Sexual violence resident survival guide

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Sexual Violence Resident Survival Guide Microchapters

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Rinky Agnes Botleroo, M.B.B.S.

Synonyms and keywords:Approach to Sexual Violence; Approach to Physical Violence; Approach to Sexual Assault; Approach to Rape


Sexual violence is a public health concern as well as violation of human rights. It has many forms which include rape, sexual assault, sexual coercion, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, and sexual battery. It occurs without the consent of the victim or when the victim refuses or is unable to give a consent due to age, intoxication, illness or any other reasons. It is a common problem that may be seen in primary care. It is important for physicians to identify if a person has suffered from any type of sexual violence and take care of their safety. The evaluation and treatment of sexual assault victims are mostly limited to female and pediatric patients but a few of the guidelines are applicable to male victims as well. Though most of the post-examination follow-up guidelines focus on the factors affecting female victims, there are a few studies that focus on male and homosexual victims and factors affecting their treatment and follow-up.


Common Causes[1][2][3]

While it is hard to pinpoint medical causes for sexual violence, many risk factors have been associated with the aggressor:


Shown below is an algorithm summarizing the diagnosis of sexual violence.[4][5][6]

Patient with history of Sexual violence
Take complete history
Ask the following questions about the complaint
Ask details of the incident including :

❑ When did it happen? Tell me the date, time, and location.

❑ Is the location familiar to you?

❑ Can you provide any information about assailants (number, name if known, description)?

❑ Did they use any weapon or foreign objects?

❑ Did you get any threats recently?

❑ What was the type of sexual contact (vaginal, oral, rectal)

❑ Did they use a condom?

❑ Was there any extra-genital injuries sustained?

❑ Was there any occurrence of bleeding (patient or assailant)

❑ Did they ejaculate, if yes, where did they ejaculate?
Ask the following questions about activities of the patient after the sexual violence:

❑ Did you douche or take a bath?

❑ Did you use a tampon or sanitary napkin?

❑ Did you urinate or defecate?

❑ Is there any history of use of toothpaste, mouthwash, enemas, or drugs?

Ask the following questions about menstrual history if female patient:

❑ Last menstrual period

❑ Date of previous coitus and time

Contraceptive history for example oral contraceptives, intrauterine device
Do Physical examination
Physical examination and evidence collection:

❑ Look for general trauma or injury anywhere in the body.

❑ Examine the genital area to look for trauma to the perineum, hymen, vulva, vagina, cervix, or anus.

❑ Collect any foreign material for example stains, hair, dirt on the body.

❑ Perform examination with Wood’s lamp or colposcopy.

❑ Collect the victim's clothing for examination and check its condition, note if it is damaged, stained, or if there is any foreign material attached to any part of body.

❑ Collect hair samples, including loose hairs adhering to the patient or their clothing, semen-encrusted pubic hair,clipped scalp and pubic hairs of the patient. Try to collect at least 10 of each for comparison.

❑ Take semen from the cervix, vagina, rectum, mouth, and thighs.

❑ Take blood from the patient.

❑ Look for any dried samples of the assailant’s blood taken from the patient’s body and clothing.

❑ Collect urine, saliva, and smears of buccal mucosa.

❑ Collect fingernail clippings and scrapings.

Do the following investigations
Laboratory tests:

Acid phosphatase test :
To detect the presence of sperm. It is very helpful if the assailant had a vasectomy, has oligospermia, or used a condom, which may cause sperm to be absent. If the test cannot be done immediately, we should preserve the specimen in a freezer.

Saline suspension from the vagina:
To look for sperm motility. It is helpful if can be done immediately to spot the motile sperm

Semen analysis:
For sperm morphology and presence of A, B, or RH grouping substances

❑ Tests for STDs.

Blood typing

Urine testing, including drug screen for example drug screening for Flunitrazepam (the date rape drug) and gamma-hydroxybutyrate. Additionally, pregnancy tests should be done.

Order the follow-up tests:

❑ Tests for STDs at 6 weeks: Gonorrhea, Chlamydial infection, Human Papilloma virus infection (initially using a cervical sample from a Papanicolaou test), Syphilis, and Hepatitis

❑ At 12 weeks: HIV infection

❑ At 6 months: Syphilis, Hepatitis, and HIV infection


Shown below is an algorithm summarizing the treatment of sexual violence.[7][8]

Patient comes with history of sexual violence
Non-pharmacological treatment and psychologic support
Pharmacological treatment
Stress Inoculation Training (SIT)
Prolonged Exposure Therapy(PE)
Cognitive Processing Therapy(CPT)
Cognitive therapy
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Supportive Counselling
Medications for PTSD
Medications for prevention of infections
Contraceptives for unwanted pregnancy
Further care:

❑ Let the patient raise their questions and concerns.

❑ Reassure the patient that she/he did not deserve to be sexually assaulted and that the assault was not their fault.

❑ Teach patients how to properly take care of any injuries they have sustained.

❑ Explain how injuries heal and describe the signs and symptoms of wound infection.

❑ Teach proper hygiene techniques and explain its importance.

❑ Discuss the signs and symptoms of STI, including HIV, and the need to return for treatment if any signs and symptoms should occur.

❑ Discuss the need to use a condom during sexual intercourse until STI/HIV status has been determined.

❑ Explain the importance of completing the course of any medications given.

❑ Discuss the side effects of any medications given.

❑ Explain the need to refrain from sexual intercourse until all treatments or prophylaxis for STI have been completed and until their sexual partner has been treated for STI, if necessary.

❑ Explain rape trauma syndrome and the physical, psychological and behavioral responses that the patient can expect to experience to both the patient and family members and/or significant others (if patient gives permission to share). Encourage the patient to open up and take emotional support from a trusted friend or family member.

❑ Inform the patient of his/her legal rights and how to exercise those right.

Assess safety of the patient
Ask about safety:

❑ Ask if it is safe for the patient to return home.

❑ Make appropriate referrals for safe housing, or work with them to identify a safe place that they can go to.

❑ Discuss strategies that may help prevent another assault.

❑ If it is a case of domestic violence, ask if there is a gun at home.

❑ Ask if they are afraid of their partner.

❑ Screen for depression.

❑ Reassure and tell the patient that they can call or come to the health care facility at any time if they have any further questions, complications related to the assault, or other medical problems.
Follow up visits
Follow up visit at 2 week:

❑ Examine the injuries for proper healing and take pictures of the injuries if needed to document the healing process and for comparisons in court.

❑ Check whether the patient has completed the course of any medications given for STIs.

❑ Obtain cultures and draw blood to assess STI status, especially if prophylactic antibiotic were not given at the initial visit.

❑ Discuss results of any tests performed.

❑ Make follow-up appointments.

❑ Assess the patient’s emotional state and mental status, and encourage the patient to seek counselling if they have not yet done so.

Follow up at 3 months:

❑ Test for HIV. Make sure that pre and post-testing counseling is available or make the appropriate referral.

❑ Draw blood for syphilis testing if prophylactic antibiotics were not given previously.

❑ Discuss any results available

❑ Assess patient’s emotional state and mental status and encourage the patient to seek counselling if they have not yet done so.

Follow up visit at 6 months:

❑ Test for HIV. Make sure that pre and post-testing counseling is available or make an appropriate referral.

❑ Discuss results.

❑ Administer the third dose of the hepatitis B vaccine.

❑ Assess the patient’s emotional health and refer as necessary.


❑ Patients should be given both verbal and written referrals for support services such as
Rape crisis centers
•Shelters or safe houses
HIV/AIDS counseling
•Legal aid
•Victim-witness programs
•Support groups
•Financial assistance agencies

•Social service agencies

*Click here to read more about screening of depression.

Non-pharmacological treatment of Sexual violence:

Treatments for sexual assault victims include treatment of PTSD, fear, and anxiety, and/or depression

Stress Inoculation Training (SIT)

❑ It is used to treat the victim with elevated fear and anxiety and specific avoidance behaviors.

Psychoeducation to explain and normalize fear and avoidance behaviors.

❑ Exposure assignments to target rape-related phobias such as strange men, darkness.

❑ Training in behavioral and cognitive-behavioral coping strategies, specifically thought stopping, guided self-dialogue, muscle relaxation, controlled breathing, covert modeling, and role playing.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy

❑ It aims to decrease anxiety associated with rape memories, thus allowing victims to re-evaluate meanings associated with the memories and construct a more organized trauma story.


Breathing training.

❑ Development of a fear and avoidance hierarchy for in vivo exposures.

❑ Imaginal re-exposure to the assault by asking the victims to relive the rape scene and describe it aloud as they are imagining it, using present tense and vivid detail. This may be done several times during one session. The victim's retelling of their rape is audio-recorded and daily homework of listening to the account is assigned for further exposure.
Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

❑ Helps people with PTSD.

❑ Exposure occurs through writing assignments in which the victim describes their rape and its meaning and recites their trauma and writes about the impact of the trauma multiple times to incorporate new understandings and re-evaluations.

❑ Another part of the therapy focuses on the victim's beliefs about the meaning and implications of their trauma.

❑ Through cognitive restructuring worksheets, questioning and discussion one theme—safety, trust, control, esteem, or intimacy are gained in the final sessions.
Non-pharmacological treatment
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing

❑ Helpful in treating PTSD.

❑ A scene is used to create the entire rape trauma and the patent imagines the scene and recites words related to the scene, while the therapist moves her/his finger back and forth in front of her/him. The finger movement is hypothesized to facilitate the processing of the trauma memory through the dual attention required to attend to the therapist's finger (an external stimulus) and the trauma scene (an internal stimulus). After the patient's anxiety related to the scene exposure has decreased, patient rehearses a new, adaptive belief until the new belief feels real and true.

Cognitive therapy

❑ Patient's fear and anxiety is acknowledged and substituted with positive thoughts.
Supportive Counseling

❑ It shows significant pre-post improvement in PTSD, anxiety, and fear, and depression.

❑ Explain that counseling and social support will help to facilitate recovery.
•Listen carefully to the history of the event, ask about his/her concerns, and address them appropriately.
•Explain to him/her that he/she did not deserve to be sexually violated.
•Reinforce that the assault was not his/her fault.
•Stress that sexual violence is an issue of power and control

❑ It helps to decrease the isolation that victims often feel.
•It provides a supportive atmosphere.
•Victims are encouraged to share their experiences.

•It helps victims to establish their own support network.

Pharmacological treatment:

Empiric prophylaxis for STDs consists of[9][7]

First line pharmacotherapy[10]
Medication Recommended dosage Disease
Ceftriaxone Or 125 mg IM in a single dose Gonorrhea
Ciprofloxacin Or 500 mg orally in a single dose
Cefixime 400 mg orally in a single dose
Metronidazole 2 g orally in a single dose Trichomoniasis and bacterial vaginosis
Doxycycline 100 mg orally 2 times a day for 7 days
Chlamydial infection
Azithromycin 1 g orally once
Azithromycin+Metronidazole 2g both as a single dose Gonorrhea and Chlamydial infection
Benzathine penicillin G Or 2.4 million IU IM in a single dose Syphilis
Doxycycline Or 100 mg orally twice a day for 14 days
Tetracycline 500 mg orally 4 times a day for 14 days
Hepatitis B vaccination 0 and then 1 and 6 months after the first dose To prevent Hepatitis B if the patient is not vaccinated before
Combination of zidovudine (ZDV) 300 mg and lamivudine (3TC)[11][12]
  • 50 mg is given orally 2 times a day for 4 weeks in low-risk cases
  • If the risk is higher Protease Inhibitor is added
Prophylaxis for HIV infection is best if it is given < 4 hours after penetration and should not be given after > 72 hours

HIV prophylaxis is required in the following cases:


A single dose for progestin-only pills.

Two doses, 12 hours apart and within 72 hours of the assault for combined pills.

It is offered to all women with a negative pregnancy test.


  • Make sure the victim is not left alone.
  • Provide emotional support and reassure the victim that they are not at fault for what happened.
  • If the victim has been raped, a doctor will use a rape kit to collect hair, semen, clothing fibers, and other evidence of the attacker's identity.
  • Even if the victim is not sure they want to report about the violence, it is important to collect and preserve evidence so it can be accessed at a later date if required.
  • If the victim wishes to report about the violence, the staff of the hospital will call the police from the emergency room.
  • Victims should be treated for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Victims should be told about emergency birth control. It is important to receive birth control and treatment for STDs within 72 hours of the assault for maximum effectiveness. Although victims can get emergency contraception up to 5 days after, it will be less effective.


  • To preserve evidence, the victim should not take a bath, go to the bathroom, comb their hair, or change clothes until they have received a medical examination.
  • Do not clean up anything at the site of the assault.


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  2. 2.0 2.1 Maxwell, Christopher D.; Robinson, Amanda L.; Post, Lori A. (2003). "The Nature and Predictors of Sexual Victimization and Offending Among Adolescents". Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 32 (6): 465–477. doi:10.1023/A:1025942503285. ISSN 0047-2891.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ybarra, Michele L.; Mitchell, Kimberly J.; Hamburger, Merle; Diener-West, Marie; Leaf, Philip J. (2011). "X-rated material and perpetration of sexually aggressive behavior among children and adolescents: is there a link?". Aggressive Behavior. 37 (1): 1–18. doi:10.1002/ab.20367. ISSN 0096-140X.
  4. Basile, Kathleen C.; Smith, Sharon G.; Chen, Jieru; Zwald, Marissa (2020). "Chronic Diseases, Health Conditions, and Other Impacts Associated With Rape Victimization of U.S. Women". Journal of Interpersonal Violence: 088626051990033. doi:10.1177/0886260519900335. ISSN 0886-2605.
  5. Holmes MM, Resnick HS, Kilpatrick DG, Best CL (August 1996). "Rape-related pregnancy: estimates and descriptive characteristics from a national sample of women". Am J Obstet Gynecol. 175 (2): 320–4, discussion 324–5. doi:10.1016/s0002-9378(96)70141-2. PMID 8765248.
  6. "Medical Examination of the Rape Victim - Gynecology and Obstetrics - MSD Manual Professional Edition".
  7. 7.0 7.1 "" (PDF).
  8. Vickerman KA, Margolin G (July 2009). "Rape treatment outcome research: empirical findings and state of the literature". Clin Psychol Rev. 29 (5): 431–48. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2009.04.004. PMC 2773678. PMID 19442425.
  9. "Sexual Assault Infectious Disease Prophylaxis - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf".
  10. Saddichha S (April 2010). "Diagnosis and treatment of chronic insomnia". Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 13 (2): 94–102. doi:10.4103/0972-2327.64628. PMC 2924526. PMID 20814491.
  11. Meel BL (July 2005). "HIV/AIDS post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for victims of sexual assault in South Africa". Med Sci Law. 45 (3): 219–24. doi:10.1258/rsmmsl.45.3.219. PMID 16117282.
  12. Inciarte A, Leal L, Masfarre L, Gonzalez E, Diaz-Brito V, Lucero C, Garcia-Pindado J, León A, García F (January 2020). "Post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV infection in sexual assault victims". HIV Med. 21 (1): 43–52. doi:10.1111/hiv.12797. PMC 6916272 Check |pmc= value (help). PMID 31603619.

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