Sexual assault can cause serious emotional and mental damage to victims. Because of individual differences, there is no one right approach for a survivor to deal with or overcome the effects of trauma. Do not feel ashamed if you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault. Both survivors and their loved ones have access to services that can aid in their recovery and provide emotional support. Experts recommend a few actions that each victim should follow as soon as possible after an assault.
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What Should I Do If I Was Sexually Assaulted?
Please know that you are not alone if you have been the victim of sexual assault or other violent crimes. Keep in mind that you are not to blame. Whatever your feelings are right now, remember that they are valid however the incident isn’t your fault. All of the blame lies with them. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes you made or didn’t make. Here are some things to do:
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Keep Yourself Protected
First and foremost, after experiencing sexual trauma, you need to focus on protecting yourself from harm. In an emergency, dial 911 immediately. You should notify a trusted person about the attack, especially if the offender is a family member or friend. Most people feel a sensation of shock, derealization, and helplessness immediately following an assault.
The limbic system, the area of the brain that processes emotions and triggers the “fight or flight” response in response to perceived threats, is operating at full capacity after an assault. Make use of whatever strategies have helped you feel secure and normal in the face of adversity in the past. Whatever makes you feel more secure in your skin is what you should do, whether it’s reaching a friend or relative you trust to be with you or sheltering under the sheets.
Gather and Document Evidence
Keep your look the same as it is once you are in a secure location. You shouldn’t feel rushed to determine whether or not to report the assault to the police or file charges against your attacker. In any event, it’s crucial that the medical staff on hand at your appointment be able to gather any physical evidence that could be present. Don’t wash your hair or skin or anything else off with water.
Try not to use the restroom, brush your hair, eat, smoke, drink, or use drugs, either. If you decide to change clothing, remember to bring the paper bag containing the clothes you had on during the incident with you to the hospital or police station.
See a Medical Professional
Some victims of sexual assault may be reluctant to seek medical help right away. Eventually, you must make a decision based on your own physiological, psychological, and emotional requirements. Visiting a hospital or medical rape center after a rape incident may help in many ways. Medical professionals are essential because they can treat wounds and promote overall physical and sexual well-being.
In addition, the medical provider can provide you with a rape kit, which is a forensic test for sexual assault that allows you to gather evidence like DNA and blood samples. Some facilities can freeze evidence and hold it until a police report can be filed. A medical professional can help you figure out your best treatment choices if you’re afraid about being exposed to HIV, STDs, or even getting pregnant.
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Get Adequate Support
Once you’ve taken steps to ensure your physical safety, reaching out to someone you trust for emotional help is essential. Depression, anxiety, and dissociation are common reactions to shock among survivors of sexual abuse. It is important to confide in someone you trust completely in a society where victim shaming and skepticism are commonplace, especially when it comes to tales of sexual assault, which can compound suffering.
You can contact a crisis hotline like the National Sexual Assault Hotline if you want to talk to someone about your experiences and feelings without revealing your identity. Supported by extensive training, the hotline staff is there to listen to your experiences, help you find appropriate treatment options, and walk you through the reporting process.
Put Yourself and Your Life Back Together
It’s not easy to get back to feeling like yourself until you’ve dealt with your traumatic experience and learned effective coping mechanisms. Think about the events and gatherings you may have avoided after experiencing trauma.
Pay attention to how you feel and decide if you’re ready to rejoin the gym or the social gathering. A little prod from the inside can be helpful, but you shouldn’t force yourself to interact with others if you aren’t feeling up to it. Just take things as they come. A person’s long-term rehabilitation can be significantly helped by the presence of others who care about them and can relate to their situation.
Explore Your Legal Options
Some of the surviving victims insist on going to the police and/or pressing charges against the perpetrator. While some people may feel compelled to report an attack right once, others may be reluctant to do so and unsure of what to do next. There are a variety of reasons why victims of sexual assault might not want to go to the police or file a lawsuit. The fact that the perpetrator of the assault was a known person, with whom the victim may have had social ties, is a key factor for most victims.
The shocking truth is that the vast majority (70%) of sexual assaults are done by someone the victim knows. Thus, survivors frequently suffer from anxiety, guilt, and dread of others’ judgments. A person commits assault against you when they strip you of your power. To regain control, you should do what makes you feel strongest. This might involve making a formal complaint, sharing your side of the incident, or actively pursuing redress.
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