WHAT TO DO IF YOU’VE JUST BEEN SEXUALLY ASSAULTED
- Get to a safe place.
- Contact someone who can help you: a friend, the police (911), the Midland Rape Crisis and Children’s Advocacy Center (682-RAPE).
- Do not shower, drink or eat, douche, or change your clothes. These activities destroy important evidence in the event that you decide to prosecute the assailant.
- Get medical attention. You may have hidden injuries and may want to explore options for preventing pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.
- Write down everything that you remember happening, with as much detail as possible. This can help with your own healing process and in any legal action you might decide to take.
REMEMBER – YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME, EVEN IF:
- Your attacker was an acquaintance, date, friend or spouse.
- You have been sexually intimate with that person or with others before.
- You were drinking or using drugs.
- You did not or could not say “no,” or were unable to fight back physically.
- You were wearing clothes that others may consider to be seductive.
COMMON REACTIONS TO SEXUAL ASSAULT
The following list summarizes the range of reactions to sexual assault that may help you know what’s normal to expect. Remember – sexual assault is a crisis, and people handle crises in different ways.
- Emotional Shock: I feel so numb. Why am I so calm? Why can’t I cry?
- Disbelief: Did it really happen? Why me? Maybe I just made it up.
- Embarrassment: What will people think? I can’t tell my family or friends.
- Shame: I feel so dirty, like there is something wrong with me. I want to wash my hands or shower all the time.
- Guilt: I feel as if it’s my fault, or I did something to make this happen.
- Depression: How am I going to get through this? I’m so tired. I feel so helpless. Maybe I’d be better off dead.
- Powerlessness: Will I ever feel in control again?
- Disorientation: I don’t even know what day it is, or what class I’m supposed to be in. I can’t remember my appointments. I keep forgetting things.
- Triggers: I keep having flashbacks. I’m still re-living it. I see his face all the time.
- Denial: It wasn’t really a “rape.”
- Fear: I’m scared of everything. What if I’m pregnant? Coud I get an STD, or even AIDS? How can I ever feel safe again? Do people realize there’s anything wrong? I can’t sleep because I know I’ll have nightmares. I’m afraid I’m going crazy. I’m afraid to go outside. I’m afraid to be alone.
- Anxiety: I’m having panic attacks. I can’t breath! I just can’t stop shaking. I can’t sit still in work/class anymore. I feel overwhelmed.
- Anger: I want to kill the person who attacked me!
- Physical Stress: My stomach (or head or back) aches all the time. I feel jittery and don’t feel like eating.
HEALING/RECOVERING FROM SEXUAL ASSAULT
Talking about the assault with someone who can listen in understanding and affirming ways –whether it’s a friend, family member, crisis hotline counselor is a key part of the healing process. However, talking about the assault may be hard to do. In fact, it is common to want to avoid conversations and situations that may remind you of the assault. You may have a sense of wanting to “get on with life” and “let the past be the past.” This is a normal part of the recovery process and may last for weeks or months. Eventually you will need to deal with fears and feelings in order to heal and regain a sense of control over your life. Calling the 24-Hour Crisis Hotline (682-RAPE) is a step toward healing.
For Family and Friends
After a sexual assault a person needs to:
- Feel safe.
- Be believed.
- Obtain medical assistance.
- Know she or he was not at fault.
If you know someone who has been assaulted and you have questions about getting them help, call 682-RAPE 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Things you can do to help:
- Listen without making judgments. Try simply to understand the survivor’s feelings.
- Be there and give comfort. The survivor may need to talk a lot or at odd hours at the beginning. Be there as much as you can and encourage the survivor to talk to others.
- Encourage the person to seek professional help. (See Programs and Services)
- Be patient. Don’t try to rush the healing process or “make it better.”
- Accept the person’s choice of what to do about the rape. Ask what is needed, help the survivor list some options, then encourage independent decision-making, even if you disagree. It is very important that the survivor make decisions and have them respected.
- Put aside your feelings and get support for yourself. It may be too overwhelming to deal with your angry feelings on top of the victim’s. If you have strong angry feelings or feelings of blame toward the survivor, talk to a friend or call the hotline at 682-RAPE.