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Alternative Names
sexual abuse , sexual assault

Rape is the physical act of attacking another person and forcing that person to have sex. It can be homosexual (sex between two people of the same gender), or heterosexual (sex between a male and female). It is often violent, although sometimes the threat is only implied. Rape can also occur without the victim knowing about it, if he or she is unconscious, in a coma, intoxicated or high on drugs.

There were 14,568 victims of sexual assault recorded by the police in Australia in 1998. This figure amounts to approximately 1.7 recorded sexual assaults per hour across Australia.

Most rapes in Australia are male against female, although there have been some female against male cases reported. Most female victims are between the ages of 10 and 14 years. Unfortunately, rape in all age groups is increasing, especially among the elderly.

Male rapists usually have an extreme hatred for women, feelings of inadequacy, and problems with sexual performance. Close to 45% of rapists are between the ages of 15 and 25 years. At least half the time the rapist knows the victim and works or lives near the victim. It is estimated that 1 woman in 3 will be sexually assaulted at some point during her lifetime.

What is the information for this topic?
Some safety measures to prevent rape include:
  • keeping the doors and windows locked.
  • not walking or jogging alone at night.
  • avoiding isolated and secluded areas.
  • appearing strong and confident. A self-defence course might help.
  • looking for unusual behaviour in those around you.
  • screaming loudly if attacked.
  • sitting in lighted areas and near other people such as the driver when using public transportation.
  • not hitchhiking.
  • setting the house lights to go on and off with a timer.
  • keeping a light on at all entrances.
  • having the key ready before reaching the door of a car or house.
  • looking in the car before entering.
  • not letting a stranger into the house without proper identification.
  • not listing a first name on a mailbox or in a phone book.
  • making arrangements with a neighbour for assistance.
First, the victim needs to report the rape to the police. Then, he or she should be taken to a medical facility and examined. During this examination, a doctor will:
  • examination bruises, bite marks and other trauma.
  • take swabs from the vaginal area if the victim is a female.
  • remove pubic hair samples.
  • take swabs from the anus and mouth.
  • test for sexually transmitted diseases.
  • test for pregnancy if the victim is a female.
The doctor or nurse will treat all cuts and wounds. But often the emotional wounds are more severe than the physical wounds. It is very important that the victim get counselling and therapy. A local rape crisis centre can help the victim through this trauma.

How well a victim recovers from rape varies from person to person. Usually the physical wounds heal quickly. The mental wounds, though, can last for many years after the attack. Many rape victims suffer from:
  • phobias.
  • the inability to establish long-term relationships.
  • problems with sex.
  • suicidal thoughts.
  • substance abuse.
Pre-existing psychiatric disorders may be more pronounced.

Rape victims can go on to lead normal lives. But it's very important that they get proper counselling to regain their mental health.

Doctors and other professionals, such as mental health workers, help the victim work through many of the problems that result from rape. They help monitor the victim's healing, both physically and mentally.

Author: James Broomfield, MD
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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