RAPE CRISIS SYNDROME
Rape crisis syndrome consists of the physical and emotional aftereffects of rape (forced sexual entry into the body). The genitals, rectum, mouth, and brain are involved. Rape crisis syndrome can affect both sexes, all ages, but is more common in females. Appropriate health care includes: doctor's treatment always -- regardless of whether there are physical injuries; surgery to repair any wounds; hospitalization (rare); psychotherapy or counseling to learn to cope with fear, sexual trauma, and unrealistic feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSCuts, bruises or other injuries, including vaginal and rectal tears.
Effects of exposure to the elements, if the attack occurred outdoors or in a remote place.
Fear, anger, crying, or unusual behavior such as hysterical laughter.
Unwarranted self-blame and guilt.
Depression and withdrawal, even from family and friends.
No outward signs (sometimes).
Rape is not a sexual act for pleasure. It is a show of power--often an act of violence--and an attempt to degrade or humiliate the victim. Some rapists have been victims of sexual abuse. Many know their victims--at least casually -- and their attacks may be planned, not impulsive.
Economically depressed areas; excess alcohol consumption or drug abuse by the potential rapist.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCEAt home:
Keep doors and windows locked.
Install security devices.
Instructions for your child away from home:
Avoid dark, quiet, or isolated places. Stay within sight of others.
Always lock your car.
Check the back seat of your car before getting in.
Take a self-defense course.
Carry a rape siren or whistle. Most authorities don't recommend that you carry a weapon. It might be taken away by the rapist and used on you.
If you are threatened with rape, remain calm. Panic may worsen the situation.
Sometimes a rapist can be stopped by unexpected behavior, such as asking for help with a task or mentioning that you have a disease such as herpes or AIDS--you can lie to a rapist. Try to speak in a calm, matter-of-fact manner.
Your own observation of your child's appearance and demeanor. Some rape victims are too traumatized to talk about what happened.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory studies, such as: cultures and blood tests for gonorrhea or other venereal disease; detailed examination of the child's body for evidence from the rapist, such as hair, sperm, or bits of clothing; X-rays, if fractures are suspected.
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSProlonged psychological trauma; pregnancy; venereal disease.
Your child's complete physical and psychological recovery is often possible with professional treatment.
HOME CAREInstructions for your child who has been raped:
Report the rape to police or a rape crisis center. If you don't, the rapist will probably attack others.
Call your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room. Many cities have rape-crisis teams to help you through the stress of the medical examination.
Don't bathe, douche, or change clothes before being examined.
Talk over your feelings with trusted friends and family. Suppressing your feelings increases distress.
MEDICATIONAntibiotics, if venereal infection is suspected or diagnosed.
Hormones to prevent pregnancy ("day-after pill").
Sedatives or tranquilizers for a short time to reduce anxiety.
Your doctor may prescribe:
Your child should resume normal life as quickly as possible.
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When crisis has passed and appetite has returned and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
You know or suspect your child has been raped.