Rape and sexual coercion

Medical examination

In a medical examination, injuries are established and treated. Moreover, it helps to obtain evidence. This is important if the victim decides to press charges.

Even if a medical and/or gynaecological examination after a rape is a source of psychological stress for most girls and women concerned, it is very useful and should preferably take place immediately after the rape – ideally with the victim being accompanied by a person of trust.

The examination serves for ascertaining and treating possible injuries and preserving evidence. In any case though, it is independent of the option for reporting the incident to the police. Physicians and medical staff are bound by medical secrecy.

If the examination’s purpose is also to preserve forensic evidence, it is necessary to give detailed information about the course of events to the physician. The physician should be informed that the medical examination is also to be carried out to preserve forensic evidence. Information on what is required can be obtained from the police. Examination leaflets can be obtained from many rape crisis centres.

Given the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy, the “morning after pill” should be taken as early as possible; depending on the product, this should be 48 to 72 hours after the rape at latest. The “morning after coil” can be used until five days after the rape.

A pregnancy test is possible 14 to 16 days after the rape at the earliest. If a pregnancy is established at a later stage, an abortion is possible within twelve weeks as per criminological indication*. German health insurance funds will bear the costs for such an abortion.

It is advisable to get counselling regarding possible infection with STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), such as mycosis, hepatitis or HIV.


*A criminological indication is given if there are urgent reasons for the assumption that the pregnancy is based on a sexual offense (sexual abuse of children, rape, sexual harassment or sexual abuse of those unable to offer resistance). The termination according to the criminological indication is allowed up to 12 weeks after conception.

Reporting to the police

Experience has shown that the decision of whether or not to report the incident to the police is difficult for most rape victims. On the one hand, for many women the desire for justice and the desire to see the assailant punished, for re-establishing control and preventing further crimes committed by the perpetrator are good reasons to press charges. On the other hand, additional strain will often be caused by the criminal proceedings, fear of the attacker, a lack of knowledge about the legal situation etc.

The decision for or against filing a case should solely be based on the needs of the woman affected. For some women and girls, criminal proceedings represent an undue hardship, for others it may be a crucial step in coping with the act of violence.

Professional counselling can help in making the best decision for the individual. Rape crisis centres offer no-cost counselling, provide information on criminal proceedings, can put you in contact with a lawyer and offer to accompany you to see a physician, lawyer and an officer of the criminal investigation department.