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December 7, 2023 Dec 07, 2023 4 min read

Checklist: How to Prepare for a Conversation About Rape or Sexual Assault with Your Doctor

The following checklist is designed to help you prepare for a conversation with your doctor after being raped or sexually assaulted. This list can be saved, downloaded, and/or printed to help you navigate this complicated process. Keep reading to learn how to talk to your doctor about rape or sexual assault.

Decide whether to pursue a rape kit exam

If you were raped or sexually assaulted within the last two weeks, you should first decide whether or not to pursue a rape kit exam. Sometimes referred to as a sexual assault forensic exam (SAFE), a rape kit exam is designed to gather evidence that can be used in the prosecution of sex crime perpetrators. While reporting is not required in most cases when pursuing a rape kit exam, these exams are typically only necessary if a patient plans to report.


To learn more about rape kit exams and decide whether to pursue one, check out the following articles:

If you do not plan on pursuing a rape kit exam, make a regular appointment with your healthcare provider.

If possible, visit a doctor you already know and trust

Although this won’t be possible for all survivors, visiting a doctor you already have an established and trusted relationship with can be a huge help when preparing for a difficult conversation about sexual assault.


If you make an appointment with a new provider, try doing some research online first to find out if the practitioner has experience working with assault victims. Depending on where you live, it may be easier or more difficult to find healthcare providers who are experienced with and sympathetic toward the needs of assault victims.

Prepare to be asked intimate questions

While it may seem obvious, it’s important to emotionally prepare as much as possible for the fact that you will be sharing intimate details about a traumatic experience with your doctor.


When you call to make your appointment, you will likely also be asked by the person on the phone what the appointment is regarding. You do not have to divulge any information you don’t feel comfortable sharing at this time. You can simply say you have reproductive health concerns or that you would prefer not to share any details until you speak with your doctor.

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Know your goals ahead of time

Before you arrive for your appointment, establish your own goals and expectations.


For example, you may be seeking…

  • A standard reproductive health exam
  • A full-body checkup
  • A pregnancy test
  • Emergency contraception
  • An STI panel
  • Medications to prevent STI contraction post exposure
  • A referral to a mental healthcare provider
  • A referral to a physical therapist

Depending on your needs and goals, it’s important to know what you’re looking for ahead of time.

Prepare a list of questions

Even when you have a trusted relationship with your healthcare provider, being in a doctor’s office can feel intimidating and disorienting. This is why arriving with a prepared list of questions can help you navigate your appointment more effectively and acquire the information you need.


Some questions you may want to ask your doctor include:

  • “Am I at risk of being pregnant?”
  • “Should I be concerned about STIs?”
  • “Do I have any internal injuries?”

Bring a friend or loved one for support

If you’re struggling with anxiety or overwhelm leading up to your appointment, consider bringing a trusted friend or loved one along. In most cases, patients are allowed to bring a support person with them into appointments, which can help survivors feel more calm and confident. Having a loved one with you can also be helpful in case you forget to ask certain questions or are struggling to advocate for certain needs.

Remember that doctors don’t know everything

Despite dominant cultural notions that doctors are all-knowing, no one knows more about your physical needs, boundaries, and experiences than you. Doctors unfortunately do not always have survivor needs and interests at heart, and some survivors might leave their doctor appointments feeling disheartened or even blamed for what happened to them. If this is your experience, remember that you are not at fault for what happened and that you deserve compassionate, humane care.

Although the term “doctor” is used throughout this list, the suggestions provided here can be applied to appointments with nurse practitioners, gynecologists, or any other medical care provider.


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