Surviving Sexual Assault
It’s hard to know what to do, how to feel, or what your options are after a sexual assault. Please know that you’re not alone. Below are some things to keep in mind. If you are in immediate danger or seriously injured, call security or 911.
- Your safety is important. Are you in a safe place? If you’re not feeling safe, consider reaching out to someone you trust for support. You don’t have to go through this alone.
- What happened was not your fault. Something happened to you that you didn’t want to happen—and that’s not OK.
- Try not to shower or change clothes. This can be very disconcerting, but in the event that you decide to pursue legal action, this will be helpful.
- Seek medical attention at the Wellness Center or a hospital. Think about whether you feel comfortable with emergency contraception and get tested for STDs, your continued safety and wellness is important. (Because sexual assault is a crime, medical staff is required to report it to police, you do not have to talk to the police by law)
- Contact a campus counselor or rape crisis center. What is discussed will be completely confidential.
- Consider reporting the rape. You can contact campus or local police.
Survivors may feel:
- Fearful for personal safety
- Shock, disbelief, and anger
- The need to blame yourself
- The desire to forget that it happened
- Uncertainty about your femininity/masculinity
- Uncertainty about your values
- This is a normal response to trauma, support can help. Find a coping skill that can work FOR you, not against you.
- One Eighty (formerly Every Women’s House)
- RAINN (RAINN also has a live chat option, if you are not comfortable talking to someone on the phone or in person)
*Taken from American College Health Association
How to Help if Someone You Know Has Been Sexually Assaulted?
Based on the national statistics, it is very likely that you will come in contact with someone who has been sexually assaulted. It can be difficult to know how to respond to a friend or loved one, here is a good way to start:
- Believe your friend.
- Offer support and safety. Offer to listen to you friend. Help explore options. Your friend will need to decide about medical attention, counseling and whether to report to the legal system. Support whatever decisions your friend makes. There is no right or wrong way to cope with a sexual assault.
- Offer to stay with your friend. Your friend may not want to be alone or feel secure in places that have been previously unthreatening.
- Encourage your friend to get medical attention. If the assault has just occurred, encourage your friend to go to the hospital or doctor right away, before showering or changing clothes. A doctor, nurse or other health care provider can check for injuries that might not be obvious. They can give your friend medication that will prevent pregnancy, and they can check for sexually transmitted diseases. They will also collect evidence should your friend decide to press charges.
- Encourage your friend to seek counseling, if they are not comfortable with seeking counsel through the Wellness Center, there are resources that are anonymous such as hotlines or even live chats with advocates.
- Be ready to help with long-term healing. Some people are strongly affected for a few months, others for years. Do not expect the person to just “get on” with life.*
*Taken from Journeyworks Publishing, Mardi Richmond
Providing Continued Support for a Friend Who Experienced an Assault
Maintain your lifestyle. It can be difficult to stay emotionally strong if you are mostly focusing on the sexual assault. It is not always possible to “hit the pause button” on your commitments and responsibilities. It may seem challenging to make time to do these activities, but they can be helpful self-care strategies in the long-run.
Check in regularly. Helping in the immediate time after an assault is essential, but it is also necessary to periodically touching base with the person. As time passes, the support system may become smaller and less visible. Make sure you let your friend know you are still there to help, listen, and support them.
Be aware the person is responding to an event – but this response is not linear, prescribed, or always “moving forward.” Sometimes it can be very difficult to witness someone’s suffering and we want them to feel better, but they may not be able to be in the place we’d want them to be. You may also want to speak with someone about how you are feeling as a support person.
Refuel & Re-energize yourself – encourage your friend(s) to do the same. Take time to do those things that help you feel some peace, joy and appreciation.
Need some help in finding the good side of things, check out this website: 1000 Awesome Things
Educate yourself on available resources (local & national):