skip navigation

Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections

Pregnancy

  • The risk of pregnancy following a sexual assault is dependent upon the nature of the assault, time of the assault in relation to the menstrual cycle, current use of contraception, and individual factors relative to fertility and the assailant.
  • Choosing any post-assault forensic examination and/or treatment is a very personal matter, and as a health issue, should be seriously considered. Victims of sexual assault can receive information, counseling, and/or referral with regard to all options.
  • Emergency Contraception (EC) prevents an egg from being fertilized and/or implantation. EC will not affect a pre-existing pregnancy. It is equivalent to a large dose of birth control pills. Ideally, it should be taken within 72 hours of the sexual assault, and in some cases can be taken up to five days (120 hours) following an assault.
  • Emergency contraception, most commonly "Plan B", should be available as part of the forensic exam, and is a covered expense of the exam. Hospitals are required by law (RCW 70.41.350 & WAC 246-320-370) to provide EC to victims of sexual assault.
  • EC is also legally available without a prescription ("over-the-counter") from a pharmacist. For victims who choose not to have a forensic exam or seek other medical treatment, this is an option. Advocates should be aware that whether or not a victim discloses an assault in seeking EC, medical providers may offer up unhelpful or harmful judgments or statements when a victim seeks EC. Victims under the age of 18 will need a prescription.
  • Though emergency contraception is not abortion, some medical facilities and some pharmacists have attempted to refuse to provide certain treatment due to a moral stance.


Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI's)

  • While the first medical concerns may be directed at physical injuries and possible pregnancy, there is also concern about the possibility of STIs.
  • STI's are one of the most common kinds of infections in American today. Every year more than 10 million Americans get STIs passed primarily by sexual contact.
  • As part of the medical examination, the examiner may prescribe STI prophylaxis. Follow-up tests should be conducted for gonorrhea culture in 3 to 8 days and a test for syphilis in 6 to 8 weeks.
  • There is nothing a victim can do to prevent primary exposure to STIs. However, what might be termed "secondary prevention" can be practiced.
  • This includes self-examination for signs of possible infection, as well as going for screening tests at appropriate intervals and being faithful in following any prescribed treatment when diagnosed as having a STI. Lastly, it is important to make sure one has been cured by returning for follow-up after treatment.

HIV/AIDS

  • Sexual assault victims should not be tested for HIV during the forensic exam. An HIV/AIDS test at this time would only provide information on whether or not a victim already has HIV/AIDS, not if they contracted HIV from the assault.
  • Also, as someone who has just been sexually assaulted, this is most likely not the proper time to receive pre-test counseling for HIV, as it can be extremely emotional.
  • However, a healthcare provider can help you to assess immediate risks and whether HIV prophylaxis is warranted. Post exposure prophylaxis must be determined on an individual basis. Be aware that prophylactic medications for HIV are highly toxic, and the regimen is difficult.
  • High risk factors for contracting HIV include:
    • Anal rape
    • Vaginal rape when other STIs are present that would threaten the integrity of the vaginal muscosa
    • Vaginal rape with traumatic tearing injury
    • Known or suspected HIV positive offender
    • Known or suspected IV-drug use by the offender
    • Known or suspected bisexual activity of the offender

If you would like to get tested, there are two common methods of HIV testing:

  • Anonymous testing sites have no way of connecting a person's name and address with the test information. Those who present for testing are given a code, which has to be remembered in order to find out the test results.
  • Confidential testing sites record the names and addresses of those who are being tested. This information is then documented in the person's medical records. Even if the test is negative, the medical file will still state that an HIV test was performed. However, no one can give out patient results without permission, except as required by law.

If privacy is important to you, anonymous testing is strongly recommended over confidential testing.

Reviewed: December 6th, 2016