10 Things You MUST Do if You Have Been Sexually Assaulted

Womans Eye Crying_Sexual Assualt with attribution_smaller size2.jpg

You are shattered by pain and fear. Sharing this frightful and horrendous violation of your being would mean accepting defeat and weakness. You may fear judgment or the retaliation of your assailant, so you painfully hide in the dark.

You may feel as if you are the only one going through such brutal degradation, but alarming statistics show otherwise:

  • In the United States, a person is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes
  • There are over 237,000 victims of sexual assaults each year
  • 60% of sexual assaults are NOT reported
  • 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone the victim knows
  • 97% of perpetrators will never go to jail

Sadly, your instinct to keep it a secret and agonize in silence only brings you additional pain, loneliness, and anxiety. As difficult and impossible as it may seem, reaching out for help is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself.

Here are 10 things you MUST do if you have been sexually assaulted:

1. Get to a safe place and ask for support

Retreat to a safe place, away from your attacker. Immediately call a friend or trusted family member for moral support. If you are not ready to tell anyone you know, contact an Austin-area organization such SafePlace (512-267-SAFE) or Hope Alliance (1-800-460-SAFE). If you are not in the Austin area, contact the national organization, RAINN, for a referral to services in your area or for anonymous support (1-800-656-HOPE).
You should never go through this alone.

2. Preserve evidence

Though you might feel the urge to take a shower, wash your clothes, or eliminate anything that reminds you of that horrific event, doing so would remove all chances of bringing you justice. Also refrain from eating or drinking anything until you have been examined.

3. Get medical care

The last thing you want at this time is to be examined, that is highly understandable. On the other hand, you need to make sure you remain healthy and safe from STDs and pregnancy.

Hospitals normally have a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) do an assessment and examination, but if you suspect having been drugged, let them know so they can add a urine test as well.

4. Report the crime immediately

Report the crime as soon as possible, making sure you have good moral support while doing so. The trauma you have been through has most likely happened to someone else before you, and will surely happen again, unless it’s reported.

5. Write everything down

Writing is therapeutic. Writing down all the details you remember will not only help a possible investigation, it will also allow you to safely get everything out of your system and begin to process your trauma.

6. Seek counseling

Seek professional help to cope with this tragic event. No one is born equipped to deal with this on his or her own. A safe and confidential support system is your best chance for a healthy recovery.

7. Watch out for PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a sneaky result of highly traumatic situations and often comes days or even weeks after the assault. You may feel as if you recovered fairly well, only to be hit by depression, suicidal thoughts, paranoia, or other unwanted behaviors and emotions you’ve never had before. Speak to someone if you start experiencing unusual symptoms.

8. Remember: It is not your fault

While recovering from your assault, remind yourself that you didn’t do anything to deserve this and it wasn’t your fault.

9. Join a Support Group

Surround yourself with people that truly understand what you’ve been through. Your friends and family may be able to offer emotional support, but support group individuals will truly understand your situation.

10. Take care of yourself

Listen to your thoughts, your emotions, and your body and take good care of yourself. It is time to empower and nurture all aspects of who you are. Once you’re ready, you might even consider taking a self-defense class, or volunteer with sexual assault awareness organizations to turn this traumatic event into a positive, awareness raising, and caring project for you and others around you.