Being raped or sexually assaulted is a very distressing
experience with effects that can be long lasting.
Because the majority of rapes are reported to
be against women this leaflet is written from
the woman's perspective. However it is acknowledged
that male rape exists and the University Counselling
Service will offer support to all casualties of
rape. Therefore throughout this page advice and
suggestions are relevant to either gender.
Women who have suffered sexual attacks describe
- lacking self-confidence
Sometimes women have difficulty
with eating or sleeping. They may lack concentration
and find this makes academic work difficult. Every
woman reacts differently and it is not unusual
for feelings to change from day to day. In particular
there can be a long gap between the assault and
the emotional reaction. It can be difficult to
talk about the attack to friends or family yet
it is important to have understanding and support.
It can be helpful to talk to a trained person
in confidence - one of the University Counsellors,
or a local Rape Crisis Centre - listed in contacts.
Facts about Rape and Sexual Assault
The perpetrator of the rape may well be known
to the woman.
There is a myth that sexual violence is only carried
out by strangers. In fact the majority of offences
are committed by a man known to the woman. He
may be a friend, a partner, a workmate, a relative,
a neighbour or a person in authority.
Rape is not always accompanied by other physical
When a woman is sexually assaulted she may react
in various ways. Some women scream or fight back;
many become quiet - too shocked to speak or cry
out. Paralysed by fear, they may be unable to
resist. If violence is threatened some may take
the decision to struggle less in the hope of getting
away with the least amount of physical harm. Consequently,
they may or may not have torn clothes or signs
of struggle afterwards. Verbal intimidation, threats
or emotional blackmail may be used by the assailant.
Therefore a woman does not need to show physical
injuries to prove she has been assaulted.
Rape and sexual assault, whether by a stranger
or a friend, is never the woman's fault.
Rape and sexual assault is always more about the
use of force or power to humiliate, control, hurt
or violate a woman than about sexual desire or
passion. There is evidence to suggest that a very
large number of attacks are premeditated. The
appearance of the woman in terms of status, age,
cultural background, occupation, previous relationships
is irrelevant; any woman can suffer sexual assault
Coping with Rape and Sexual Assault
Women will react differently after sexual assault
or rape. It is important to trust and validate
your feelings and do what you need to do in order
to recover. This may entail telling a friend,
going to a place where you feel safe or having
a bath or shower or crying.
In order to cope with the trauma of the event
many women will just try to carry on as normal
and not tell anyone for a long time. However,
often distress can surface a considerable time
after the event. No matter how much later, a woman
can always seek help from counsellors, GPs etc.
Do not feel you have to cope on your own simply
because you did not report the incident soon after
Many women who have been raped or sexually assaulted
are concerned about their health. Hospitals and
GPs must see you on a confidential basis and not
report the assault to the police unless you request
You may decide to be tested for pregnancy and
sexually transmitted diseases. If you prefer not
to use your GP there are clinics which offer free
and confidential advice. The Genito-Urinary Clinic,
is situated at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital
- listed in contacts. Here testing is carried
out for sexually transmitted disease and HIV antibodies.
Women may have bruising and other injuries that
need immediate attention by visiting a Casualty
Department at a local hospital - listed in contacts.
Reporting to the Police
Sexual violence is a criminal offence and you
can, if you wish your perpetrator to be prosecuted,
report the crime to the police. It is your choice.
You can do this later if you wish but the reason
for reporting a sexual assault immediately is
so that forensic evidence can be taken. Evidence
will be collected by means of a medical examination
by a police surgeon - who will be a GP employed
part-time by the police.
If the attack was physically violent the police
forensic team may also wish to visit the scene
of the crime to collect more evidence.
When you go to the police station you can take
someone with you, such as a friend or professional
worker. You will be interviewed by an officer
who has had special training (this would usually
be a woman and you can specifically request this
if you wish).
Today the police are trained to use tact and sensitivity.
No one has the right to ask you to disclose any
personal details about your previous relationships
and sexual life.
If you have reported a sexual offence you have
the right to withdraw the complaint at any time.
The police may require clothing to be left for
forensic examination. The police station can provide
you with other clothing, but it is a good idea
to take a change of clothes with you.
If you are very traumatised after the assault
you may arrange another time for a statement to
be made. If English is not your first language
the police can arrange for an interpreter to be
present. The police officer will explain police
procedures to you and give you advice and information
of the next stages including the court process.
to The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic