SAFE-T System Research

Having one person tell me I didn’t do the wrong thing: The impact of support on the post-sexual assault exam experience

Authors: Wright, E. N., Miyamoto, S., & Anderson, J.


Social support following a sexual assault (SA) may help minimize or prevent the myriad of negative sequelae impacting individuals who experience SA. Receiving a SA exam may provide initial support during the SA exam and set up individuals with needed resources and supports post-SA exam. However, the few individuals who receive a SA exam may not stay connected to resources or support post-exam. The purpose of this study was to understand individuals’ post-SA-exam social support pathways including individuals’ ability to cope, seek care, or accept support following a SA exam. Interviews were conducted with individuals who experienced SA and then received a SA exam through a telehealth model. The findings revealed the importance of social support during the SA exam and in the months that followed. Implications are discussed.


Ensuring individuals who experience SA are connected to supportive and helpful resources can reduce and prevent the short and long terms negative outcomes associated with SA. SA exams can be an important part of an individual’s recovery from SA, yet interactions with supports, such as family or law enforcement, outside of the SA exam may further encourage or hinder help-seeking and healing. Understanding the individual’s external stressors and unique barriers to follow-up after a SA exam may improve connection to important and helpful resources.