Date Rape: What to Do Afterwards

I was date raped not long ago, and have just seen my OB/GYN for cultures and tests. When I go back for a follow-up HIV test in six months, should I expect other tests such as a Pap smear, too?

After a woman is raped and seeks medical attention, she receives a full physical examination in order to collect legal evidence and check for trauma not only in her genital region but also throughout the rest of her body.

The doctor or nurse will check to see if she had contracted any sexually transmitted diseases from the rapist, and she may be offered medication to ward off or treat any potential STDs. Because HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and hepatitis B can take time to appear, however, it is standard procedure to follow up with more testing. Typically this is done 4 weeks after the assault. This is with the exception of an HIV test--which is done 6 months later. A pregnancy test can be repeated 10-14 days after a missed period after the rape. Any injuries will have follow-up according to the type and severity of the injury. In any case, the patient is usually seen again at 2, 3, 4, and 6 weeks after the assault for psychological and medical re-evaluation.

Pap smears are not part of rape testing because they serve a different purpose. In a Pap smear, a woman's cervix is gently scraped or swabbed in order to collect cells. These cells are then screened and checked for abnormalities, which may indicate that the cervical cells are cancerous or have the potential to become cancerous. While Pap smears are an important part of a gynecological exam, they would not be helpful in a rape case, either in terms of evidence or for the woman's long-term health after the attack.

What is important is that women who have been raped seek help after the attack. Regardless of whether or not she knows her victim, a woman often feels much more vulnerable and unsafe. In cases where she is acquainted with her attacker, she may have the additional difficulty of coming to accept that she is not at fault for what happened to her. Women very often feel as though they are somehow responsible for being raped, as if they had invited the attack. These feelings need to be worked through so that a woman may become whole again.

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