Chapter 9: If You Have Been Sexually Assaulted: How to Get Help

Gender-Based Violence

What to do:

Go to a safe place.

Get support and helpContact a family member, friend and/or local rape crisis center.

Call 1-800-656-HOPE to reach a local rape crisis center. (For further information see the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network website at Crisis centers can often send a counselor to accompany you during police and medical procedures if you wish. It is important to get as much support as possible during this time.

To report the crime, notify the police (call 911) as soon as possible (or have a friend do this for you) or visit a local emergency room and tell them you have been raped.

It is a difficult and personal decision to report rape. It is understandable if it feels like the last thing you want to do and ultimately it is up to you. But remember, reporting immediately is the best way to preserve evidence and build a strong case and can give you a sense of empowerment and control. Reporting can also prevent future rapes.

If you report, you should be aware that laws vary state to state and sometimes within states. In some places, for example, the district attorney’s office retains the right to prosecute even if you decide not to participate (although such actions are uncommon). We offer links below to find out more about the law in your community. Discuss the complexities of the law with a lawyer.

If you are sexually assaulted on your college campus, college officials may become involved. You may wish to utilize available resources on your campus, but you may also wish to report what happened to the police. Remember, colleges have no way to prosecute crimes and college bodies charged with dealing with sexual assault are often poorly prepared to do so effectively.

Preserve evidence of the crimeDo not shower, brush your teeth, wash your hands or eat, if possible. Save the clothing you were wearing. Place each piece in a separate paper bag. Do not disturb the area where the attack occurred.

Get medical attention, even if you don’t think you have physical injuries. Go to an emergency room and inform the staff that you have been raped. They will treat any injuries and discuss the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy, and how to deal with these. They will collect forensic evidence. If you suspect you have been given a “rape drug,” ask hospital staff to take a urine sample.

Write down everything you can remember. As soon as you are able, write down all details about the crime and your assailant that you remember. Even if days, months or years have passed since you were raped, you can still report to the police. Your report may help police collect new evidence that can result in prosecution. Statutes of limitations on sex-related crimes vary widely or there may be no limits. Even if the statute of limitations has expired, your report may be helpful to establish a pattern of behavior or identify a repeat offender.


RAPE LAWS VARY FROM STATE TO STATE. The RAINN website has a comprehensive state-by-state database of rape laws at

Further information about reporting rape is available here: