Sexual violence is the most under reported crime in the United States. One out of every four women in the U.S will experience sexual violence at some point in their life. Approximately 76% of victims knew the perpetrator. Sexual violence can be in the form of: Rape (stranger or non-stranger); Sodomy; Incest; Statutory rape; Sexual exploitation; Sex trafficking; Sexual and street harassment; Dating violence; Alcohol and drug-facilitated sexual assault; Child sexual abuse; Stalking; Indecent exposure; Unwanted touching (i.e. fondling or molestation); Voyeurism (“peeping tom”).
If you have been assaulted:
Get medical care as soon as possible after the assault. It is important to see a medical professional for any hidden injuries, or testing for pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Try not to wash, shower, douche or change clothes before receiving medical care.
Take a change of clothes to the hospital if possible.
Remember this is not your fault. Your actions did not cause the assault.
Obtain a forensic medical examination (forensic exam) and make a report to law enforcement.
Obtain a forensic exam without making a report to law enforcement. Victims are not required to report a sexual assault to law enforcement, however you may still report at a later time.
Make a report to law enforcement without receiving an forensic exam.
Decline a forensic exam and decline making a report.
After a sexual assault, people experience a wide range of reactions and emotions. It’s extremely important to note that there is no one pattern or order of responses. Immediately following an assault, many survivors may experience ongoing physical, emotional or cognitive symptoms. Physical symptoms may be related to areas of their body affected by the assault, anxiety, difficulty concentrating or eating disturbances. Emotional symptoms may be expressive, disoriented, or controlled. Cognitive symptoms can include the inability to block out thoughts of the assault or to forget parts of it; or victims may experience conflicting feelings and thoughts.
How to support a victim
Believe them. One of the most common fears victims face is that no one will believe them. This fear may affect who the victim talks to about the assault and what they share. Remind them that you believe them and are there for them.
Listen without judging or giving advice. The victim may be feeling many different emotions – it’s important to support them in expressing any feelings they’re experiencing.
Remain calm, although it may be difficult. How you respond will affect further reactions and responses from the victim.
Avoid pressing for information. Give the victim the opportunity to share what they would like to with you. They may not feel comfortable providing certain details of the assault. Respect their privacy and boundaries.
Give the victim as much control as possible – the very thing that was taken from them during the assault. Let the victim set the tone by supporting if they choose to tell you about the assault or not. It is the victim’s experience to share, not yours.
Don’t touch the victim unless you receive permission first. Physical contact without permission can cause anxiety or flashbacks.
Provide support. Keep in mind that recovering from sexual assault doesn’t happen within a specific timeframe. The support your loved one receives can affect them throughout the entire recovery process, however long that may be.
Encourage your loved one to talk to a professional about their experience. Provide information to contact the nearest sexual assault program, staffed with professionals trained in working with sexual assault victims.
Don’t attempt to confront the offender or tell the victim you are going to “get” the offender. Doing or saying things like this can cause the victim additional trauma. It may also create a dangerous situation for you and the victim.
Don’t make any promises. Avoid telling the victim that “everything will be OK.” These statements minimize the incident and are things you have no control over.