Most sexual assault victims suffer from serious pain soon after the crime, but less than a third of them don’t take any pain medication.

One in 5 American women experiences a sexual assault at some point in her life. Research from 2011 in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs suggests that girls who take up binge drinking in college have an increased risk of sexual assault.

People who are sexually assaulted experience severe acute pain, similar to that from other physical trauma. Factors such as stress-induced hyperalgesia (high pain sensitivity) may cause post-assault pain when physical trauma is limited.

A research team from the University of North Carolina set out to determine where sexual assault victims felt pain, and how severe it was. They gathered and analyzed data from the SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner) programs.

This was the first prospective study, which was published in The Journal of Pain, the peer review publication of the American Pain Society, of pain symptoms soon following a sexual assault.

The team recruited female sexual assault survivors aged 18 and older who sought a SANE evaluation within 2 days of the offense. The subjects had to rate their pain severity on a scale of 1- to- 10, while being asked questions about the intensity of that pain in 8 body regions.

According to the results, the majority of those injured were suffering from severe or moderate pain in the early aftermath of the incident, while more than half of them had pain in 4 or more body regions. Pain medication was taken by only one third of the women.

Not only do people feel pain from physical trauma in the aftermath of sexual assault, but there might also be a nerobiological complication as well that is caused by stress from the terrifying crime.

The scientists recommend all sexual assault victims to see a doctor immediately after the event occurs in order to identify and promptly treat any pain. This will help reduce immediate suffering while improving any psychological problems the trauma might have brought on.

The authors hope this research will encourage pain education for SANE program nurses and others who provide care to victims to teach that pain is common after sexual assault. Attending clinicians should also evaluate the pain and treat it with nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs or possibly with opioid medications.

Sexual assault, also called sexual abuse, is any type of sexual activity that a person did not agree to. It can be visual, verbal, or physical. It may include:

  • touching in inappropriate places
  • rape or attempted rape
  • child molestation
  • someone exposing his or her body to you
  • incest
  • someone photographing you or watching you in private affairs
  • someone forcing sexual contact with another person
  • vaginal, anal, or oral penetration

Sexual violence is always wrong, whether it is committed by a stranger, family member, spouse, or anyone you may know. If you have experienced any of the above situations, see a doctor immediately in order to receive proper medication for any pain you might be feeling.

To get an idea of how one should be treated for sexual assault, the New England Journal of Medicine published a report on the best practices for treating victims that practitioners can use as a guideline in order to provide state of the art care for these victims.

Written by Sarah Glynn