Sexual Assault Follow-Up Care

There are emotional and physical outcomes of sexual assault. Here is some helpful information to keep in mind if you or a loved one were physically injured during the assault.

Lacerations, Cuts & Abrasions:

  • Wash your hands to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Keep the wound clean and free of infection by cleaning it with water and mild soap several times a day.
  • If there is a dressing or band-aid covering it, keep it clean and dry.
  • If bleeding starts, apply gentle pressure directly over the wound with a clean cloth or gauze.
  • To reduce the risk of infection, you may apply antibiotic ointment.
  • If your wound was closed with steri-strips, leave these in place for at least a week.

Call your doctor if you experience:

  • Increased warmth to the area.
  • Redness or swelling to the area that gets worse instead of better.
  • A red streak coming from the wound.
  • Pain in the area that increases, instead of decreases, over time.
  • Pus or bad-smelling drainage from the wound. (Pus is a fluid that may drain from a wound that is infected. It is milky - not clear - and may be white, yellow, green or brown.)


Strangulation is defined as a form of asphyxia and is characterized by closure of the blood vessels and/or air passages of the neck and may disrupt the delivery of oxygen supplying the brain. Strangulation is often incorrectly referred to as choking, which involves blocking, or obstructing the windpipe.

The effects of strangulation may not be obvious, but they are numerous and can be life-threatening. Simple hoarseness or a complete loss of voice, and/or difficulty in swallowing or painful swallowing might result. Visible injuries to the neck may include scratches, abrasions, and scrapes. Redness on the neck may be fleeting, but may demonstrate a detectable pattern. These marks may or may not darken to become a bruise. Bruises may not appear for hours or even days. Chin abrasions are also common, as are tiny red spots called petechiae.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Light-headedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of bodily functions
  • Difficulty swallowing

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

As a result of the assault, you may be at risk of getting infections that are transferred through bodily secretions. Not all sexually transmitted diseases can be prevented. It is strongly recommended that you abstain from sexual intercourse or use a condom until your follow-up exam.

Bacterial Infections
A discussion between you and the Forensic Examiner and/or the Emergency Department provider will include your risk for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). You may be prescribed medication to prevent infections such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis. Preventing an infection is usually easier than treating one. Make sure you finish taking all medications as directed by the provider

The forensic examiner can speak with you and assess the risk of contracting HIV from the sexual assault. Testing for HIV is strongly recommended immediately following the sexual assault and every 6 months thereafter for 18 months.

For information about testing, you may contact your primary care doctor, Pima County Health Department at (520) 243-7740, or the Southern Arizona Aids Foundation at (520) 628-7223

Follow-up examinations are recommended to provide an opportunity to:

  • Detect new infections acquired during or after the assault.
  • Complete hepatitis B immunization, if indicated.
  • Complete counseling and treatment for other STIs.
  • Monitor side effects and adherence to post exposure prophylactic medication, if prescribed.

An examination for STIs should be repeated within one to two weeks of the assault.