Individuals who got sexually assaulted or abused often have questions regarding the risk of acquiring an STD, among other issues that concern them. Generally speaking, such individuals require a specific approach, as far as they report their assault, including general assessments and psychological evaluation.
What is an STD?
STDs are sexually transmitted diseases that you can acquire through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are the three most prevalent sexually transmitted infections. Some of the most severe viral infections include HIV, hepatitis B, and C, herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes genital warts. Most of these STDs are asymptomatic and result in dangerous complications if left untreated. For example, a long-standing HIV infection in its late stages can lead to death. Untreated chronic diseases with chlamydia or gonorrhea may result in infertility in women. Other routes of transmission of STDs are through blood, by transfusions or sharing needles and syringes, or pregnancy and delivery.
What is the risk of getting an STD after being sexually assaulted?
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the ones most commonly found in individuals who got sexually assaulted. Generally speaking, the risk of getting one of these two infections through sexual assault is low. Similarly, the chance of getting syphilis is very little. The likelihood of acquiring HIV after being sexually assaulted is extremely low. However, diagnosing an STD after such an event does not always mean it is the result of the sexual assault, as the individual might have had it already. Whatever the case, getting tested after a sexual assault may reveal an undetected STD for which individuals can receive treatment as soon as possible.
What are the most common symptoms and signs of STDs?
STDs are often asymptomatic. For example, three out of four women and half men do not experience any symptoms of chlamydia. If STDs present with symptoms, they might be genital discharge, itching, pain, or burning sensation upon urination. Women might experience bleeding between menstruation. Both sexes might present with genital sores. However, most STDs are asymptomatic, and you cannot depend on the presence or absence of symptoms and signs. The best way to find out if you have an STD is to get tested. STD rapid kit tests let you get tested alone at home for some of the most common and dangerous STIs. Individuals who got sexually assaulted or abused need to get tested with an STD rapid kit test.
Do I need an STD test kit after a sexual assault?
Yes, you do. If you test positive for an STD, you won't know precisely if you got infected because of the sexual assault or if you already had it. However, getting tested will show you for sure whether you need to start on medication immediately or not. It is crucial to know if you got exposed to some particular viral STDs because in case you did, there are specific drugs that you can receive after exposure, to decrease your chances of getting infected. Some examples include hepatitis and HIV.
HIV and sexual assault or abuse
The chance of getting HIV by being sexually assaulted is extremely low. The most likely way to get HIV is from vaginal or anal penetration, or blood transfusion. If you got sexually assaulted and think you got exposed to HIV, get tested as soon as possible. You might need to repeat testing at different intervals, to confirm the diagnosis. If you repeat testing after six months and you are still negative, you can be sure that you are HIV-negative.
Preventing STD transmission between partners
In case you got sexually assaulted and acquired an STD, there are various ways to prevent transmission to your partner. The most effective way of prevention regarding transmitting the disease to your partner is to abstain from sex. In case you want to continue engaging in vaginal, oral, or anal sex, you should use a condom. Using protection correctly can significantly reduce your risk of acquiring an STD.
Who can get an STD?
Anyone can get an STD regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or age.
Some people, for example, men who have sex with men, or individuals who have multiple partners have a higher risk of acquiring an STI. It doesn't matter whether you have penetrative sex or not. Sexual assault does not have to be penetrative to spread an STD. Genito-genital frottage or genital rubbing can also put you at risk of getting an STD. Having an STD makes it more likely to obtain a second one, as immunity drops. Finally, you can get an STI at any age, including children and adolescents who get sexually assaulted or abused.
Testing after sexual assault in specific populations
Doctors usually evaluate sexually assaulted minors by trying to reduce the risk of trauma. Testing a minor might be quite uncomfortable. Experienced professionals are the ones that know how to manage such a situation, and collect a specimen from the assaulted individual. When a child or adolescent receives a diagnosis for a particular STD, he or she should get tested for all STIs. Specific criteria will usually lead a physician to screen for an STD. Minors should generally get tested when the offender assaulted them through penetrative sex or is someone who's known to be positive for certain STDs. The child or adolescent should also get tested if the offender is a stranger, or if the minor presents with symptoms and signs of STDs. Testing is also mandatory when parents request it.
Treatment of an STD after sexual assault or abuse
Bacterial STDs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis require antibiotic treatment and retesting after completion of the treatment. Viral STDs are not curable, but you could minimize the chance of acquiring one if getting antiviral treatment as soon as possible. For example, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a treatment used in those that think they got exposed to HIV. It is highly effective if started early. Several antiviral medications can significantly decrease your chance of getting infected with hepatitis B after they got exposed to it. Keep in mind that children and adolescents might require different therapeutic approaches.