What You Can Do If You Experience Sexual Violence

 

  • If possible, go to a safe place.
  • You have the option to seek medical attention at your campus health center or a hospital. A sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) or other provider may be available in your area to provide a forensic medical exam (sometimes called a “rape kit”) to collect potential evidence.
    • Do your best to avoid showering, bathing, cleansing, eating, drinking, going to the bathroom, or brushing your teeth after the assault so that evidence may be more likely to be present upon exam.
  • Preserve all physical evidence, such as clothing and bedding. If you bag it, use paper, not plastic—plastic bags could potentially destroy DNA evidence by trapping moisture within the bag.
  • Call someone you trust.
  • Contact your campus violence resource center or local rape crisis center. Try any of these phone and online chat helplines.
  • Consult a health care provider about appropriate preventive (prophylactic) medications for possible exposure to sexually transmitted infections. If you have a forensic medical exam, this may be provided to you.
  • If there is a need or desire, seek emergency contraception at the campus health center, hospital, or a local pharmacist. If you have a forensic medical exam, this may be provided to you.
  • You have the right to report the incident to your campus or local police department, campus Title IX compliance officer, and/or campus judicial office.
  • Consider working with a victim advocate, counselor, and other available support resources.
  • See “Finding Support” for a list of helplines and campus resources. These helplines are available no matter how long it has been since the assault happened.

Normal Thoughts and Feelings Following Assault

Survivors of sexual violence may experience a variety of reactions, emotions, and subsequent medical and mental health needs. Consider seeking help as soon as you are ready. These thoughts and feelings may occur at any time after experiencing sexual or relationship violence. Talking with a health professional, counselor, or advocate can help you process your feelings and understand your options and resources. You don’t have to go through this alone.

Survivors may experience:

  •  shock and disbelief
  •  fear, vulnerability, helplessness
  •  behavior changes, disturbance of appetite, sleeplessness
  •  flashbacks, dreams, nightmares
  •  sadness, episodes of crying, depression
  •  irritability, anger, rage
  •  embarrassment, shame, self-blame
  •  feelings that others don’t believe them
  •  social withdrawal
  •  thoughts of self-harm or suicide

Helping a Friend

A friend who has been sexually assaulted may confide in you 10 minutes, 10 days, or 10 years after the assault. When someone tells you that they’ve been assaulted:

Thank them for telling you. It may have been difficult for your friend to disclose to you. Saying “Thank you for telling me” and “I am here to support you” can go a long way to making them feel more comfortable.

 

Let the person express their feelings. Take their feelings seriously and listen instead of asking probing questions. It’s not your responsibility to investigate what happened. Plus, probing questions could make it seem like you’re doubting your friend.

 

Let the person make their own choices. You might present options, but they should decide
what to do next. This can be really difficult to do. It’s important not to force your friend to make a decision about next steps

 

Support your friend, but know your limits and when to refer to other resources. Encourage your friend to contact the campus health or violence resource center or a sexual assault hotline. You can contact these groups to learn ways to better support your friend.

 

Get support for yourself. When a friend tells you they experienced sexual or relationship violence, you may have lots of emotions, including helplessness, anger, or sadness. Seek support from your campus counseling center, a confidential campus advocate, or hotline. Taking care of yourself will help you help your friend.