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Experiencing rape, sexual assault, exploitation or image-based abuse can affect people in many different ways.
There’s no right or wrong way to feel and it might change from day to day. There can be a whole range of different feelings.
Here are some of the ways people say they have been affected:
- In shock
- Feeling like you could have done something different to stop it happening
- Ashamed or embarassed
- Having nightmares or flashbacks
- Having panic attacks (this can include heart racing, sweating, shortness of breath)
- Feeling low or depressed
- Feeling powerless
- Self harming
- Suicidal thoughts
- Worried what other people might think if they knew
- Unable to concentrate
- Feeling sick
However you feel, there is support for you to help you understand and cope with the impacts, and to help you access other kinds of help and support if you need to.
Some people find it can be useful to talk about what they've experienced. You can read some stories from other young people submitted to Shetland Rape Crisis. Content warning: these stories talk about sexual violence.
Your Safety is the Most Important Thing
If you’ve recently been raped or sexually assaulted, the most important thing is your safety.
If you’re unsafe or you need emergency medical attention call 999 to reach the police or ambulance services.
If you cannot talk when on the phone to the emergency services, you can dial 55 after an automated message plays to let the operators know it isn't an accidental call. They will then put you through to a police call handler. They will ask you some simple yes or no questions. If you are not able to speak, listen carefully to the questions and instructions from the call handler so they can assess your call and arrange help if needed.
Even if it’s not an emergency, you may need medical attention.
You can contact your GP, or if you’re not comfortable doing this you could contact Rape Crisis Scotland or Childline and they could help you find a way to get the right kind of medical help.
Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline
If you’re aged 13 or over, you can get support through the Rape Crisis Scotland helpline if you've been affected by any form of sexual violence. Support is there for anyone of any gender.
You can call any day from 6pm until midnight.
You can also get in touch via email or you can text the team for information and support. They can also arrange for free language interpreters, if English isn't your first language, and there is a British Sign Language service.
Rape Crisis Scotland can also put you in touch with your local Rape Crisis Centre if you want to get support there.
Rape Crisis Centres are free and confidential. This means they won't tell anyone you've been in touch unless there is a concern over your or someone else’s safety - but they will do their very best to tell you before talking to someone else.
Rape Crisis Centres will give you time to talk about what happened and give you options for what you want to do after. They can offer different types of support, information about things like the law and your rights, and they can also come with you to places like the hospital, STI clinics, the police station and court.
Some also offer workshops such as aromatherapy and relaxation techniques that can help too.
Find the details of your local centre.
Scottish Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline
The Scottish Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline can offer private support to anyone with experience of domestic abuse or forced marriage. They are open 24 hours and they have a translator service available if you'd rather speak to someone in a different language.
If you’re 18 or under you can get support from Childline.
You can call them or you can speak to them over web chat or email. You must log in to the Childline website to speak to them over email or webchat.
These services are free and confidential, and this means they won't tell anyone you've been in touch unless there is a concern over you or someone else's safety. If you call Childline, the number won't appear on your phone bill.
Find out more about what happens when you contact Childline and how they can help or watch our IGTV with Lauren Burke, a Childine Counsellor as she answers questions submitted by young people about how to get in touch and the support you can receive.
If you’re aged 18+ you can contact the ‘Revenge Porn’ Helpline (10 am to 4 pm, Monday to Friday excluding bank holidays) which provides advice, guidance and support with helping to remove intimate content which has been non-consensually shared online. You can also email them.
Abused Men in Scotland is a national helpline to support men who have experienced abuse. You can contact them by phone or email:
The Young Scot LawLine offers free, confidential, 24-hour legal advice on any legal issue or problem for anyone aged 11 to 26, in partnership with JC Hughes Solicitors in Glasgow.
The Scottish Child Law Centre can offer free confidential legal advice service on any issue to do with children and young people in Scotland. There service is available for under 21's.
The National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline provide support services to LGBTQIA+ people. Their helpline is open Monday to Friday (10am - 5pm) with a later closing time of 8pm on Wednesday's and Thursday's.
Amina: Let's Talk is a service for Muslim women and girls aged 16-25 in Scotland. Their helpline runs every Wednesday 6pm-9pm.
Victim Support Scotland offers free confidential to support to anyone affected by a crime. Their helpline is open Monday to Friday 8am-8pm.
Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) is a law enforcement agency that helps keep young people safe from sexual abuse and grooming online. You can report something that has happened to you on their website.
There are also a range of organisations that can support you if you're feeling down, depressed or anxious. Visit our mental health and emotional wellbeing support services page for more information.
Talking to someone you trust
Many young people will talk to someone they know – like a friend, parent, carer, teacher, youth worker, or someone else in their family. You might feel more comfortable doing this too.
Talking to someone else can help you to make sense of what has happened and maybe get more information and help.
A trusted adult can also take action to keep you safe. Whoever you talk to, you deserve to be believed and not to be blamed for what has happened to you. If you feel the person you spoke to hasn’t understood or hasn’t helped you, you could try talking to someone else you know, or get in touch with one of the organisations that are listed above.
Women's Aid Groups
There are 36 Women’s Aid groups all over Scotland who can offer you support in your local area. Find your nearest by entering your postcode on the Scottish Women's Aid website.
Each Women’s Aid service has specialised workers who understand the confusing issues around domestic abuse. They support women, children and young people in one to one meetings or in group settings. You can speak to a member of Women’s Aid staff confidentially. They will never tell anyone what you say, unless they think you or another person is at serious risk of harm. If you can’t find your local Women’s Aid or they don’t open at a time that suits you, you can phone the National Helpline on 0800 127 1234.
If you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted and the person’s penis or any of their semen came into contact with your vagina, then there is a possibility you may be pregnant. If you think you may be pregnant, it’s a good idea to take a test to find out for sure. You can get a free test from your GP or a sexual health clinic, or you can buy them from a supermarket or pharmacy to test at home.
You can find out about services near you using the Sexual Health Service Finder. Just type in your postcode and it takes you to your local sexual health services. Most have services especially for young people, and even if they don’t, the main service is for young people as well as adults.
If you are pregnant, it may help to speak to someone you trust about what you’d like to do. Some young people choose not to go ahead with their pregnancy, while others choose to have a baby or consider other options after birth, like adoption.
Whatever you decide is very much up to you, and there is support to help with any choice you make. While it may seem scary to talk about it, the sooner you speak to someone the more choices you will have about what to do.
You can speak to your GP or a sexual health clinic about your options, or if you prefer to you can speak to someone confidentially on the phone first.
You can also talk to Rape Crisis Scotland or Childline about your feelings about the pregnancy.
If you have been raped or sexually assaulted there is a chance you may have an STI (sexually transmitted infection).
If so, you will need to get medical help to treat it.
There are sexual health clinics all over Scotland where you can go to see if you have any STIs and find out what treatment would help.
You can ask your GP about this, or if you’d rather not speak to them then you can contact Rape Crisis Scotland or Childline and speak to someone about how to get tested for STIs.
Many people feel embarrassed to talk about STIs, but there is nothing to be ashamed about and health services have a duty to make sure you’re healthy and safe.
Reporting to the police
If you have experienced any of the forms of sexual violence and you would like to report it to police, you can do this at any time.
Sexual violence is against the law and it’s the job of police to investigate and help to keep people safe.
Not everyone may want to report what’s happened to them and it can help to talk things through with someone you trust before you decide if this is something you’d like to do.
Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline or Childline can explain what would happen if you did report to the police. If they were concerned about you or someone else's safety, then they may need to share your information with the police if they have your contact details. If you’re worried about this, you can ask them about it first.
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