Injuries from a rape or sexual assault

Immediate action required: Phone 999 for an ambulance immediately if the person with an injury:

  • remains unconscious after the initial injury
  • is having a seizure or fit
  • is bleeding from one or both ears
  • has been vomiting since the injury
  • is having difficulty staying awake, speaking, or understanding what people are saying
  • is having difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • is in severe pain
  • is drooling
  • has a muffled voice
  • makes a high-pitched sound when they breathe
  • is bleeding and it can't be stopped
  • is bleeding in spurts with each beat of the heart, and the bleeding is hard to control
  • is having numbness or trouble moving any body parts
  • has a severe cut on their face - urgent treatment may be needed to prevent scarring
  • has a wound with a jagged edge
  • has a wound longer than around 5cm (2 inches)

During your assault you might have been injured. It is important that you seek medical advice, even if it's difficult to talk about it.

If you don't have any injuries that require immediate medical attention you can phone the sexual assault self-referral phone service. Part of this service includes a healthcare professional from a sexual assault response co-ordination service (SARCS) phoning you back to arrange care. This care can include an appointment at a SARCS.

When the healthcare professional at the SARCS phones you'll be assessed for any injuries and given advice on how to get treatment while still preserving evidence for your forensic medical examination (FME), if you choose to have one.

Head and neck injuries

A blow to the head, no matter how small, can cause damage to your brain. It's important that a medical professional checks this as soon as possible.

Concussion

Concussion is the sudden but short-lived loss of mental function that occurs after a blow or other injury to the head. It's the most common but least serious type of brain injury.

Signs of concussion include:

  • loss of consciousness, however brief
  • memory loss, such as not being able to remember what happened before or after the injury
  • persistent headaches since the injury
  • changes in behaviour, such as irritability, being easily distracted, or having no interest in the outside world
  • confusion
  • drowsiness that happens when you'd normally feel awake
  • loss of balance or problems walking
  • difficulties with understanding what people say
  • difficulty speaking, such as slurred speech
  • problems with reading or writing
  • vomiting
  • problems with vision, such as double vision
  • loss of power in part of the body, such as weakness in an arm or leg
  • clear fluid leaving the nose or ears (this could be cerebrospinal fluid, which surrounds the brain)
  • sudden deafness in one or both ears
  • any wound to the head or face

If you have any of these symptoms phone 999 immediately.

While a concussion can sound serious, the actual extent of damage to the brain is usually minimal and doesn't cause long-term problems or complications.

Memory loss

Memory loss can be caused by trauma, drugs or alcohol.

Memory loss caused by a traumatic experience can be a natural response. It's normal to be unable to remember any or all of the details of what happened to you. This is your body's way of protecting you from a bad experience.

Drugs or alcohol can affect your memory in different ways, but it's important to remember that doesn't affect your care and support.

You may have taken alcohol or drugs through your own choice, or against your will. Whether you took drugs or alcohol willingly won't affect the support you receive.

Breathing problems

Urgent advice: Phone your GP or, if your GP's closed, phone 111 if:

  • you have sudden, unexpected shortness of breath

There are a number of injuries or reactions to trauma that can cause shortness of breath. It's important to seek medical care if you're worried - you don't have to wait for a referral to a SARCS do this.

Bruised or broken ribs

A bruised or broken rib can cause:

  • pain in your chest when you breathe in
  • shortness of breath
  • soreness and tenderness around the rib
  • bruising on the skin
  • feeling or hearing a crack

When you phone the sexual assault self-referral phone service, any injuries you have will be assessed by the team. You'll be advised to seek any medical help you need before being referred to a SARCS.

If you think you have a bruised or broken rib, phone your GP or 111. A health professional can then refer you to your nearest Minor Injuries Unit.

Throat injury

Phone 999 or go to A&E if:

  • you're having difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • you're in severe pain
  • you're drooling
  • your voice is muffled
  • you make a high-pitched sound when you breathe

A throat injury can:

  • make it painful to breathe
  • cause bruising around your neck and throat

When you phone the sexual assault self-referral phone service, any injuries you have will be assessed by the team. You'll be advised to seek any medical help you need before being referred to a SARCS.

If you think your throat is injured, phone your GP or 111.

Blocked airway

If one of your airways is blocked because of an injury, it can cause:

  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty swallowing
  • a high-pitched sound when you breathe

When you phone the sexual assault self-referral phone service, any injuries you have will be assessed by the team. You'll be advised to seek any medical help you need before being referred to a SARCS.

If you think you have a blocked airway, phone 999 or go to A&E.

Anxiety and panic

If you're having a panic attack, you might experience feelings of:

  • severe anxiety
  • fear
  • helplessness
  • vulnerability
  • dread

After going through a trauma it's normal to have these feelings, but if they become too much and cause a panic attack, it can make you feel short of breath.

It's important to remember that panic attacks and these feelings of fear and trauma will fade with time and support.

If you think you're having a panic attack, or you feel you can't cope with these feelings, you can phone 111 for mental health support. You can also make an appointment with your GP to ask about further help.

When you phone the sexual assault self-referral phone service, any symptoms you have will be assessed by the team. You'll be advised to seek any medical help you need before being referred to a SARCS.

Asthma or other existing conditions

If you have a condition that affects your breathing, it could be worsened by experiencing a trauma.

If you've tried your usual treatments and they haven't worked, phone 111 or 999.

When you phone the sexual assault self-referral phone service, any symptoms you have will be assessed by the team. You'll be advised to seek any medical help you need before being referred to a SARCS.

Skin injuries

There are a number of skin injuries that can be treated at home, but it's important to seek medical care if the injury appears to be serious or getting worse.

Bruising and swelling

Bruises might not appear right away, even if the area is painful. If you have a painful bruise or swelling, you should:

  • raise and support the injury in a comfortable position, if you can
  • hold something cold against the injury, like ice or frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel, to reduce swelling

When you phone the sexual assault self-referral phone service, any injuries you have will be assessed by the team. You'll be advised to seek any medical help you need before being referred to a SARCS.

Cuts and grazes

Most cuts and grazes can be treated at home.

Read more about treating cuts and grazes

You should phone your GP or 111 if:

  • the wound has dirt, pus or other bodily fluids in it
  • there is, or was, something in the wound

When you phone the sexual assault self-referral phone service, any injuries you have will be assessed by the team. You'll be advised to seek any medical help you need before being referred to a SARCS.

Bites

If you've been bitten and the bite has broken your skin, it's important to seek medical advice. People's mouths have a lot of bacteria that can cause infection if left untreated.

Your health is important. If you think you need immediate medical attention, phone 999 or go to A&E immediately.

If possible, leave the bite mark unwashed. There may be DNA evidence that can be taken from the area.

If you can, it's okay to take some take paracetamol or ibuprofen for pain relief.

Needle-stick injures

Injuries from needles are sometimes called needle-stick or sharps injuries.

If you have any reason to suspect you have been injured with a needle, go to A&E as soon as possible.

The healthcare professional treating you will assess the risks to your health and ask about your injury - for example, how and when it happened. This is to help give you the best treatment.

Dental injuries

Knocked-out tooth

If a tooth has been knocked out, you should:

  1. find the tooth
  2. hold it by the crown (the white bit that sticks out of the gum)
  3. lick the tooth clean if it was still in your mouth, or rinse it in water
  4. put it back into position
  5. bite on a handkerchief to hold the tooth in place
  6. go to see a dentist as an emergency

If you can't put the tooth back in position, put it in milk and see a dentist straight away.

The sooner a knocked-out tooth is re-implanted, the more likely it is to embed itself back into the gum.

Find out more about dealing with knocked-out teeth

Broken or chipped tooth

If your tooth has been broken or chipped, try to find the fragment, store it in milk and see a dentist as soon as possible. The dentist may be able to glue the fragment back on to the tooth.

Find out more about dealing with broken and chipped teeth

Last updated:
01 April 2022