At Achieving Together, we believe that everyone has the right to a happy, healthy sex life. Consent plays a vital role in this. Without consent, people are robbed of the right to decide how their bodies are treated.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). While SAAM helps raise public awareness about sexual harassment, assault, and abuse, the ultimate goal is prevention. This year’s campaign – “I ask” – shares the message that asking for consent is a normal and necessary part of sex.
In the midst of a public crisis, support for survivors is more important than ever. Here are six ways you can support survivors online during SAAM.
When sexual assaults do occur, organizations like SAFE in Austin help survivors heal emotionally and physically. If HIV transmission is a concern, PEP, or Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, is available to decrease the risk of contracting HIV. The post below describes the role of the Eloise House and the Kind Clinic in caring for an individual in the aftermath of a sexual assault. This post originally appeared on SAFE’s website and is being re-posted with permission.
If you need help related to sexual assault, call the National Sexual Assault telephone hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
Providing holistic care and HIV prevention at Eloise House
Written by Piper Stege Nelson
For many survivors, the decision to come to SAFE’s Eloise House after a sexual assault does not mean they have decided to report the crime or file charges. Frequently the decision to visit with a nurse and advocate at Eloise House is about healing – both their hearts and their bodies.
When Connell was sexually assaulted by his co-worker, he was in shock. His emotions ranged from shame to rage to extreme fear. He arrived at SAFE’s Eloise House forensic clinic for a forensic exam after being bounced around to two different hospitals. When Julia, a SAFE forensic nurse, introduced herself to Connell, he said he was very concerned about HIV.
Sexually transmitted diseases, and particularly HIV, are great concerns for survivors of sexual assault since they can be spread through blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. HIV causes an infection in the body, the most advanced stage of which is AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). It turns out that the odds of contracting HIV post-assault are very low; for vaginal penetration without a condom, the rate is less than 2%.
At Eloise House, the forensic nurses assess survivors for HIV risk during the medical exam, and, if the nurse believes there may be risk for HIV, they will call for a consult. One option for those at risk of having contracted HIV is PEP, or Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, which is not a treatment but decreases the risk of contracting HIV. PEP must be started within 72 hours of the sexual assault, just 1-2 pills a day for a month, and is completely free at The KIND Clinic, AIDS Services of Austin, or Seton’s outpatient pharmacy. While the downside of PEP is that there are side effects during the 28-30 day regimen, including nausea and diarrhea, the upside is that PEP vastly decreases the risk of contracting HIV.
Being presented with options for how to take care of their bodies can be a huge sense of relief for survivors of sexual assault.
After talking with Connell, Julia discussed HIV post exposure prophylaxis and told him about his options. Due to the 72-hour window to start HIV PEP and the patient’s priority of starting the medication as soon as possible, Julia contacted KIND Clinic. The nurse practitioner at the KIND Clinic was incredibly helpful and able to get the patient in right away. Julia waited for Connell to go to the KIND Clinic and get medication.
Upon returning to Eloise House to complete the forensic exam, Connell felt much more at ease. He said the staff at the KIND Clinic got him in right away and were so friendly and helpful. Connell and Julia completed the exam at Eloise House and he left feeling more in control and supported.
Connell was able to get all the medical and emotional care he needed after a sexual assault, which in turn allowed him to begin the process of healing.
To find out more about Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) check out AIDS INFO Post-Exposure Prophylaxis overview
Your health care provider or an emergency room doctor can also prescribe PEP. Talk to them right away if you think you’ve recently been exposed to HIV.
Many HIV organizations prescribing PrEP can also provide PEP. To find out if your local HIV organization provides PEP check the list of organizations across Texas at the Texas DSHS PrEP Provider directory.