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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Special Topics > Rape
      Category : Health Centers > Abuse and Violence


Alternate Names : Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault

Rape is the physical act of attacking another person and forcing that person to have sex. It is the illegal sexual penetration of any body opening. Rape can happen to men, women, and children. It is often violent, although sometimes the threat is only implied. Rape can also occur without the victim knowing about it. This can happen if the victim is unconscious, intoxicated, or high on drugs.

Male rapists usually have an extreme hatred for women. They may feel inadequate and have problems with sexual performance. At least half the time, the rapist knows the victim and works or lives near the victim. Most rapes are planned ahead of time by the attacker. More than half of sexual assaults involve a weapon.

What is the information for this topic?

Following are some safety measures to help prevent rape when you are at home or in your car:

  • Don't let a stranger into the house without proper identification.
  • Don't list a first name on a mailbox or in a phone book.
  • Have the key ready before reaching the door of a car or house.
  • Keep a light on at all entrances.
  • Keep doors and windows locked.
  • Look in the car before entering.
  • Make arrangements with a neighbor for assistance in emergency situations.
  • Set the house lights to go on and off with a timer.
  • Other safety measures you can take to help prevent rape are as follows:

  • Appear strong and confident.
  • Avoid isolated and secluded areas.
  • Don't hitchhike.
  • Don't walk or jog alone at night.
  • Look for unusual behavior in those around you.
  • Scream loudly if attacked.
  • Sit in lighted areas and near other people such as the driver when using public transportation.
  • When someone has been raped, the rape should immediately be reported to the police. The victim should be taken to a medical facility and examined. The person should not bathe before this examination, as evidence might be destroyed. Additionally, clothing or samples of clothing might be collected by the police as evidence.

    During this exam, a healthcare provider will take the following steps:

  • check for bruises, bite marks, and other trauma
  • remove pubic hair samples
  • take swabs from the anus and mouth
  • take swabs from the vaginal area if the victim is a female
  • test for pregnancy if the victim is a female, and provide emergency contraception as needed
  • test for sexually transmitted diseases and provide treatment as needed
  • The provider will treat all cuts and wounds. But often the emotional wounds are more severe than the physical wounds. It is very important that the victim get counseling and therapy. A local rape crisis center can help the victim through this trauma.

    Recovery from rape varies from person to person. Usually the physical wounds heal quickly. Mental wounds can last for many years after the attack. A rape victim may be viewed as suffering a posttraumatic stress disorder. This usually has an acute phase, lasting a few days to a few weeks, which is followed by a long-term process of recovery. Many rape victims suffer from the following:

  • anger
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • fear
  • flashbacks
  • mood swings
  • shock
  • sleep disorders
  • If the person doesn't receive effective treatment, he or she may experience these difficulties:

  • alcohol abuse
  • drug abuse
  • inability to establish long-term relationships
  • phobias
  • problems with sex
  • suicidal thoughts
  • Rape victims can go on to lead normal lives. But it's very important to their mental health that they get proper counseling. Healthcare providers can help the victim work through many of the problems that result from rape. They help monitor the victim's healing, both physically and mentally.

    Author: James Broomfield, MD
    Reviewer: Barbara Mallari, RN, BSN, PHN
    Date Reviewed: 06/07/01

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