Friday, October 9, 2009

If You Have Just Been Sexually Assaulted

This post is for anyone who needs help now. (This is one of several posts for crisis support that I will link to on the sidebar for easy reference.)

First, I am so sorry for what you have just endured. You are courageous and strong for having survived it. 

Please get to a safe place, away from the person or people who hurt you. Go somewhere you feel safe, whether that is your home, a friend's house, a hospital, or a police station.

Reach out to someone and get help. Contact a trusted friend or family member, or call your local rape crisis center or RAINN (1-800-656-HOPE) to see if a victim's advocate can come help you.

If you can, go to a hospital to be checked for injuries and have evidence gathered. Try not to shower, wash your hands, urinate, change your clothes, etc. I know it's hard to do all that immediately, but it's easiest to have it done early.

You are by no means required to talk to the police. However, if you think you can, it is best to do so as soon as possible because the events are still fresh in your mind. It is your choice whether you want to press charges or not; you can also leave this decision until later. Remember-- you have control again. Do whatever makes you feel most comfortable.

And finally, relax. You've been through a harrowing, traumatic experience, but you are safe now. You've gotten through it. You deserve to feel safe, comfortable, and cared for. Talk to friends, if you want to; watch a happy movie or read a book; curl up in a warm fuzzy blanket; do whatever it is that helps you when you are stressed. When you are ready to take the next step, look into finding a counselor. It will take time, but you can, and will, heal.

Important Things to Remember

It was not your fault. You are not responsible for the actions of others, and it is not your fault that someone decided to hurt you, even if it was someone you knew, even if you didn't scream or fight, even if your rapist told you that you liked it or deserved it, even if you feel like you made bad choices that led up to it, even if you aren't sure what happened to you was "real rape." If you did not consent to it, it was rape, and it is not your fault.

There are people who care. Find a support group or talk to your local rape crisis center. Unfortunately, as you are healing, you may run into people who will not understand or know how to deal with your emotions. Even if they mean well, they may seem cold or hostile. Remember that they do not speak for everyone, and there are people who understand and care.

You can heal. It will take time, but you can heal. You can get through this. Sometimes it will feel like you're getting nowhere or things are getting worse; that is normal. You have lived through a traumatic experience, and what you are feeling is a normal response to an abnormal event. Learn about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; look into supportive online communities like Pandora's Aquarium (I cannot recommend them enough). Slowly but surely, things will get better.

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