October 2004 MedBytes: Surviving Sexual Assault

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"There is no difference between being raped and going headfirst through a windshield except that afterward you are afraid not of cars but half the human race." That quote from a rape survivor greets you when you log on to the Sexual Assault Facts and Education Web site at www.rivervision.com/safe . It's an unfortunate fact of life that sexual assault can happen to anyone. And as this month's cover story points out, it happens to far too many people, many of whom are reluctant to seek medical attention. So it's no surprise that the World Wide Web is teeming with sites devoted to helping victims of sexual assault. That's the good news. The bad news is that they're needed at all.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)
The NIH National Library of Medicine gives physicians access to the latest articles on the clinical aspects of sexual assault. Log on to www.nlm.nih.gov , click on "Health Care Professionals" and type "sexual assault" in the MEDLINE/PubMed search field. A recent search turned up more than 1,400 articles either in abstract or full-text formats.

Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA)
TAASA is committed to ending sexual violence in Texas through education, prevention, and advocacy. Its Web site, www.taasa.org , opens with the sobering statistic that more than 330,000 Texans are raped every year. A quarter million of the victims are children. TAASA says it is estimated that one in three girls and one in six boys are sexually abused. The typical rape victim, TAASA says, is a teenaged girl who is raped in her home by someone she knows. TAASA's Internet resources include addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses of every sexual assault crisis center in Texas; a survivor's guide that tells victims what to do after the assault and lists their rights; a searchable library of more than 200 articles on sexual assault that can be downloaded in a PDF format; links to national organizations such as the National Center for Victims of Crime and other state anti-sexual assault coalitions; and a form teens can submit to start a Students Taking Action for Respect sexual assault awareness program at their school.  

Texas Attorney General's Office
Attorney General Greg Abbott's Sexual Assault Prevention & Crisis Services is part of the Crime Victims Services Division. Its services include funding and technical assistance to sexual assault programs and some special projects throughout the state, technical support for data collection, establishing Sexual Assault Response Teams in communities throughout the state, certifying Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, and certifying sexual assault volunteer training programs. The unit also provides the protocol for sexual assault evidence collection. Its Web site at www.oag.state.tx.us/victims/sapcs.shtml explains the services and how to access them.

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network
The 10-year-old Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization. RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-4673, providing free confidential counseling 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Web site it maintains at www.rainn.org offers an extensive list of resources for victims. They include steps they need to take after the assault, a database allowing them to find their local rape crisis center, and a list of the various state laws on rape. The site has a section devoted to rape on campus and one explaining the so-called "date rape drugs" and how to tell if a person has been drugged. Also offered is information on how to reduce the risk of sexual assault, what to do if a friend is raped, how to protect your children from predators, and how to make a donation to the group.

The University of Texas at Austin
While it is true that the vast majority of sexual assault victims are women, men can be raped as well. UT-Austin's Counseling and Mental Health Center has published "For Men Only: For Male Survivors of Sexual Assault." It can be downloaded at www.utexas.edu/student/cmhc/booklets/maleassault/menassault.html . It points out that any man can be raped, regardless of age, size, strength, or sexual orientation. (TAASA cites statistics showing that more than 90,000 men in the United States are raped each year.) The UT site offers much of the same information that is provided for women rape survivors, but it also has sections debunking many of the myths about the rape of men and on unique issues faced by men who are victimized.

MedBytes is a quick look at new, or newly discovered, Web sites of interest to Texas physicians. The column also highlights features of the TMA Web site. If you know of some interesting medical sites or have questions about how to use the TMA Web site, email  Erin Prather. Publication of information about Web sites in this column is not to be considered an endorsement or approval by the Texas Medical Association of the sites or sponsors, or of any products or services involved.

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