If Your Child Is Raped
Rape — forced, unwanted sexual intercourse — can happen to males and females of any age. Rape is a sexual assault. It's not about love or sex. It's about power. A rapist uses actual or threatened force or violence to exert control over another person. Some rapists use drugs or alcohol to take away a person's ability to fight back.
Rape is a crime, no matter if the person committing the rape is a stranger, acquaintance, date, friend, or family member.
Someone who has been raped needs medical care, comfort, understanding, and support. Here's what to do if your daughter or son is the victim of a rape.
How to Tell
If your child is sexually assaulted, he or she might choose not to tell you. Preteens and teenagers often confide only in friends about deeply personal issues — and, unfortunately, something as serious as rape is no exception.
Also, laws in some states don't require parents to be notified if a teenager under age 18 has called a rape crisis center or visited a clinic for evaluation.
But even if your child doesn't confide in you, some signs can indicate that he or she is struggling emotionally — whether due to rape or something else — and needs your help. For example, your child might:
- act unusually irritable, moody, or cranky
- seem angry, frightened, or confused
- feel depressed, anxious, or nervous, especially about being alone
- withdraw from friends and family
- have trouble sleeping
- have changes in appetite
- be unable to concentrate in school or to participate in everyday activities
These may be signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or what's sometimes called rape trauma syndrome. If you see symptoms like these, reach out and let your daughter or son know that you're always available to listen, no matter what.
If your child still won't open up and you continue to suspect some kind of trauma or distress, seek a therapist's help to get to the root of the problem.
Seeking Medical Care
If you find out that your child is the victim of rape, it's important to seek help as soon as possible. Rapes fall into two categories: Acute rapes (happening within the last 72 hours) and non-acute rapes (happening more than 72 hours ago).
Acute rapes. If the rape happened within the last 72 hours (3 days), take your child to an emergency room immediately, call the police, or call a rape crisis hotline. Hotlines can offer guidance on what to do, including finding a hospital nearby that has a program set up specially to care for rape victims. The national sexual assault hotline at (800) 656-HOPE is one you can call. (You also can call the police to report the assault before going to the hospital, but know that doctors and nurses usually report sexual assaults to the authorities.)
At the hospital, your child will be checked for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) (also called sexually transmitted infections, or STIs) and internal injuries. Many medical facilities have people who are trained to care for someone whose been raped, such as a forensic nurse examiner (FNE) or sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE).
If possible, seek medical care before your child has changed clothes, showered, or douched. It can be hard not to clean up, of course — it's a natural human instinct to wash away all traces of a sexual assault. But being examined right away is the best way to ensure timely medical treatment and help with the collection of evidence.
In most states or cities, the window of time for gathering medical evidence for an acute rape is usually within the first 72 hours. But some jurisdictions have a longer threshold of time, such as up to 96 hours or even 2 weeks.
After getting appropriate medical care, notify the police if you haven't already. The police will take a report and document the incident, as well as collect any evidence.
Non-acute rapes. If the rape happened more than 72 hours (3 days) ago, call the police. You can also call a rape crisis hotline for counseling on next steps, including talking to the police and getting a medical evaluation. The police will want to take a report and document the incident, as well as collect any evidence. After that, your child should get a medical evaluation.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
Add your own comment
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- The Five Warning Signs of Asperger's Syndrome
- What Makes a School Effective?
- Child Development Theories
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Test Problems: Seven Reasons Why Standardized Tests Are Not Working
- Bullying in Schools
- A Teacher's Guide to Differentiating Instruction
- Steps in the IEP Process