Taking Care of Yourself
Sexual assault is any unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature that occurs without consent from both individuals or under threat or coercion. Whether by a spouse, an acquaintance or by a stranger, sexual assault can occur either forcibly and/or against a person’s will, or when a person is incapable of giving consent. A person is legally incapable of giving consent if under 18 years of age, intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol, developmentally disabled, or mentally or physically unable to do so.
Dealing with Sexual Assault
A sexual assault is devastating and life changing. If you have been assaulted it can be difficult to think about anything except your pain. Even though it is an emotionally challenging time, it is important to consider a few steps that will help you in your recovery. It is essential to think about what is best for you.
REMEMBER, what happened to you was not your fault…
Get to a safe place. With a friend. At a relatives. Some place away from the attacker. Connecting with a trusted friend or family member is ideal, as they can provide you with the type of support and understanding that will help you deal with the incident.
REMEMBER, you can call the SAFE Harbor hotline at 676-0800 any time of the day or night and an advocate can provide assistance, meet you at the hospital, help you get lodging, find transportation or take care of whatever else you might need at that time.
Seek medical attention. You will never be required to report the incident to law enforcement. And even though you might not have any physical injuries, it is important to think of the risks of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy.
REMEMBER, if at all possible do not wash, comb, or clean any part of your body. This can be tough. Naturally, most people want to clean themselves after an assault. Why should you do this? Even if you initially don’t want to involve the legal system, you might change your mind in the future. By taking this step you keep that option open.
Along with seeking medical attention for your health you should ask the hospital to conduct a rape kit exam. A doctor or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner will collect evidence using a rape kit for fibers, hairs, saliva, semen, or clothing that the attacker may have left behind. The medical evidence collected in a rape kit exam can be held anonymously. If you suspect you may have been drugged, ask that a urine sample be collected. The sample will need to be analyzed later on by a forensic lab.
REMEMBER, in Montana, a rape survivor has 60 days to decide whether to report the crime, after which time the rape kit evidence is destroyed. Is that important? Yes, it is for you. Depending on the circumstances and your knowledge of the rapist, you can use that time to decide what will be the best choice for you.
Let others help you in the recovery process. Support and counseling services are available through SAFE Harbor as well as other local agencies. Seek support from those you trust and love. Share what you are facing, thinking and concerned about. Talking with others can be hard but it is an important step in one’s healing.
REMEMBER, healing from such a traumatic experience takes time. It’s never too late to call. Even if the attack happened years ago, the National Sexual Assault Hotline or the SAFE Harbor hotline can still help. Getting through this type of event can take all your energy and survivors often don’t realize they need help until months or years later. SAFE Harbor is here and ready to assist you.
Recovery from any assault is an ongoing process. It takes time. It takes energy. It can be painful. It does not mean you forget what happened. It does mean you are able to eventually enjoy life once more, understanding that the victimization you experienced was not your fault. The recovery process is different for everyone. Moving ahead in life is the ultimate outcome for any recovery process. This requires recognizing fears. It also means one must believe identify a future that is empowering and fulfilling. Through your own recovery journey you will be able to comfortably sleep, life eating, celebrate life’s achievements and enjoy sexual pleasures as you did before the assault.
REMEMBER, recovery is an evolution for your mind, body and spirit. Be patient without yourself. Affirm the small steps. Join others at a support group who understand your path. Visit with those you love about what you are feeling, thinking and experiencing.