Was it rape?

We understand that the circumstances may have been complex but the law is very clear - if you did not consent, it was rape. The Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act defines consent as “free agreement”. This means that you cannot consent if you are incapacitated by alcohol or other substances, if you are asleep or unconscious, or if you are coerced, misled or you submit to the conduct because of threats of violence.

Consent on one occasion or to one particular act (e.g. kissing) does not imply ongoing consent and consent may be withdrawn at any time. If you refuse or withdraw your consent and penetration takes place, then it was rape.

Why did this happen to me?

You are not to blame for what happened. There are many different kinds of sexual violence from flashing and voyeurism to sexual assault and rape. Sexual violence can happen to anyone, and no one ever deserves or ‘asks’ for it to happen.

I didn’t fight back, was it my fault?

What happened is not your fault. People often assume 'if it happened to me, I would fight for my life'. Sometimes these assumptions are unrealistic and unhelpful. Some survivors are able to fight, others try to run, and others freeze. These are all natural reactions when you are in a situation that is out of your control. You can't choose how your body will react when you are in danger, your fight/flight/freeze response is outwith your conscious control.

There are also times when the fear or threat of further violence makes it less safe to fight and resist. Being unable to fight someone off does not mean you agreed to, or make you in any way complicit with what happened.

I don’t know how to cope with what’s happened, what should I do?

There is no right or wrong way of coping with sexual violence. Everyone has their own way of dealing with it. People often expect that after a rape or sexual assault that a survivor will be 'hysterical' but many remain very calm or even numb. How people cope in the long-term varies. This can depend on how long the sexual violence lasted for, how safe you feel in your everyday life, whether you are able to talk to people you trust or if you have had other support, for example from RASASH or from the RCS helpline.

The very fact that you are reading this indicates that you are taking positive steps to find ways of coping. Call us on 03330 066909 if you want to talk to us, or call the Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline on 08088 010302

I keep having nightmares, it feels like it’s happening all over again. What’s wrong with me?

This is a natural reaction to having survived a trauma such as sexual violence. When people survive such a dangerous event or have lived with sexual violence it is natural for the brain to replay what happened. Sometimes this is called 'flashbacks' – these can be memories in your mind, nightmares in your dreams, sensations on your body or even smells. The way you experience these will be individual to you and what has happened. They do not mean that you are going mad, but are a way of your mind trying to make sense of what happened. It is very distressing to relive it in this way. But by remembering, your mind is trying to find ways of moving on. It may be helpful to speak with a support worker at RASASH. They can give you some practical hints for managing flashbacks and can support you to find ways of overcoming these memories.

How long will it take me to get over this?

Everyone is different and many factors can influence how long it takes. These include the nature of the attack, how long the abuse went on for, who the abuser/s was/were and whether or not you feel safe now. How you cope and how you recover is individual to you. There is no set time in which you should be 'over' what happened to you. It's important not to put pressure on yourself and to give yourself as much time as you need.

It can be helpful to remember that healing from sexual violence can mean that sometimes you have times which are better or worse than others and that this is natural. It can take a lot of energy to recover so it is important to make space for yourself to try to rest.

I was raped recently and I’m worried about sexually transmitted infections, what can I do?

You can visit your local family planning or sexual health clinic for routine testing of STIs. You do not need to tell them what happened unless you wish to and you do not even need to give them your real name. The services are free and confidential. If any of your tests are positive for STIs, the clinic will provide you with the right treatment such as antibiotics. If you are having an HIV test it is worth considering when best to do this. This is because it takes 12 weeks for the infection to show up. You can also have these tests done by your GP (family doctor) but they have to record the test and the result in your medical record.

I was raped recently and I’m worried I might be pregnant, what can I do?

Depending upon when you think you may have become pregnant there are different options. You can take the Emergency Contraceptive Pill up to 3 days (72 hours) after the attack. An IUD, often called a coil, can be fitted up to 5 days (120 hours) and must remain inside you until the time of your next period. You can get Emergency Contraception from local family planning and sexual health clinics or any pharmacy. RASASH can help to find your closest service.

If you are pregnant and do not wish to continue with the pregnancy, you can ask your GP or a doctor at a family planning clinic for a termination (abortion). It is your decision and no one has a right to tell you what you should do. It is about what is right for you. RASASH will be able to support you and give you an opportunity to talk things through if this would be helpful. No one at RASASH will judge you for whatever decision you ultimately make.

UK law states that a termination can legally take place up until the 24th week of the pregnancy. However, in practice, it is rare for terminations to be carried out after 18 weeks of pregnancy. Early terminations are generally safer than later ones.

In order to arrange for a termination you will need to see at least 2 doctors. The first will refer you on to the second. If your own GP has chosen not to be involved in referrals for termination, they must refer you to another doctor or service that will.

If you are under 16, you have the right to a termination as long as the doctor who sees you decides you fully understand the procedure and its implications. Your parents do not have to be told.