Hesperian Health Guides

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Health Problems of Rape

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HealthWiki > Where Women Have No Doctor > Chapter 19: Rape and Sexual Assault > Health Problems of Rape


Contents

Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be prevented if you act quickly and use emergency family planning. You must use it as soon as possible, but no later than 5 days after the rape.

IMPORTANT! In some countries, abortion is safe and legal if a girl or woman has been raped. Ask a health worker or women’s organization if this is true in your country.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

STIs are passed more easily with violent sex because the skin in the vagina is often torn. If the man who raped you had an STI, he may have passed it to you. Since you cannot know if he was infected, you should be treated so you can avoid getting an infection and passing it on to others. Take medicines for gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia, and watch for signs of other STIs. Take the medicines whether or not you think you were infected.

It is now possible in some places to get medicines to lower the risk of HIV infection after rape, but this has to be done within 72 hours.

You should also try to have an HIV test. In areas where HIV infection is widespread, it may be best to take medicines to prevent HIV transmission within 24 to 72 hours after the attack. See a health worker experienced with ART to find out what medicines are recommended in your area. The medicines must be taken for 28 days.

Tears and cuts

Sometimes rape damages the genitals by causing tears and cuts. These usually cause pain, but will go away in time. If there is a lot of bleeding, you may need to see a health worker trained to stitch tears. For small cuts and tears:

a woman sitting in a basin with her feet on the ground
More Information
wounds and sores
  • Soak your genitals 3 times each day in warm water that has been boiled and cooled. Putting chamomile leaves in the boiling water can help soothe the tears and help with healing. Or you can put gel from an aloe plant on the tears.
  • Pour water over your genitals while passing urine so that it will not burn. Drinking a lot of liquid makes the urine weaker so it will burn less.
  • Watch for signs of infection: heat, yellow liquid (pus) from the torn area, a bad smell, and pain that gets worse.
  • After violent sex it is also common for women to have a bladder or kidney infection.

Sexual relations after rape

a woman speaking to a man in a bedroom
I'm sorry, I don't feel ready yet.

You can have normal sexual relations again after rape. You will need to wait until your genitals no longer hurt and any tears have healed. For many women, having sex makes them think about the rape. If this happens to you, talk with your partner about why you need to wait.

Sometimes a woman’s partner may reject her after she has been raped. He may feel ashamed or act as though he is angry with her. This can be very hard for a woman who is already dealing with many difficult feelings.

Overcoming feelings about the rape

The rape may still bother you long after your body has healed. Here are some common reactions:

a woman having several different thoughts
If nobody else knows, maybe I can forget what happened.
What did I do wrong?
It happened so long ago... Why can't I just forget about it?
How DARE he have done that to me!

It may take a long time before you feel better, but talking with someone you trust, or who has also survived rape, can help you to heal.

It is important for a woman who has been raped to talk to someone or to do something to help herself feel better after the rape — every woman needs to find her own way to heal. For some women, this can mean performing a ritual. For others it means trying to punish the rapist, or working to prevent other women from being raped. Whatever you do, be patient with yourself and ask others to be patient, too.

This page was updated:11 Sep 2017
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