Rape and sexual abuse can affect a survivor’s health in many different ways, and you may wish to consider seeking medical attention in the aftermath of an assault. We also have information available on mental health and emotional responses following sexual assault.
If you’ve been raped or assaulted, you might sustain physical injuries. These can include scrapes, cuts, bruises, broken bones, and concussion. It is also important to note, however, that at least 40% of people who are raped will not experience any physical injury, and if there was no physical force involved in the attack, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape or assault.
If you are injured you do not need to disclose why you are injured in order to seek medical help. You can seek help from your GP or by going to Accident and Emergency (A&E).
It is not necessary to tell any doctors and nurses you see what happened to you, but it may help them to treat you more effectively if you do.
It can be difficult to consider, but if you have been raped or sexually assaulted you may have contracted a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Some STIs might not show any symptoms, but can have serious implications for health.
You can go to your local family planning or sexual health/GUM clinic to be tested for STIs. You don’t have to tell them anything about what happened to you and you don’t have to give your real name. Many GUM clinics, including the Oxfordshire service, are confidential, which means they won’t share information about your visit with anyone – not even your GP.
The Oxfordshire sexual health clinics
The Oxford and Banbury Sexual Health Clinics are Genitourinary Medicine (GUM) Clinics offering a full range of sexual health services. Advice and treatment are free and confidential.
Services provided include:
- Information and advice on sexual health
- Testing for and treatment or management of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other genital problems
- Support and infection screening after sexual assault and rape
- Emergency contraception, up to 5 days after unprotected sex (or longer, in some circumstances)
The clinics are open access – anyone can walk in and get tested. You don’t have to live locally, or be referred by a GP.
What happens at the GUM clinic?
You will be asked to fill in a short form. It is perfectly acceptable to give a false name if you wish, and your records will be associated with a confidential number rather than the name you give. A doctor will take you to a private room and ask you some questions, including about your reasons for visiting the clinic, when you last had sex, and what kind of sex it was (e.g. oral, vaginal, anal). You may be embarrassed, upset, or nervous when answering these questions but the staff will all be highly trained and experienced in helping people who are worried about very personal or difficult problems. It is possible to request to be seen by staff of a particular gender if you prefer.
The doctor will discuss with you what tests they think you need, and explain these to you. You will then be taken to an examination room for the tests. These may include giving a urine sample, blood tests, and taking samples from the genitals, rectum or throat. A speculum may be used for vaginal swabs, and you will be asked to lie down and remove your lower clothing. The examiner will make you comfortable and explain what they are doing. Like the doctor, they will be very used to helping people relax and feel safe as much as possible.
Which tests you have affects when you will receive your results; some are on the same day, but most will be a week or 10 days after your visit. Results can be sent by text or given over the phone. If you need treatment, this will be arranged by the clinic. All tests and treatments are confidential and free of charge.
Visiting the GUM clinic can be a scary experience under any circumstances, but remember that you can share as much or as little about what has happened to you as you wish, and that the staff are there to help you, not judge you.
You can find more information about the Oxfordshire sexual health clinics on their website, including opening hours and where to find them: www.sexualhealthoxfordshire.nhs.uk
There’s more about STIs on the NHS choices website: www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Sexually-transmitted-infections
Why did I get an STI?
If you catch an STI as a result of your experience, it is because the person who raped or assaulted you has one. Contracting an STI can happen to anyone, and it has nothing to do with whether you’ve had sex before, or how many times, or with how many people. It is nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about and many STIs can be easily treated.
If you have been raped you may be at risk of becoming pregnant. There is no right or wrong way to feel in this situation.
If you think you may be at risk of becoming pregnant and you don’t want to be, several forms of emergency contraception are available. You can get emergency contraception from local family planning and sexual health clinics or your GP, and you can also buy the emergency contraceptive pill from chemists. Emergency contraception from your GP or a family planning/sexual health clinic will be free of charge, but the emergency contraceptive pill will usually cost around £25 from the chemist. Emergency contraception is more effective the earlier you can obtain it.
You may feel scared or embarrassed, but you do not have to give details about why exactly you are seeking it. You do not have to disclose that you have been raped if you do not want to.
Information about the Oxfordshire sexual health clinics: www.sexualhealthoxfordshire.nhs.uk.
Information about family planning clinics: www.fpa.org.uk/helpandadvice/findaclinic.
Decisions about pregnancy
Many women who become pregnant as a result of rape find it difficult to make choices about the pregnancy. If you are pregnant and finding it difficult to decide what to do, you can discuss this with someone at OSARCC who will listen to you and talk through your choices with you, without telling you what do to. The important thing is to do what feels right for you and for your situation – no-one can tell you what this is, but we are here to listen and support you as you make this decision.
If you decide not to continue with the pregnancy, you can either see your GP to be referred for a termination, or you can refer yourself. In the UK, most NHS services are provided by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), or Marie Stropes, depending on where you live. In Oxfordshire, BPAS provides NHS terminations.
It is an equally valid choice to continue with your pregnancy. This does not mean that what happened to you was not rape. Remember that it is your decision who you tell about the circumstances of your pregnancy. OSARCC can provide continuing support to you throughout your pregnancy and beyond.
Information about a range of sexual health and pregnancy issues can also be found on the Family Planning Association website: www.fpa.org.uk.