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Rape and Sexual Assault

Initial Reactions

No two victims react to sexual assault in exactly the same way. Feelings can range from anger, frustration, fear, shame and guilt to numbness. These are all normal feelings.

Demands placed on you to make important medical and legal decisions, only a short time after the crime, may intensify these feelings.

Even the most well-meaning, supportive family and friends may not comprehend the situation or your emotional state right away.

While family, friends and even you may wish to review the crime to determine how it might have been prevented-this can be an unnecessary and painful experience. Remember, it you are alive, you did something right! Rape can and does happen to anyone.

Medical Attention

Whether or not you wish to report the crime to the police, it is very important that you seek medical attention immediately. Sexual assault victims can sustain internal injuries which may not be visible or painful for some time.
Initial Medical Examination

Depending on the type of attack you experience, a pelvic examination may be necessary to check for injury and to confirm penetration. This examination is held in a private room in the Emergency Department of the Governor Juan Francisco Luis Hospital.

You will be allowed to have a relative or an Advocate for Women in Crisis with you during the examination as long as she/he does not interfere with medical procedures.

A medical examination at the hospital is performed by a physician and includes the following:

  • Emergency treatment of your injuries. Depending upon the type of injury, you may require follow-up care by a private physician.
  • A blood test and vaginal fluid smear will be taken to see if you had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) prior to the attack. Medical personnel will take a blood sample to determine pre-assault pregnancy. Pregnancy from the attack cannot be detected at this time.

Supplemental Medical Attention

Neither pregnancy nor STD resulting from the assault will be detectable at the time of your initial medical examination. You will need to visit a private physician or health clinic for the following tests:

  • A week after the assault, you should have a vaginal smear (sample of vagina fluid lifted on a cotton swab) taken to test for gonorrhea.
  • Six weeks after the assault, a blood test should be taken for syphilis. This test is called an RPR.
  • If you miss your next menstrual period, you need to wait two weeks, then go for a pregnancy test. A urine or blood test may be given.

Many women have no symptoms when they develop an infection. Untreated, gonorrhea, syphilis, or chlamydia can spread up the reproductive tract and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can lead to serious complications, including infertility. Follow-up examinations are essential to insure adequate treatment.

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Choices You Need To Make

  • Antibiotics can be given to prevent bacterial infections which may have been passed on to you by your assailant. If you wish to be treated, you should ask the physician to prescribe medication to prevent gonorrhea and syphilis, as well as chlamydia, the most common STD.
  • In order to prevent pregnancy from the assailant, there is the option of taking the “Morning After Pill.” Up to 72 hours following your assault, and preferably less than 24, you may choose to take the Morning After Pill. The Morning After Pill treatment actually consists of four pills, two taken initially and two more taken twelve hours after the initial dosage. This is not a form of contraception. Each of the pills contains a high dosage of the synthetic hormones estrogen and/or progesterone. The pills prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus. Some women may experience side effects including headache, nausea and vomiting. More serious side effects may occur, and those women who are advised against using birth control pills are advised not to use the morning after pill.
  • Some physicians recommend a drug called Diethylstilbestrol (DES), or another pregnancy preventing drug. This drug prevents pregnancy if you begin taking it within 48 hours after the rape and continue the medication for the next 5 days. DES has potential side effects, the most common being cramps and vomiting. Ask the doctor what you can expect when taking the drug, so you can decide if it makes sense to you.
  • There is a REMOTE possibility that your assailant could have been infected with HIV, the virus which causes AIDS. While this is highly unlikely, you may wish to be tested for HIV. If so, the test should be taken 3 months after the assault and repeated again at 6 months if negative.
  • Testing is confidential, but not anonymous. You should be prepared to give a false name as well as any other information requested until test results are available. You will need to decide about utilizing safer sex techniques to prevent the possible transmission of any STD that may have been passed on to you, including HIV infection.

Follow-Up Contacts

The results of the tests taken during the medical exam are available at the STD Clinic. Please call for an appointment.

  • For follow-up pregnancy tests contact the GYN Clinic on the 2nd Floor of the Governor Juan F. Luis Hopsital. Telephone: 778-6311.

If you develop symptoms of an infection, such as vaginal discharge, burning on urination, abdominal pain, fever, genital sores or warts, please contact your private physician, the GYN Clinic, or the STD Clinic at the Hospital for examination and treatment.

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Evidence Collection At the Medical Medical Examination

As an extended part of the medical examination, an Evidence Collection Kit will be used to make sure that the evidence needed to build a strong court case is found and preserved in the correct way.
Medical Procedures

In order to collect evidence of the assault and gain information about the assailant, the medical staff will perform the following procedures:

  • The medical doctor will make note of any internal or external signs of injury. A color-photograph of injuries may be taken as evidence. The doctor will collect evidence to show force and/or penetration. She/he will also take vaginal fluid samples to determine presence of sperm cells. Anal and/or oral fluid samples may be needed, depending on the type of assault.
  • The doctor will comb your head and pubic hairs to remove the loose hairs and fibers. Pulled head and pubic hairs are also needed.
  • You will be asked to provide a saliva sample. This is done by saturating filter paper.
  • A blood sample will be taken to determine your blood type.
  • The doctor will clip or scrape under your finger nails to collect any assailant tissue or blood. If you scratched the assailant during the assault, this tissue or blood may help to identify him later.
  • Your clothing and underwear will be collected and bagged individually. It is hoped that evidence pointing to the identity of the assailant can be obtained from your clothing.

Police Interview–A Detailed Account

At some time before or after the physical examination, a police detective will ask you to give a detailed account of the assault – which he/she will write down. If you wish, the WCSC volunteer may accompany you during this interview.

The interview is an important step in the investigation of sexual assault cases, because the victim is usually the only witness to the crime. If some of the detective’s questions seem confusing, trivial, or embarrassing, remember that the purpose of the in-depth interview is to prepare the best possible case for trial. Most officers are sensitive to your state of mind and will repeat questions, explain questions you do not understand, and proceed at a pace which is comfortable for you.

You may find this experience difficult, but your cooperation in responding fully to these questions is essential to the investigation.

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The Women's Coalition of St. Croix
P.O. Box 222734
Christiansted, VI 00822-2734

Telephone: (340) 773-9272
Facsimile: (340) 773-9062

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