To gain a more indepth understanding of your rights and these process click the button below.
Anytime a person experiences sexual assault it is possible that they may need medical or legal services. It can be hard to figure out what your needs are after you have experienced such a tragic situation. Medical needs may be immediate if the assault happened recently, a victim may need to seek medical attention immediately to make sure your body is ok and to collect forensic evidence. Legal decisions can happen later once a victim has had time to think about their decision and make sure it is the right one for them. To learn more about Medical Care, and When to Seek a Mental Professional click on the links or read below.
To Understand your Legal Rights, and to gain knowledge of how these Medical and Legal Rights can work together or be taken separately click the link or read below. If you decide to file a Civil Suit learn more about your options. For a great resource that will help you understand what you should do after being sexually assaulted click the Survival Booklet button to the left.
Medical Care & Legal Rights
If you have been a victim of sexual assault, your health and well being is very important. Medical care is a priority for victims of recent sexual assault. It should also be a consideration for victims who were sexually assaulted some time ago.
If you have been a victim of a recent sexual assault, you may need to get medical help right away and make sure that your body is okay. If you have been recently sexually assaulted, it may also be possible to collect some forensic evidence.
Medical care can be obtained from:
your local sexual assault service that can help you arrange appropriate medical care with a specially trained doctor.
a public hospital emergency department
a GP (doctor)
a sexual health clinic
a youth health service.
You don't have to tell a doctor the details of what happened to you, but the doctor will be able to advise you better if they know what happened. Your doctor can help follow-up on any concerns about any health risks such as risk of infection, pregnancy or injuries. If you have been sexually assaulted and are worried about unwanted pregnancy, you can request emergency contraception, called the morning after pill, from your doctor, over the counter at pharmacies or free from sexual assault services or sexual health clinics in your Area Health Service. To be effective, you must start taking it as soon as possible after the assault.
You may be worried that you have contracted a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as hepatitis B or HIV or that your attacker was from a high-risk group. It is important to discuss these concerns with your doctor as soon as possible after the assault. Even some time after an assault, getting a check-up with your doctor can be helpful, to discuss any health concerns you may have, such as not sleeping, feeling tearful or anxious, feeling sick or having difficulty getting through the day. Sexual assault is a traumatic experience, and these experiences and feelings are normal reactions to trauma. If these reactions are becoming a problem, or last for a long time, it is important talk to your doctor about this who can to refer to you to people who can help you.
It may also help to talk with someone about the impact of the sexual assault. Counselling is not about re-living the experience; it is about how you are going to cope with your feelings and reactions and how best you can manage them.
If you have reported the sexual assault to the police, you may be asked to undergo a Forensic Medical Examination, which is a special medical examination performed to collect any physical evidence which can be used if criminal charges are laid.
It is your choice to choose whether to have a Forensic medical examination, however it may assist in the investigation of your case.
WHEN TO SEEK OUT A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL
The pain of sexual assault is often described as an invisible wound. It is a violation of one’s inner self. The grief and sadness that a person feels after a sexual assault can be likened to the grief and pain a person feels when someone they care about dies. Feelings of betrayal and loss of trust and innocence can result in down days or feeling depressed. Symptoms of depression that should be addressed by a mental health professional include depressed feelings that linger, a continued loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy or poor concentration. These problems can become chronic or recurrent and lead to substantial impairments in an individual’s ability to take care of his or her everyday responsibilities.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while. But with time and taking care of yourself, such traumatic reactions usually get better. In some cases, though, the symptoms can get worse or last for months or even years. Sometimes they may completely shake up your life. In a case such as this, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder.
Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms typically start within three months of a traumatic event. In a small number of cases, though, PTSD symptoms may not appear until years after the event.
Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms are generally grouped into three types: intrusive memories, avoidance and numbing, and increased anxiety or emotional arousal (hyperarousal).
Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:
Flashbacks, or reliving the traumatic event for minutes or even days at a time
Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
Symptoms of avoidance and emotional numbing may include:
Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
Feeling emotionally numb
Avoiding activities you once enjoyed
Hopelessness about the future
Difficulty maintaining close relationships
Symptoms of anxiety and increased emotional arousal may include:
Irritability or anger
Overwhelming guilt or shame
Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much
Being easily startled or frightened
Hearing or seeing things that aren’t there
Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms can come and go. You may have more post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms when things are stressful in general, or when you run into reminders of what you went through. You may hear a report on the news about a rape and feel overcome by memories of your own assault.
When to See a Doctor
It’s normal to have a wide range of feelings and emotions after a traumatic event. You might experience fear and anxiety, a lack of focus, sadness, changes in how well you sleep or how much you eat, or crying spells that catch you off guard. You may have nightmares or be unable to stop thinking about the event. This doesn’t mean you have post-traumatic stress disorder.
But if you have these disturbing thoughts and feelings for more than a month, if they’re severe, or if you feel you’re having trouble getting your life back under control, talk to your health care professional or seek therapy at The Healing Place. Getting treatment as soon as possible can help prevent PTSD symptoms from getting worse.
In some cases, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may be so severe that you need emergency help, especially if you’re thinking about harming yourself or someone else. If this happens, call 911 or other emergency medical service, The Healing Place crisis line at (828) 692-3931, or ask a supportive family member or friend for help.
Understanding Your Legal Rights
You can choose whether or not to report the sexual assault to police. It is your decision.
The sooner you report the crime to the police then the more likely any evidence may be found.
To report a crime in an emergency phone 911 or contact your local police station.
In a non-emergency you can contact the local Sexual Assault Center.
If you are unsure whether to report it, you can talk to police without giving your name, or you can talk to someone in a support organisation such as R.A.I.N.N.
I want to report the sexual assault now
If the sexual assault happened recently:
contact police by phone or go to any police station as soon as possible.
police will take you to a private area, and a senior police officer will explain the process to you
police will allocate a detective who is specially trained to speak to victims of sexual assault, who will work with you
police will arrange for a support person to be with you, ensuring that you feel comfortable and safe with that support person.
police will arrange for urgent medical treatment, if required
police can arrange for the collection of evidence by specially trained doctors. Evidence is best collected within 72 hours of the sexual assault, but can be collected up to a week later. Evidence can be used if an offender is charged.
do not wash, eat or drink. If you change your clothes, do not wash them. Put them in a bag to give to the police.
tell the police immediately if you suspect you may have been drugged or had your drink spiked. The police will arrange for blood and urine tests. The sooner samples are taken, the better the chance of drugs or alcohol showing up. If you do pass urine, collect it and take it to the police.
take a change of clothes if you go to the police station immediately
Be aware that you can:
- ask to see a male or female police officer
- take a support person with you to the police station
- ask the police to organise an interpreter if required
- have an interpreter, if English is not your first language
- tell the police if you are worried about your safety.
if the child or young person is under the age of 18 years, it is illegal not to report.
you can still report the sexual assault regardless of whether you have had contact with the police before, or have outstanding warrants, are on bail or probation.
The police will take a statement from you about what happened and then carry out an investigation. If, later, you decide not to go ahead, whilst your wishes may be taken into account, the police may continue with their investigation.
Alternatively, you can complete the Sexual Asault Reporting Option questionnaire where vital information on the assault is provided to police without the matter being formally investigated. For more information see the Adult Sexual Assault page on the NSW Police Force website.
Can I Report it Later?
If you're not sure and you think you might want to report it later, then:
if you are considering having a forensic medical examination do not wash, eat or drink until you have contact with the sexual assault service to arrange one. The forensic medical examination is an important part of the investigation.
remove your clothes and put them in a paper bag. Do not wash them. Your local Sexual Assault Service can arrange for specially trained doctors to collect evidence for possible future handing to police (only with your permission). The evidence is held in a locked room until you have decided whether you want to report the assault to police.
You can contact the nearest Sexual Assault Service to discuss your situation and options.
You might choose to report the sexual assault for the following reasons:
what happened to you is a crime
to stop the offender from harming you again or harming someone else
to regain a sense of control by seeing the offender held to account for their actions.
I am under 18 years and have been sexually abused or assaulted
You have the same options as adults.
However, you may want to tell a parent, or friend, or someone you trust, who can support you.
For children and young people under the age of 18 years, a report will also need to be made to Child Services.
Gathering Forensic Medical Evidence
A forensic examination is a medical examination that can only be conducted by specially trained doctors. Its purpose is to collect any physical evidence and specimens that may be used as evidence if criminal charges are laid. This is done best within 72 hours of the sexual assault, but can be done up to a week after. The forensic medical examination is an important part of the investigation.
I was sexually assaulted a long time ago
Many people have experienced sexual assault a long time ago. Some people who have experienced sexual assault have not discussed their experience with anyone but still think about the sexual assault and are affected by it.
Just because the sexual assault happened more than a week ago, or many years ago, doesn't mean that you can't do anything about it. You can still report it.
Remember, you have a range of options for medical and legal action.
Options for reporting and medical care
You can choose to report right away. The police will need to gather evidence of the assault, which will include a forensic medical examination. They can support you to access medical care. Police can help with protection/ safety needs. They can also support you to make a statement but you don't have to do this right away if you're not feeling up to it. Where possible a full forensic exam is most effective within 72 hours of the assault or within one week. If you want to report to the police, you can call 911 or contact your nearest police station. You can ask to speak to a female officer
Report to police, access medical care and request no further legal action
You can choose to report to police and access medical care and forensic medical examination, but withdraw your complaint at a later time if you feel unable to proceed. Where possible a full forensic exam is most effective within 72 hours of the assault or within one week. If you want to report to the police, you can call 911 or contact your nearest police station. You can ask to speak to a female officer. Police can also help with protection/safety needs.
Access medical care and forensic exam if undecided about whether to report
You can keep your options open by having a forensic medical examination and asking that the Sexual Assault Service store the evidence (for up to three months) while you decide if you want to proceed with legal action.
Where possible a full forensic exam is most effective within 72 hours of the assault or within one week.
You can contact your nearest Sexual Assault Service or go to your nearest hospital or emergency department.
Access medical care and not report assault to police
You can choose not to report to police but still get a medical check done.
Medical care can involve dealing with the physical and psychological impact of the assault, as well as any concerns about pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. Please note that morning after pills are most effective taken within 72 hours of the assault. You can contact your nearest Sexual Assault Service or go to your nearest hospital or emergency department.
You could also see a general practitioner/ doctor if you don't want a full forensic exam. Women's Health Centres, Sexual Health Centres and Family Planning Clinics can also offer medical support/ follow up.
No medical care or reporting
You can choose not to report to police or get a medical check done. This option does not include medical support or legal action.
If you have decided to pursue legal actions, it is suggested that you talk to an attorney that has experience in this field. There are several attorneys with this type of experience. Farmer Jaffe Weissing is a law firm that is qualified to help victims of sexual assault, however it is one of many. Contact this firm or check for firms in your local area that may be able to assist you.
Farmer Jaffe Weissing – Crime Victims Advocate
Help and Resources for Crime Victims
Have you been the victim of a violent sex crime or sexual abuse? If so, the attorneys at Farmer, Jaffe, Weissing, Edwards, Fistos & Lehrman, P.L., want to help you.
Help and Resources for Crime Victims
As a former prosecutor and dedicated victim's rights advocate, Farmer Jaffe Weissing attorney, Brad Edwards, understands the criminal and civil justice systems and the impact each can have on crime victims. He has dedicated his career to helping crime victims by protecting their rights in court. Mr. Edwards represents victims of violent or sexual crimes in civil lawsuits which focus on holding the assailant accountable for harm that they cause to victims. Mr. Edwards also provides countless hours of his time talking to individuals who have been victims of violent or sexual crimes and helping them through the many issues that crime victims encounter such as:
Options for payment of emergency and medical expenses
An understanding of the police investigation or criminal justice system
Options for pursuing civil justice for the crime committed
Your Rights as a Victim of a Violent Crime
Many crime victims unfortunately have no viable civil action available to recover for the damages they suffered. On the other hand, where there is a viable civil action available, Mr. Edwards has proven effective pursuing those actions and fighting for his client's rights. Attorneys regularly refer crime victims to Mr. Edwards for representation in sex crimes, sexual abuse, sexual battery, violent crimes and other appropriate civil lawsuits.
Free Legal Consultation
Our consultations with sex abuse and crime victims are free and confidential, whether you decide to pursue a case or not. To learn about your rights, or just to talk, call us today.Or to learn about you we advocate for other victims of crimes, click here.
If you need legal representation click the link to find out more information: http://www.abuseandassault.com/Abuse_Victims_Advocate