suspect is apprehended and the case goes to trial.
If you want to complete the evidence collection kit, it's a good idea to not shower or bathe, brush your teeth, or douche until after you see the doctor. Even though a shower may help you feel better, try to wait until after the evidence is collected. If you have showered, douched, bathed, or brushed your teeth, it does not mean you should not still complete a kit.
The nurse completing the kit will ask you for the clothes you were wearing during or after you were attacked. They may contain valuable evidence that can lead them to the perpetrator. You do not have to give up your clothing. Your advocate will ensure that you have clothing to wear after your emergency room visit. The nurse will ask to also take photographs of any bruises or scratches you might have. Often, rape survivors don't have other additional injuries; if you don't, they will still investigate the crime committed against you.
What if I am pregnant?
Within 120 hours of an assault (or any unprotected intercourse), a doctor can prescribe Emergency Contraception (EC). EC is a controlled dose of birth control pills that will prevent an egg from attaching to the uterine wall. Taking emergency contraception is not a method of abortion. It simply changes the environment of your uterus so that you will not become pregnant. If 120 hours have passed since the assault, it may be necessary to wait about two weeks and then take a pregnancy test. If you are pregnant, there are options available to you, and an advocate can help you explore those options.
What about HIV and other sexually transmitted infections?
It may feel that the perpetrator took everything from you, but you do have a voice, and you can make decisions about the future. Finding out about sexually transmitted infections is one way to get that control back. Some people think getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV can be frightening or embarrassing. But it is important for your health to know if you need additional medical care.
Testing for STIs should not be done at the ER, because it will not accurately portray your infection status resulting from the assault; it will show any STIs contracted before the assault. It is important to follow up with your doctor or the health department for continued testing and treatment following your emergency room visit. Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections, and many STIs and HIV are caused by viruses that aren't affected by antibiotics.
Will they draw blood?
Although the hospital will want to draw blood, you have the right to refuse any part of treatment. Blood tests will check for pregnancy and disease, and help the doctor figure out how to best treat you. Having your blood drawn might hurt a little and can be frightening, but it is important for your treatment as well as prosecution of the rapist.
What if I don't have insurance or I don't want my insurance to be billed?
You do not have to pay for the exam or evidence collection kit. What happened to you is not your fault, so it is not your financial responsibility. Illinois has a program set up through the departments of Public Aid and Public Health to cover emergency medical services for sexual assault survivors. This program, set up through The Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act (SASETA):
• Outlines what services the emergency must provide to you for your medical needs;
• Will cover your visit to the emergency room if you do not have insurance;
• May also cover bills if, for whatever reason, you don't want your (or your family's) insurance company to find out. The only provision is that you must go to an emergency room. The emergency room staff members are bound by confidentiality and cannot say whether or not you were assaulted; they must provide services to you just because you need them.
• Does not cover visits to a private physician's office, or to a school's student health services;
• Will pay for the initial visit to the ER, and another follow-up visit six weeks later;
• Also pays for any prescriptions if you obtain them in the ER;
• Provides that you will get a private waiting room and an advocate or counselor;
If you have problems with billing, an advocate can help you figure it out and help you talk with the insurance companies and SASETA.
What if I don't want my parents to know?
You decide whom to tell and when. Your advocate will support your decision and will never tell anyone about the assault. If you are a college student, your school insurance will most likely cover the cost of the medical exam and the evidence collection kit-your parents' insurance will not be billed. Your advocate can help you work with your school insurance to ensure your privacy is protected.
What do the police do at the hospital? Do I have to talk to them?
The police officer's role is to investigate the crime against you and take evidence (collected by hospital staff) to the crime lab to properly to aid prosecution of the perpetrator. Though the hospital is legally required to call the police, you do not have to speak with them.
If you wish to speak with the police, your advocate can talk with you about what it's like to report to the police, what they will ask, and what will happen next. The first time you meet with the police, they will ask basic questions about the attack so they can start an investigation.A detective will talk with you at some point, and ask more detailed questions. Some questions may be uncomfortable or seem too personal, but it is important for the police to know all the details of the assault. You can choose to start or stop the investigation at any time. It might not feel like it sometimes but you have complete control over the investigation.
If you are under 18 years old, and the person who hurt you was a parent, teacher, or someone taking care of you, other adults (such as advocates and nurses) who know the details of what happened are required to report it to the authorities. If you don't give your name or the perpetrator's name, it will not be reported. If you are a teenager who was sexually assaulted by a date, friend, or someone NOT in a caretaker position, or if you are an adult, nobody can make you report to the police or start an investigation. You make that decision for yourself.
Will the perpetrator be arrested?
Hopefully, yes they will. However, it may take a while. For most sexual assault cases, the perpetrator is not arrested until the investigation is complete and the State's Attorney has reviewed the case.This is frustrating, but waiting until the investigation is complete makes a stronger case in the end. Reporting the crime as soon as possible and completing an evidence collection kit will give the police more evidence, and increase the likelihood that he or she will be arrested.
I'm afraid the perpetrator will try to get back at me if I talk to the police.
That is a normal and a valid fear. It is important to share that fear with the police so that they can assist you and protect you. If you are afraid for your safety, talk to an advocate, your friends, family, neighbors, or coworkers about safety planning.
Is it still rape even though I didn't fight back?
Absolutely. In Illinois, consent is defined as ''a freely given agreement to the act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct in question. Lack of verbal or physical resistance or submission by the victim... shall not constitute consent'' (720 ILCS 5/12-17). This means that if you were too afraid to yell, or if you knew it would be safer to submit, it is still rape. You did what you needed to do to survive, and whatever you did to get through the attack was probably the right choice. Your intuition told you whether to try to fight back, comply, or just freeze to survive, and the law does not question your decision.
Was it my fault because I kissed him, went back to his place, dated him, was out late, wore a revealing dress, or got drunk?
NO. No matter what you did, where you went, what you wore, how often you dated him or her, or how much you drank, rape is NEVER, EVER your fault. No one deserves to be raped, and there is absolutely nothing you could have done to make it your fault. Illinois law recognizes that only one thing causes rape, and that is a rapist. Your assailant did not have permission to touch you. If you didn't consent to the sexual activity, it is rape, and it is not your fault.
To access any of the above services, please call the 24-hour hotline at:
(800) 334-2094 or (618) 529-2324