6 Steps To Take If You’re A Victim Of Sexual Assault
By Space Coast Daily // January 20, 2023
Any sexual act or behavior you don’t consent to is sexual harassment and assault.
Sexual assault is a physical violation of you, your body, and your personal boundaries. The unfortunate reality is that anyone can be sexually assaulted, regardless of race, gender, and social background.
An even more terrifying reality is that sexual assault can be committed by anyone—whether a stranger, a partner, or even a family member.
It’s normal to experience shock after the assault, and you may be struggling to process the events that took place. We all respond to trauma differently, and there is no need to feel pressured for your recovery.
Sexual harassment is a scary and confusing ordeal that will be challenging to come to terms with. You are most likely experiencing a myriad of emotions as you try to understand what happened and know that this is okay.
It’s a difficult time, so we’ve listed down six steps to take if you’re a victim of sexual assault:
- Put Your Safety First
The first and most critical step to take is to prioritize your safety. Get to a safe location and call the police hotline if in immediate danger. When unsure what to do, look for a clarifying post or reach out to someone you can trust.
If you don’t know where to go, you can call emergency services and ask if there are police stations in your area that have women or gender desks. The most important thing you must do at this point is to be in a place where you feel safe and are around people you can trust, be it friends, family, or the authorities.
- Pursue Medical Attention
It’s normal to feel afraid of visiting the doctor, especially if physical touch might trigger you. However, you must see a doctor to assess and treat your injuries.
This is also to check your sexual health and obtain emergency contraception if you need it. If you have any hesitations or anxieties, you can bring someone along.
If you go to a hospital or medical rape center, you may choose to undergo a rape kit exam. This procedure generally lasts for four to six hours. The exam collects blood samples, DNA, and other evidence you need to file a case. Some medical rape centers can preserve the proof until you’re ready to file the lawsuit.
- Report The Assault
One critical thing to do after an assault is to report it and file a case with the help of the police. However, you must know there is no rush to report and file the lawsuit. Depending on your state, the statute for limitations is generally between three to ten years.
Filing a report and the possibility of testifying against the assailant in court may be a little overwhelming and traumatizing, and it may help to have someone you trust help you with the process.
You may be worried that your assailant will repeat the same crime to another innocent victim. But if you’re not yet ready to file the case, you can opt to have the DNA collected from the rape kit to be added to the national database.
- Reach Out For Support
Sexual assault is a traumatizing event that you shouldn’t deal with alone. Whether a loved one or a stranger assaulted you, reach out to someone you trust for support. You’ll feel much safer this way.
However, your loved ones have their limitations as to how much they can support you. At this point, you may want to consider going through psychotherapy.
Seeing a mental health professional can help you better understand your emotions and give you a safe space to share the details about the assault.
- Process What Happened
Therapy is the best place to process what happened, as your therapist or psychiatrist has received the proper training to help you through this difficult time. It may be challenging to go on with your daily life if you try to bury the trauma inside you.
Processing what happened to you is a courageous first step toward your trauma recovery. It may not come easily, but with a therapist to help you, they can give you healthy ways to cope with your emotions. There’s no set timeline for recovery, and you mustn’t feel pressured to finish therapy in a specific timeframe.
- Forgive Yourself
It’s common among sexual assault victims to blame themselves for what happened. But you must remember that none of this is your fault. It’s an unfortunate and painful situation that shouldn’t have happened to you.
It may be difficult to believe at first, but you did nothing to provoke the attack or deserve it. Forgiving yourself is an essential part of the process, but it may take time before you get there.
As long as you continue with therapy and your journey to recovery, there will be a turning point where self-forgiveness no longer seems impossible.
Sexual assault isn’t a light topic for many victims and families who’ve seen their loved ones struggle through the trauma. It’s an event that no one should have to go through.
However, if you’re a victim and survivor of sexual abuse, consider taking the discussed steps to help you cope with the trauma.