Skip to main content

Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

Help after rape and sexual assault

Sexual assault is any sexual act that you did not consent to, or are forced into against your will. This includes rape.

If you have been sexually assaulted, it wasn't your fault. Sexual assault is a crime, no matter who commits it or where it happens. Do not be afraid to get help.

Emergency action required: Call 112 or 999 now if:

  • you are in immediate danger or need urgent help


You can also get help from your local Garda station in person or by phone.

Contact details for your local Garda station -

Rape Crisis Centre

If you were sexually assaulted at any time in your life, the Rape Crisis Centre can help.

They offer advice and support on where to go depending on your situation.

Freephone: 1800 77 88 88 (24-hour helpline)

Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU)

A SATU is a safe place to go if you have been raped or sexually assaulted.

SATUs can help by offering a forensic exam and medical care. You may need help for a possible pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

SATU contact details

What happens at a SATU

Someone from the Rape Crisis Centre can come to the SATU to support you throughout the process if you wish.

Your GP

You may feel more comfortable talking to your GP. They can refer you to the care you need.

If you are under 14

If you are under 14, you can get help at Child and Adolescent Forensic Medical Assessment Services.

If you have been sexually assaulted

You don't have to report the assault to the Gardaí but following the steps below can help if you do decide to report.

If you have recently been sexually assaulted, try not to:

  • eat or drink
  • brush your teeth or use mouthwash
  • smoke or vape
  • shower or take a bath
  • go to the toilet (pee or poo)
  • wash your clothes or underwear
  • touch or throw away any condoms used

You should keep any sanitary products or tampons you wore at the time of the assault or right afterwards.


Do not worry if you can't follow any of these steps. We can still carry out a forensic exam.

Reporting rape or sexual assault

Sexual assault is a serious crime and you can report it to the Gardaí.

If you're over 18

You don't have to report the assault to the Gardaí if you don't want to. You may need time to think about what has happened to you.

But if you think you want the crime to be investigated, the sooner a forensic exam takes place, the better.

SATUs can store forensic samples for you for up to a year. In this time you can decide if you want to report the assault to the Gardaí or not.

Why the timing of a forensic exam is important after rape and sexual assault.

If you're under 18

By law, healthcare professionals have to protect children from harm. If you have been raped or sexually assaulted and you’re under 18, it has to be reported to Tusla and the Gardaí. This is to keep you safe and to provide you with support.

If you have been sexually assaulted

It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to feel if you have been raped or sexually assaulted.

After a traumatic (very distressing) experience, it is normal for your mind and body to go into shock. It takes time to get over this shock.


Sexual assault is any act of a sexual nature where you have not given consent.

Not giving sexual consent means you did not give your permission for something to happen. This can be using direct language (saying 'no'), or body language.

If you have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs, you may not be able to give consent.

The age of consent to sexual activity is 17. If you are under the age of 17, you are not legally old enough to consent to a sexual act even if you want to.


Watch a video that explains sexual consent by comparing it to a cup of tea.

Tea and Consent (YouTube)

Copyright ©2015 Emmeline May and Blue Seat Studios

Consent and the law -

Rape and sexual assault

Rape is when you do not consent and someone:

  • puts their penis into (penetrates) your vagina, anus (bottom) or mouth
  • puts any object into your vagina

Sexual assault is when you do not consent and someone:

  • puts an object or another part of their body (not penis) into any of your body openings (not vagina)
  • touches you in a sexual way (groping)
  • forces you to kiss them

Page last reviewed: 1 March 2023
Next review due: 1 March 2026