Chapter 28: Sexual Assault Flashcards Preview

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The nurse at a university health centre leads a dialogue with female freshmen about rape and sexual assault. One student says, “If I avoid strangers or situations where I am alone outside at night, I’ll be safe from sexual attacks.” Choose the nurse’s best response.

a. “Your plan is not adequate. You could still be raped or sexually assaulted.”
b. “I am glad you have this excellent safety plan. Would others like to comment?”
c. “It’s better to walk with someone or call security when you enter or leave a building.”
d. “Sexual assaults are more often perpetrated by acquaintances. Let’s discuss ways to prevent that.”

The majority (82%) of the sexual assaults reported involved an offender who was a friend or acquaintance of the victim, with stranger assaults accounting for 18% of incidents. The nurse should share this information along with encouraging discussion of safety measures. The distracters fail to provide adequate information or encourage discussion.

A woman was found confused and disoriented after being abducted and raped at gunpoint by an unknown assailant. The emergency department nurse makes these observations about the woman: talking rapidly in disjointed phrases, unable to concentrate, indecisive when asked to make simple decisions. What is the woman’s level of anxiety?

a. Weak
b. Mild
c. Moderate
d. Severe


Acute anxiety results from the personal threat to the victim’s safety and security. In this case, the patient’s symptoms of rapid, dissociated speech, inability to concentrate, and indecisiveness indicate severe anxiety. Weak is not a level of anxiety. Mild and moderate levels of anxiety would allow the patient to function at a higher level.


After an abduction and rape at gunpoint by an unknown assailant, which assessment finding best indicates that a patient is in the acute phase of the rape-trauma syndrome?

a. Decreased motor activity
b. Confusion and disorientation
c. Flashbacks and dreams
d. Fears and phobias


Reactions of the acute phase of the rape-trauma syndrome are shock, emotional numbness, confusion, disorientation, restlessness, and agitated motor activity. Flashbacks, dreams, fears, and phobias are seen in the long-term reorganization phase of the rape-trauma syndrome. Decreased motor activity by itself is not indicative of any particular phase.


A nurse interviews a patient who was abducted and raped at gunpoint by an unknown assailant. The patient says, “I can’t talk about it. Nothing happened. I have to forget.” What is the patient’s present coping strategy?

a. Compensation
b. Somatization
c. Projection
d. Denial


The patient’s statements reflect use of denial, an ego defence mechanism. This mechanism may be used unconsciously to protect the person from the emotionally overwhelming reality of the rape. The patient’s statements do not reflect somatization, compensation, or projection.


An emergency department nurse prepares to assist with evidence collection for a sexual assault victim. Prior to photographs and pelvic examination, what documentation is important?

a. The patient’s vital signs
b. Consent signed by the patient
c. Supervision and credentials of the examiner
d. Storage location of the patient’s personal effects



Patients have the right to refuse legal and medical examination. Consent forms are required to proceed with these steps.


A nurse in the emergency department assesses an unresponsive victim of rape. The victim’s friend reports, “That guy gave her salty water before he raped her.” Which question is most important for the nurse to ask of the victim’s friend?

a. “Does the victim have any kidney disease?”
b. “Has the victim consumed any alcohol?”
c. “What time was she given salty water?”
d. “Did you witness the rape?”


Salty water is a slang/street name for GHB (γ-hydroxybutyric acid), a Schedule III central nervous system depressant associated with rape. Use of alcohol would produce an increased risk for respiratory depression. GHB has a duration of 1–12 hours, but the duration is less important that the potential for respiratory depression. Seeking evidence is less important than the victim’s physiologic stability.


A rape victim says to the nurse, “I always try to be so careful. I know I should not have walked to my car alone. Was this attack my fault?” Which communication by the nurse is most therapeutic?

a. Support the victim to separate issues of vulnerability from blame.
b. Emphasize the importance of using a buddy system in public places.
c. Reassure the victim that the outcome of the situation will be positive.
d. Pose questions about the rape and help the patient explore why it happened.


Although the victim may have made choices that made her vulnerable, she is not to blame for the rape. Correcting this distortion in thinking allows the victim to begin to restore a sense of control. This is a positive response to victimization. The distracters do not permit the victim to begin to restore a sense of control or offer use of nontherapeutic communication techniques. In this interaction, the victim needs to talk about feelings rather than prevention.


A rape victim tells the nurse, “I should not have been out on the street alone.” Select the nurse’s most therapeutic response.

a. “Rape can happen anywhere.”
b. “Blaming yourself increases your anxiety and discomfort.”
c. “You are right. You should not have been alone on the street at night.”
d. “You feel as though this would not have happened if you had not been alone.”


A reflective communication technique is most helpful. Looking at one’s role in the event serves to explain events that the victim would otherwise find incomprehensible. The distracters discount the victim’s perceived role and interfere with further discussion.


The nursing diagnosis Rape-trauma syndrome applies to a rape victim in the emergency department. Select the most appropriate outcome to achieve before discharging the patient.

a. The memory of the rape is less vivid and less frightening.
b. The patient is able to describe feelings of safety and relaxation.
c. Symptoms of pain, discomfort, and anxiety are no longer present.
d. The patient agrees to a follow-up appointment with a rape victim advocate.


Agreeing to keep a follow-up appointment is a realistic short-term outcome. The victim is in the acute phase; the distracters are unlikely to be achieved during the limited time the victim is in an emergency department.


A rape victim visited a rape crisis counsellor weekly for 8 weeks. At the end of this counselling period, which comment by the victim best demonstrates that reorganization was successful?

a. “I have a rash on my buttocks. It itches all the time.”
b. “Now I know what I did that triggered the attack on me.”
c. “I’m sleeping better although I still have an occasional nightmare.”
d. “I have lost 8 pounds since the attack, but I needed to lose some weight.”


Rape-trauma syndrome is a variant of post-traumatic stress disorder. The absence of signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder suggests that the long-term reorganization phase was successfully completed. The victim’s sleep has stabilized; occasional nightmares occur, even in reorganization. The distracters suggest somatic symptoms, appetite disturbances, and self-blame, all of which are indicators that the process is ongoing.


A nurse interviews a 17-year-old male victim of sexual assault. The victim is reluctant to talk about the experience. Which comment should the nurse offer to this victim?

a. “Male victims of sexual assault are usually better equipped than women to deal with the emotional pain that occurs.”
b. “Male victims of sexual assault often experience physical injuries and are assaulted by more than one person.”
c. “Do you have any male friends who have also been victims of sexual assault?”
d. “Why do you think you became a victim of sexual assault?”


Few rape survivors seek help, even with serious injury; so, it is important for the nurse to help the victim discuss the experience. The correct response therapeutically gives information to this victim. A male rape victim is more likely to experience physical trauma and to have been victimized by several assailants. Males experience the same devastation, physical injury, and emotional consequences as females. Although they may cover their responses, they too benefit from care and treatment. ”Why” questions represent probing, which is a nontherapeutic communication technique. The victim may or may not have friends who have had this experience, but it’s important to talk about his feelings rather than theirs.


Where do the majority of sexual assaults occur?

a. Private home
b. City street at night
c. Commercial establishment
d. Person’s own motor vehicle


Just over half (51%) of sexual assault incidents occurred in a commercial establishment; 31% in a residence or surrounding location; 12% in a street or other public place; and 6% in another location.


A nurse cares for a rape victim who was given a drink that contained GHB (γ-hydroxybutyric acid) by an assailant. Which intervention has priority?

a. Monitoring for coma
b. Monitoring for seizures
c. Monitoring for hypotonia
d. Monitoring for respiratory depression



Monitoring for respiratory depression takes priority over hypotonia, seizures, or coma.


Which situation describes consensual sex rather than rape?

a. A husband forces vaginal sex when he comes home intoxicated from a party. The wife objects.
b. A woman’s lover pleads with her to have oral sex. She gives in but later regrets the decision.
c. A person is beaten, robbed, and forcibly subjected to anal penetration by an assailant.
d. A dentist gives anesthesia for a procedure and then has intercourse with the unconscious patient.


Only the correct option describes a scenario in which the sexual contact is consensual. Consensual sex is not considered rape if the participants are of legal age.


Before a victim of sexual assault is discharged from the emergency department, which of the following should the nurse do?

a. Notify the victim’s family to provide emotional support
b. Offer to stay with the patient until stability is regained
c. Advise the patient to try not to think about the assault
d. Provide referral information verbally and in writing


Immediately after the assault, rape victims are often disorganized and unable to think well or remember instructions. Written information acknowledges this fact and provides a solution. The distracters violate the patient’s right to privacy, evidence a rescue fantasy, and offer a platitude that is neither therapeutic nor effective.


A victim of a sexual assault who sits in the emergency department is rocking back and forth and repeatedly saying, “I can’t believe I’ve been raped.” This behaviour is characteristic of which stage of rape-trauma syndrome?

a. The acute phase
b. The long-term phase
c. A delayed reaction
d. The angry stage


The victim’s response is typical of the acute phase and shows cognitive, affective, and behavioural disruptions. This response is immediate and does not include a display of behaviours suggestive of the long-term (reorganization) phase, anger, or a delayed reaction.


A victim of a sexual assault comes to the hospital for treatment but abruptly decides to decline treatment and leaves the facility. While respecting the person’s rights, which of the following should the nurse do?

a. Say, “You may not leave until you receive prophylactic treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.”
b. Provide written information about physical and emotional reactions the person may experience.
c. Explain the need and importance of infectious disease and pregnancy tests.
d. Give verbal information about legal resources in the community.


All information given to a patient before he or she leaves the emergency department should be in writing. Patients who are anxious are unable to concentrate and therefore cannot retain much of what is verbally imparted. Written information can be read and referred to later. Patients may not be kept against their will or coerced into treatment. This constitutes false imprisonment


An unconscious teenager is treated in the emergency department. The teenager’s friends suspect a rape occurred at a party and tell the nurse the teenager received ketamine. Priority action by the nurse should focus on which of the following?

a. Preserving rape evidence
b. Maintaining physiologic stability
c. Determining what drugs were ingested
d. Obtaining a description of the rape from a friend


Because the patient is unconscious, the risk for airway obstruction is present. Treatment for ketamine is airway maintenance. The nurse’s priority will focus on maintaining physiologic stability. The distracters are of lower priority than preserving physiological functioning.


A victim of a violent rape was treated in the emergency department. As discharge preparation begins, the victim says softly, “I will never be the same again. I can’t face my friends. There is no reason to go on.” Select the nurse’s most appropriate response.

a. “Are you thinking of harming yourself?”
b. “It will take time, but you will feel the same as before the attack.”
c. “Your friends will understand when you explain it was not your fault.”
d. “You will be able to find meaning from this experience as time goes on.”


The patient’s words suggest hopelessness. Whenever hopelessness is present, so is suicide risk. The nurse should directly address the possibility of suicidal ideation with the patient. The other options attempt to offer reassurance before making an assessment.


When an emergency department nurse teaches a victim of rape-trauma syndrome about reactions that may occur during the long-term phase of reorganization, which symptoms should be included? Select all that apply.

a. Development of fears and phobias
b. Decreased motor activity
c. Feelings of numbness
d. Flashbacks, dreams
e. Syncopal episodes


ANS: A, C, D
These reactions are common to the long-term phase. Victims of rape frequently have a period of increased motor activity rather than decreased motor activity during the long-term reorganization phase. Syncopal episodes would not be expected.


A patient was abducted and raped at gunpoint by an unknown assailant. Which nursing interventions are appropriate while caring for the patient in the emergency department? Select all that apply.

a. Allow the patient to talk at a comfortable pace.
b. Place the patient in a private room with a caregiver.
c. Pose questions in nonjudgemental, empathetic ways.
d. Invite the patient’s family members to the examination room.
e. Put an arm around the patient to demonstrate support and compassion.


ANS: A, B, C
Neutral, nonjudgemental care and emotional support are critical to crisis management for the rape victim. The rape victim should have privacy but not be left alone. The rape victim’s anxiety may escalate when touched by a stranger, even when the stranger is a nurse. Some rape victims prefer not to have family involved. The patient’s privacy may be compromised by family presence.


An emergency department nurse prepares to assist with examination of a sexual assault victim. What equipment will be needed to collect and document forensic evidence? Select all that apply.

a. Camera
b. Body map
c. DNA swabs
d. Pulse oximeter
e. Sphygmomanometer


ANS: A, B, C

Body maps, DNA swabs, and photographs are used to collect and preserve body fluids and other forensic evidence.


Which aspects of assessment have priority when a nurse interviews a rape victim in an acute setting? Select all that apply.

a. Coping mechanisms the patient is using
b. The patient’s previous sexual experiences
c. The patient’s history of sexually transmitted diseases
d. Signs and symptoms of emotional and physical trauma
e. Adequacy and availability of the patient’s support system


ANS: A, D, E
The nurse assesses the victim’s level of anxiety, coping mechanisms, available support systems, signs and symptoms of emotional trauma, and signs and symptoms of physical trauma. The history of STDs or previous sexual experiences has little relevance


A rape victim tells the emergency nurse, “I feel so dirty. Help me take a shower before I get examined.” Which of the following should the nurse do? Select all that apply.

a. Arrange for the victim to shower.
b. Explain that bathing destroys evidence.
c. Give the victim a basin of water and towels.
d. Offer the victim a shower after evidence is collected.
e. Explain that bathing facilities are not available in the emergency department.


As uncomfortable as the victim may be, she should not bathe until the examination is completed. Collection of evidence is critical for prosecution of the attacker. A shower and fresh clothing should be made available to the survivor as soon as possible after the examination and collection of specimens. Showering after the examination will provide comfort to the victim. The distracters will result in destruction of evidence or are untrue.