November 4, 2016
MDH highlights health benefits of going to a hospital after a sexual assault
New analysis from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) shows that about 1,400 men and women a year sought hospital services after a sexual assault between 2010 and 2014.
Public health officials expect that there are far more victims of sexual assault who could benefit from seeking hospital care. A 2005 Minnesota study found that only about 1 in 5 people who experience sexual assault seek medical care. The state does not have a single source for sexual assault data.
“We want women and men to know that there are many health benefits to seeking hospital care after a sexual assault,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “Typically a trained nurse can provide medical help including medications to prevent infection, emergency contraception, treatment of injury and counseling about next steps.”
People ages 15 to 24 were the group most commonly treated at hospitals following sexual assaults, according to the new MDH report, Sexual Violence Data Brief (PDF). The total number of people seeking care stayed relatively flat during the five-year period. Hospital visits by 15 to 19 year olds went down from 339 visits in 2010 to 276 visits in 2014. The seven-county Twin Cities metro area had a higher five-year average of hospital-treated sexual assault at 31.8 cases per 100,000 people compared to the Greater Minnesota rate of 22.5 cases per 100,000.
“At the time of crisis, a rape victim needs compassionate, non-judgmental, confidential support,” said Jeanne Ronayne, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner or other trained medical provider is someone a victim can turn to for informed care and support. It is important for victims to know they have a right to access a sexual assault examination at no cost regardless of whether they report the crime to police."
Because of the range of possible injuries, long-term health consequences and emotional disorders or concerns, MDH encourages victims to seek treatment in the event of a sexual assault.
The MDH Sexual Violence Prevention Program partners with organizations and communities across Minnesota to better understand the impact of sexual violence and learn what can be done to prevent it. Prevention starts with helping people build healthy relationships and strengthening community and family support. Strategies include encouraging schools to use health relationships curriculums, engaging youth and adults as positive bystanders to speak up and out against sexism and violent behaviors and intervening when someone is at risk, and creating and enforcing policies at schools and workplaces that address sexual harassment and create safer spaces for everyone.