Treating survivors of rape and sexual assault

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Sexual assault, which can be of many forms, includingrape can have long-lasting emotional, physical, and social effects on survivors. It is a violation of a person's human rights. Health care workers are often a first point of contact for survivors of sexual assault and rape, and it is the responsibility of the health care worker to provide both emotional support and first aid, as well as collect evidence for the prosecution of perpetrators.


Initial Examination


The setting for the initial examination of a rape survivor should be a quiet, private place with sufficient lighting and a comfortable bed. The examination itself should be carried out in a non-threatening manner. Any medical doctor can conduct the examination. A female doctor is preferable, but if one is not available, a male doctor should conduct the examination with presence of a female chaperone. If the rape survivor is a minor, a parent, guardian or other trusted person should be in the room during the examination. The examination should be conducted without delay, because evidence is lost with time. The law currently states that a sexual assault survivor does not require an FIR from police to receive a rape examination, and any medical institution which the survivor approaches (whether public or private) is required to perform treatment as well as documentation [1]


Informed consent for the rape examination, evidence collection, police briefing, and treatment is mandatory. The consent must be signed by the survivor if above 12 years of age, and by the parent or guardian if younger. The survivor has the right to refuse any part of the examination or evidence collection, however if they do so should be informed of the importance of data collection for future prosecution. If the survivor continues to refuse evidence collection, they should still be given full medical treatment according to standards of care.

Police requisition

Once the case is booked at a particular police station or court, the investigating officer (minimum rank sub-Inspector of police) will forward a requisition for medical examination of the survivor of sexual assault. However, as stated above, if the rape survivor enters a hospital before going to a police station, she must be examined and evidence collected regardless of whether she has a requisition or not.

Medical Documentation

General Information

  • Name, age, and sex of the survivor (ie. female, male, transgender)
  • Address and contact info for the survivor
  • Information about the police case (eg. medico-legal case number)
  • Date, time and place of exam
  • Names and relations of persons accompanying the survivor
  • 2 marks of bodily identification on survivor (eg. moles, tattoos, etc.)

Past Medical History

  • History of STD's
  • History of surgery in ano-genital region
  • Obstetric and sexual history are usually irrelevant, and cause stigma to the patient when documented on the sexual assault examination form

Sexual Assault History

Evidence Collection


See also, Rape trauma syndrome

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Source: CEHAT Manual for Medical Examination of Sexual Assault pg 8

Resources for survivors of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence




External links



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