For Your Safety
There are no rules for what you should do if you are raped. Your safety and survival are always the most important considerations. Here are some things you can do:
• Call the police, a friend, or a rape crisis hotline. In Westmoreland County, PA, call Blackburn Center at 1-888-832-2272. A hotline counselor can help you decide what to do next.
• Go to a hospital even if you don't feel you have been injured. You may have internal injuries, or you may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease. The hospital exam includes the collection of evidence to be used if you choose to press charges, now or later. To preserve the evidence, don't shower, bathe, douche, change clothes or brush your teeth before the exam. Take something with you to wear home in case they keep your clothes as evidence.
Hospitals are required to call the police when a rape is reported, but you are not required to talk to them. You may have other legal options for safety, such as a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order, if you know your assailant. If you were assaulted in your home and you think you may press charges, be careful not to disturb the scene of the assault or any other evidence. If you believe you were drugged prior to or during the assault, a urine sample can determine the drug used. Knowing what's in your system can be important in treating possible side effects and other complications (be advised: your urine may reveal other substances in your system as well.) In many hospitals, the staff will ask if you would like an advocate from the local rape crisis center to come to the hospital. If they don't ask you, you may ask them to call an advocate. The advocate can help you through the process by providing information and support. If you would like assistance from Blackburn Center, please call us 24/7 at 724-836-1122 or 1-888-832-2272.
If you are a victim of abuse, even if there's been no physical violence so far, the time may come when you are in serious danger. Planning ahead can help you and your children stay safe. Here are some things you can do:
• Teach your children how and under what circumstances to call 911.
• Identify a safe place for your children - a room with a lock or a neighbor's house where they can go for help.
• Arrange a signal to let the neighbors know to call the police.
• Keep emergency phone numbers in your purse or car.
• Notify your children's schools if there is any danger that the abuser might try to take the children from school.
• If you are injured, go to a hospital emergency room or doctor and report what has happened. Ask that they document your visit and take pictures.
• Be aware of the ways your activity on the internet can be tracked.
• Prepare an emergency kit that you can keep in a safe place and get to quickly - perhaps at the home of a friend or neighbor. Include extra clothing, money, checkbook, credit cards, important papers such as birth certificates and insurance cards, medications and prescriptions, extra keys, some toys or other items for the children.
• Keep the number for Blackburn Center's 24 hour hotline handy: 724-836-1122 or 1-888-832-2272.
• Know about domestic violence shelters in your area.
• Go to a public place (e.g., mall, hospital, police station) if you have to flee.
• Don't tell the abuser what you're planning. Be aware that you and your children may still be in danger even if you have left your abuser. In fact, the period just before and just after you leave may be the most dangerous.