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Rape and Sexual Assault

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What is sexual assault? What is rape?

Sexual assault is an act of physical, psychological and emotional violation, in the form of a sexual act, which is inflicted on someone without consent. It can involve forcing or manipulating someone to witness or participate in any sexual acts.

Rape is penetration (however slight) of the mouth, anus or vagina with an object or the penis without consent. Most often women are raped, but rape also happens to men.

Rape is never the fault of the victim. Rape is the fault of the perpetrator.

Not all rapes and not all sexual assaults are necessarily physically violent. Nevertheless, any act of sexual violence can affect someone’s life very deeply. In most cases, the person who was raped will be either emotionally manipulated, or threatened not to tell. Sexual violence is a vastly underreported crime. If you have been raped or assaulted, you deserve support.

Examples of sexual assault are:

⇒ Being made to look at pornography

⇒ Being touched in a sexual way. This can involve touching of breasts or genital areas.

⇒ Being verbally assaulted, with inappropriate comments of a sexual nature.

⇒ Attempted rape, as in attempted oral, anal or vaginal penetration

Who commits sexual assault or rape?

At Galway Rape Crisis Centre, our statistics show consistently that in over 90 percent of all cases reported to us, rapists are previously known to the woman or man assaulted. Perpetrators are often in a position of trust. Fathers, brothers, husbands, ex-partners, friends, acquaintances, employers, teachers and even clergy rape.

Medical Considerations Post-Assault

Medical care can be vital after an assault or rape.

Someone who has been assaulted may need immediate medical attention by a GP or casualty department, even if no symptoms or issues are obvious.

⇒ You might have physical symptoms such as cuts, infections, bruises etc. in affected areas.

⇒ You need to check for sexually transmitted diseases and the HIV virus, which can lead to AIDS.

⇒ You need to have a pregnancy test six weeks after your last period.

⇒ You might choose to take the morning after pill to avoid pregnancy. You can take the MAP within 72 hours of the rape.

If you call the Gardai, they will bring you to the newly established SATU unit, where this vital medical care will be provided. You can also self-refer to the SATU unit. The number for the SATU is 091 765751.

Availing the SATU or Gardai does not oblige you to report the rape. Gardai will take a basic statement, but you will have the right to decide later whether or not to go ahead with this. Clients will also receive emotional support and advocacy from a GRCC Support Worker whilst attending at the Unit. For more information, see GRCC Services.

Post-Assault Emotional Responses

Sexual assault and rape can be very upsetting. For the first few weeks to months after the assault you might find it impossible to sleep, eating may be a problem. You might not be able to concentrate and may suffer flashbacks of the attack. You can feel numb, may not believe what happened to you, or may feel extreme anxiety, fear and disorientation.

You may find it difficult to trust people, even the closest people around you, after an attack. It may have an impact on your self-esteem. Your sexuality can also be affected. In short, all areas of your life can be turned upside down.

These are normal reactions to trauma.

It is crucial to bear in mind that what happened to you was not your fault.

If you have been raped or assaulted, you deserve support. If you would like to talk to a counsellor at the GRCC, call 1800 355 355. For more information about counselling, see Counselling Info or GRCC Services.

These short term symptoms will gradually become less powerful. At that stage you may feel relieved and you may want to let go of your support. However, it is important to note, that rape and assault can have long-term effects on your life too. You are not alone in this process- the GRCC is here to support you.

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