Sexual assault is a reality for millions of men and women all around the world, but its commonality doesn’t make the struggle any easier. While assaults from strangers is what’s often depicted in the media, you have a larger chance of being sexually assaulted from someone you know–a friend, a partner or a member of your family. But no matter who the perpetrator is, know that you’re not hopeless in your situation. Here are 6 things you should do if you are a victim of sexual assault.
1) Find A Safe Space
Whether it’s a friend’s house or a local hospital, find a place where you’re comfortable. Just make sure you’re far away from your assailant, period.
2) Collect Evidence
Don’t shower, wash your hands, brush your hair, rinse your mouth out or anything else that will wash away any physical evidence that can be used against the person who assaulted you. Even writing down what happened to you in detail counts as evidence.
3) Seek Medical Attention
Seriously, make sure that you get checked out. Call 911–yes, this is an emergency–or show up at the ER. Other than this working as a way to collect evidence against your assailant, this is for you to make sure that you’re not hurt. And even if you don’t appear to be physically harmed on the surface, there is always a risk for STDs or pregnancy.
4) Understand How Reporting Your Assault Works
You’re under no obligation to report your assault if you don’t want to, even though we urge you to do so. According to RAINN, the Rape Abuse And Incest National Network, some victims feel as if they regain a sense of control over their circumstances when they report what happened. If you’re a minor and decide confide in a teacher, doctor, therapist, etc about your assault, know that they are required to report it to the proper authorities. But don’t let that dissuade you from discussing this with someone you trust.
The authorities have the right to investigate your case and press charges against suspects if they want to, but without your cooperation they won’t have much to work with.
5) Find Someone To Talk To
Whether it’s a therapist, your mom or your best friend, please don’t keep this bottled up inside of you. Admitting that you’ve been sexually assaulted can be scary and it can feel humiliating, but know that there will absolutely be people out there who will listen to you, trust you and believe you. Don’t worry about burdening them with your problems. Know that these people love you and want you to feel safe.
6) Remember That Nobody Is To Blame But The Perpetrator
You are not to blame for somebody deciding to take advantage of you. You didn’t lead anyone on. You didn’t actively participate in y our own assault. If anyone should feel humiliated it is the scumbag who harmed you. Yes, there will be scumbags out there who are prone to think that rape victims are liars. Don’t let this negativity control you. You know the truth so let that be your guide.
If you’re still not sure what to do or how to cope, call RAINN at 1-800-656-HOPE for free, confidential help.
If you’ve been sexually assaulted, what steps did you take? How did you help out a friend who was in this position? Tell us in the comments!