Content Warning: Rape, Sexual Assault, Sexual Violence and Rape Culture
Sexual coercion, abuse, assault or violence can create such trauma and upheaval that oftentimes, you may not know what to do, whether it happened to you or someone you know. Maybe you are unsure what happened to you, or don’t know what to call it, that’s okay too. Trust your gut. If you feel like something is/was off, you are probably right. No matter if it happened just recently, or “forever ago”, no matter if you remember every detail or can hardly remember a thing, there are things you can do and people you can turn to for help.
Your emotional responses is your emotional response. Survivor’s response to sexual violence will vary from individual to individual. You are not crazy or over-the-top. Your response is a normal reaction to a traumatic and life changing situation. Regardless of when the sexual abuse may have happened, here are some steps and resources you can use to begin or assist in your healing process. It is most important to begin your process by making sure you are somewhere safe, preferably with a friend or relative you can trust.
FIND SOMEONE YOU CAN TRUST LIKE A TRUSTED FAMILY MEMBER, FRIEND OR PROFESSIONAL
Sometimes, we are afraid to talk to those we know, for fear of judgment or reaction. If you feel like you are unable to talk to a friend or family member you can call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained sexual assault service provider in your area. They would be able to help find you a safe place to go (if you need it).
SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
If you should need medical help you can go to any local emergency room or hospital. For your health and protection, it is important to be checked and treated for possible injuries, sexually transmitted infections. It is also important to be tested for pregnancy if you have been raped. The hospital may want to do a rape kit or forensic exam if the assault happened within five days of your visit.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is an excellent resource to find local sexual assault service providers. Their services are usually free or low cost and can offer: “information and resources including Individual counseling, Group counseling/support groups, Medical attention and hospital accompaniment, Legal/criminal justice system advocacy, Crime victim assistance advocacy, Community education, Professional education, Casework/practical assistance, Emergency shelter, Volunteer opportunities.”
OFFER GENTLE SUPPORT IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN A VICTIM OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE
If you know someone who has been sexually victimized here are somethings you can do to support them.
First and foremost, just listen, do not judge them, or offer your “opinion.” It probably took them some time to come to you and they are probably scared to say anything, you don’t want to contribute to any feelings of fear and/or guilt they may already have.
Remind them that it is not their fault. Don’t ask them many questions, or detailed questions. Allow them the space to share only what they are ready to share. Understand that however they respond to their trauma it’s okay if you don’t “get it”. There is no right or wrong way for them to feel. Help them to establish safety, and offer support in finding and accessing resources.
Whatever the situation, you are not beyond help. You are not alone, and you don’t have to walk alone in your journey of healing. While many well meaning people may try to tell you what to do and how to heal, there is no clear cut right or wrong way to heal. Know that there is no shame in what you’ve suffered and there is no shame in what you choose to do next. The next steps may not be easy, but with the right support, you can conquer them, one step at a time.
State Crisis Centers and Hotlines (for contact information for sexual assault and rape resources in every state)
Rape Abuse & Incest National Network
National Sexual Violence Resource Center
Men Can Stop Rape
1 in 6 (for men who have been affected by sexual violence)
Forge Forward (A National Transgender Anti-Violence Organization)
End Sexual Violence
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)