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Saturday, 9 October 2010

Rape and sexual assault

Rape and sexual assault affects people of all ages, both male and female. Sometimes alcohol or drugs are used in a sexual assault. The police and other organisations are there to help anyone who has been raped or become a victim of sexual assault.

What is rape?

Rape is when someone forces another person to have sex against their will. Most rape victims are female but there are also many cases where it happens to men. Sexual assault covers any sort of unwanted sexual contact or behaviour.

Often, rapes are committed by someone who the victim knows. That includes members of their family or someone that they know socially. You can also be raped or sexually assaulted by someone who you're in a relationship with or someone you've never met before.

Rape doesn’t just affect adults. It happens to teenagers and young people too. When a victim is under 18, rape can often be referred to as child abuse.

Drug and date rape

In many rape cases, the victim is given drugs without them knowing. This often happens by dropping drugs into someone’s drink (which is known as ‘being spiked’). Someone who has been spiked will become unaware of what is happening to them.

Date rape drugs sometimes cause memory loss too. The victim cannot remember exactly what happened and they’re left unsure about whether or not they have been raped.

To stay safe when you're out, never accept a drink from someone you've never met before. Always take your drink with you if you're going to the toilet. If you’re making a phone call, leave your drink with a friend.

The Roofie Foundation is the only organisation in the country that specialises in helping victims of drug-assisted rape and sexual assault. They have a helpline and provide safety tips about how to prevent drink-spiking. The helpline number is 0800 783 2980 and it is open from 9.00 am to 9.00 pm.

What to do if you've been sexually assaulted

If you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted, report it to the police as soon as possible. If you're under 17, the Child Protection Unit of your local police will deal with your case.

If it makes you feel more comfortable, you can ask to speak to an officer that's the same sex as you. They will be experienced in dealing with victims of sexual assaults and will understand the distress and fear you may be feeling.

You may be asked to give the police the items of clothing you were wearing when you were assaulted. This is because the clothes may contain traces of evidence that can identify the person who attacked you.

The police will also arrange for you to have a medical examination. The doctor will treat any injuries you have and also gather any evidence that may help the police with their investigation. The doctor will talk to you about the examination beforehand, so you understand what they're doing and why they're doing it.

The police may want to talk to you again as they investigate the crime. They will keep you updated with any developments in the investigation and let you know if you need to go to court.

Help for victims of rape and sexual assault

If you’re a victim of rape or sexual assault, it’s normal for you to be feeling scared, confused and distressed. Whether you’ve reported the crime or not, Victim Support can help you understand the emotions that you may be going through.

There are also organisations who are dedicated to helping certain groups of victims, like male rape victims, which you may want to talk to.

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