Sexual violence: what every victim should know?


There are some situations where health care providers might be required to report your sexual assault to law enforcement. For example, any abuse of someone under 18 must be reported

Sexual violence takes many forms, but one thing stays the same: It is never the victim’s fault. We can offer definitions for sexual assault and rape, but legal definitions aren’t critical right now. You are sure because of something that happened that concerns you. Therefore, your best strategy is to learn more about your options. Then if you decide to contact authorities, they will make any legal decisions. You need to make whatever decisions help you to move forward. If you were sexually assaulted, you may feel confused and alone. You may not understand what happened to you, or what you can do about it. You may not know who you can tell. So, you should know: “Sexual abuse” is a term that people use in different ways. Some use it to refer to sexual crimes committed against children. Others use it to describe unwanted sexual contact that does not rise to the level of a sexual assault. For example, sometimes have a legal definition of sexual abuse that includes misdemeanor offenses, while sexual assault is a felony level offense.
“Sexual assault” refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without consent of the victim. This can include sexual acts committed using force or threats – or against someone who is unable to legally consent. For example, the person may be too young, unconscious, or incapacitated for any reason (including drugs or alcohol, as well as severe disabilities). Some forms of sexual assault include:   (1) penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape (2) attempted rape (3) forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as penetrating the perpetrator’s body; and (4) unwanted sexual touching.

Crimes involving sexual penetration are typically felonies, meaning that the defendant could be sentenced to prison if convicted. Unwanted sexual touching is typically a misdemeanor, however, in some circumstances, it might be a felony. Defendants convicted of a misdemeanor will typically be sentenced to jail.

People use the term “rape” to mean different things. Often, it is used to refer to sexual penetration without consent. Again, this can be committed using force or threats, or against someone who is legally unable to consent. Penetration is often defined as “penetration, no matter how slight,” of the vagina or anus of one person, with an object or the body part of another person. It also includes oral sex, if it is nonconsensual. However, legal definitions vary across jurisdictions, and people use terminology in ways that don’t necessary match these legal definitions.

Some people use the term “sexual harassment” to generally refer to sexual abuse or assault, but it specifically describes behaviors that are related to school or work. This can include crude sexual comments or jokes, propositions for sex, unwanted sexual acts, and other behaviors. It can happen at school or work or just involve a teacher, supervisor, or co-worker. Because it happens in the context of school or work, this type of behavior is a form of sex discrimination covered by civil rights.

Sexual harassment can include criminal offenses such as rape or sexual assault, but more typically it involves behaviors that are not crimes. For example, if you are sexually abused or assaulted by a teacher, supervisor, or co-worker – and the incident meets the legal definition above – then it is a criminal act, which can be reported to law enforcement, investigated, and possibly prosecuted. Of course, you can also report it at school or work.

However, if the behavior does not meet any of those definitions – for example, if it involves sexual comments or jokes, but no physical contact – then it is not a criminal matter. You can use the reporting process at school or work, to initiate an internal investigation. This might lead to sanctions for the person who did it. You may also be able to file a civil lawsuit. This requires hiring a lawyer, who can explain the process to you. It is important for you to have a nurse or doctor check your physical well-being. This is critical because you may have injuries you are not aware of. They can also help to get you in touch with advocates who can offer you information, support and assistance.

Health care providers can also provide testing or treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as well as emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy, if you are female. To obtain medical care, you can go to a health care facility or provider of your choice (e.g., your personal doctor). Just keep in mind that your own doctor is probably not trained to collect or document evidence in case you decide to report to police at a later time. For more information about your options, including health care facilities that may offer services for free or allow you to pay on a sliding scale based on your income, you can talk with an advocate.

There are some situations where health care providers might be required to report your sexual assault to law enforcement. For example, any abuse of someone under 18 must be reported. Some also require a report if a weapon is used or you are seriously injured. All sexual assaults have to be reported.

You have the right to a free special examination – called a medical forensic exam – where a nurse or doctor will check your physical well-being and conduct evidence procedures that could be useful if you decide to report to authorities. Usually, these exams are conducted within 3-5 days of the sexual assault, but there are exceptions. One stop crisis centre can help you learn more and make a decision. You can get an exam by going to a hospital Emergency Room, calling a rape crisis center by contacting police.

The exam is available for free, and it often includes testing and treatment for any sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and possible pregnancy. You can also bring someone with you to the exam, whether it is a friend, family member, or an advocate.

The whole process of the exam can take several hours. However, the most important thing is this: Nothing will happen during the exam without your consent. Only if you say it’s okay. You can consent to any or all parts of the exam and you can withdraw your consent at any time. What does the exam look like? First, the nurse or doctor will ask you questions about what happened. Your responses will be carefully documented in a written report. Then the physical exam will begin, which will may include a vaginal and/or anal exam. A variety of samples will be taken (e.g., blood, urine, and swabs from your body), as well as photographs. Some items of your clothing may be collected.

If you plan to have an exam, it is best not to shower, bathe, or douche before you go. However, don’t worry if you already did any of these things. The nurse or doctor will still take samples during the exam, and it’s impossible to know what evidence might still be recovered. Also, the exam is still important, because it involves much more than just collecting evidence.

If you can, you should bring the clothes you wore during or immediately after the assault, or put on immediately afterward if you changed clothes. But again, don’t worry if that’s not possible. If you decide to report to police, they can often identify other types of evidence, and the exam is still important because it involves more than just collecting evidence. If you’re not sure what you want to do, you can keep the clothing you wore during the assault or put on immediately afterward, in case you decide to report to police later. If you have not washed your clothes, carefully place each item in a separate paper bag (not plastic). You can discuss any of these issues with an advocate, if you choose to connect with a rape crisis center.

You have the option of reporting what happened to police. This is the only way to hold someone responsible in the criminal justice system. If you plan to report, it is best to do it as soon as possible. That way, police have a better chance at gathering information and evidence. During the reporting process, you have the right to ask questions, and you can bring someone with you, whether it is a friend, family member, or an advocate.

If you are under 18, there are certain people who might have to tell the police if they believe you were sexually assaulted. This includes teachers, coaches, doctors, nurses, and others. If a report is made, you may be contacted by a police officer but you can choose whether you want to participate in an investigation. An investigation can take place without your participation, but it usually doesn’t happen this way.

What does an investigation look like? It will probably include talking with you, any witnesses, anyone you told about the assault, and the person who did this to you. The investigation may also include collecting other items, such as physical objects (clothing, bedding, etc.) and digital information (cell phone records, text messages, etc.). Your cell phone might be needed temporarily, to gather information before returning the phone to you. You don’t have to hand over these items, but they might be important evidence. An advocate can help you make decisions that are best for you. And remember police, magistrates and lawyers do not have a shared understanding of the nature of violence. While some practitioners have a deep understanding of coercive and controlling violence, and the complex dynamics of violence, others still frame it as incident-based and strictly about physical acts.

Furthermore, you can seek help from the One-Stop Crisis Centre— OCC: the idea behind OCC is to provide all required services for a woman victim of violence in one place. The OCC provides health care, police assistance, DNA test, social services, legal assistance, psychological counseling and shelter service etc. The general objective of the project is to address and prevent violence against women in Bangladesh through a coordinated integrated inter-ministerial approach.

The idea behind OCC is to provide all required services for a victim of violence in one place. One of the significant components of the program is the OCC in the Medical College Hospitals. The idea behind OCC is to provide all required services for a victim of violence in one place. The OCC provides the following services: health care; police assistance; social services; legal assistance; psychological counseling; shelter service; and Medical legal examination with DNA Test.

Dr. Mohammed Abul Kalam

The writer is former Head, Department of Medical Sociology,

Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control & Research (IEDCR)

Dhaka, Bangladesh



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