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Pregnancy after rape or unwanted sex

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This topic gives information about your legal rights, your choices and support you can access if you are pregnant after rape or unwanted sex.

If you have been raped or forced into sex you did not want, you may be feeling a whole range of emotions. You may feel numb, anxiety, shame or confusion. All these are common responses.

Emotional support

Discovering a pregnancy after rape or a bad sexual experience can make it difficult for you to make a decision about what to do next, including getting professional support or coping with an operation. In South Australia Yarrow Place gives free and confidential counselling and information to women who have been raped. You may also want to talk with the family and friends you think can support you.

Domestic violence (physical and sexual violence, threats, humiliation, isolation and controlling behaviours by your partner) can take your choices away about when you want to have sex, whether you use contraception and when you want to have a baby.  This can lead to an unwanted pregnancy. Domestic violence can also start or get worse in pregnancy. Support, counselling and safety planning is important in these situations.

In South Australia support can be provided at services such as:

  • Yarrow Place Rape and Sexual Assault Service 8226 8777
  • Pregnancy Advisory Centre 8243 3999
  • Central Domestic Violence Service
    The website will have information to direct you to the most appropriate service in your area.
  • Domestic Violence Gateway Helpline (1800 800 098)
    Counselling and referral service for anyone who is experiencing domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

What can be done to prevent a pregnancy after rape or unwanted sex?

There are tablets available to prevent pregnancy after rape or unplanned and unprotected intercourse. This medication, the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) is commonly known as the morning-after pill, but can actually be taken up to 5 days after unprotected intercourse, although it is more effective if taken within the first 3 days after unprotected intercourse.

For more information have a look at the information about Emergency Contraception on the Shine SA website
Emergency contraception

In South Australia you can get emergency contraception pills at a pharmacy without a doctor's prescription (you will need to talk with the pharmacist), or at a SHine SA clinic (formerly Family Planning), The Second Story Youth Health Service or some public hospitals.

Pregnancy choices

What can you do if you find that you are pregnant after a rape?

If you are pregnant you can:

  • Continue with the pregnancy and parent
  • Continue with the pregnancy and adopt
  • Have an abortion.

It's really important to have the pregnancy confirmed as early as possible so that all the choices are available to you and you have enough time to think about what you want to do.

You may be clear about whether or not you want to go ahead with the pregnancy and feel comfortable with the decision. However, in South Australia counselling is available at the Pregnancy Advisory Centre (8243 3999) if you would like to discuss your thoughts and feelings in a safe, supportive environment where you will not be pressured about your decision.

Can paternity testing (to check who the father is) be done during pregnancy?

Deciding what to do can be more difficult if you are not sure if the pregnancy is the result of rape, or consentin g sex with your partner or other person. Paternity testing is available if the pregnancy is over 10 weeks (in utero paternity testing) if this would help you make a decision.

There is a cost involved and both you and your partner would need to participate in the testing.

In South Australia contact the Genetics Service at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital on 8161 7375 or the Institute of Medical and Veterinary Science (IMVS) on 1800 331139 and ask for Paternity Testing, for further information and support.

What if you choose to continue with the pregnancy and adopt?

In South Australia women who want to continue with the pregnancy but would like to place the baby for adoption can receive information about this from the Families SA Adoption and Family Information Service (phone 08 8207 0060) 

Legal choices

Can the pregnancy be used to help the police investigate the assault?

You have the right to take legal action in relation to the rape. If you want to do this, or think you may want to in the future, there are important issues to consider in relation to the pregnancy. Forensic evidence (material from the pregnancy that can be used to support your case) can be taken from tissue collected during an abortion if you have decided to have an abortion, or after birth, if you decide to continue with the pregnancy.

In South Australia if you decide to have tissue collected at the time of the abortion, you can consent to:

  • Having the material stored at the Forensic Science South Australia for 12 months so that you have time to make your decision about going ahead with legal action; or
  • Having the tissue tested at the Forensic Science South Australia and used in the investigation. This would mean that you are consenting to a police investigation of the rape and you would be required to make a statement about the assault. You may already have had an examination to collect evidence. Additional evidence from the pregnancy may help the police investigation. You may be eligible for compensation under the Victims of Crime Act. This compensation is for injuries or conditions that are caused by rape. Pregnancy is classified as one of these conditions. For more information about eligibility and how to make a claim, contact either Yarrow Place on 8226 8777 or Victim Support Service on 8231 5626.

Medical concerns

You may be experiencing a range of physical and emotional effects after the sexual assault or unwanted sexual experience, regardless of the decision you make. Also, the thought of a medical examination, anaesthetic or operation may be frightening or worrying.

If you decide to continue with the pregnancy, you may be anxious about how you will cope with the pregnancy and delivery and how you will relate to the baby. If this is the case, consider talking to a doctor, nurse or midwife about your concerns. You can discuss ways of increasing your sense of safety and talk about how you can work through any problems should they arise.

If you decide to have an abortion, the Pregnancy Advisory Centre (South Australia) or other similar hospital based abortion services, can support you and make your experience as safe and comfortable as possible.

What if you were pregnant when you were raped - will your baby be harmed?

Most people who are raped are not seriously physically hurt and in most cases the baby will not be harmed. However, if the woman has been seriously physically hurt or hit in the stomach, there is more risk of harm to the baby.

In any case, it is important to see your doctor to check that the baby is OK. If you have any contractions, bleeding or pain in the abdomen after rape, it is important to see your obstetrician or go to the hospital as soon as you can.

This information has been provided by Yarrow Place Rape and Sexual Assault Service
ph 08 8226 8777. Visit the Yarrow Place website http://www.yarrowplace.sa.gov.au/

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see your doctor or midwife.


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