Recovering From Sexual Assault: What to Do After Being Assaulted
The latest statistics on sexual assault in America report that one in three women will be a victim within her lifetime.
Recovering from sexual assault can be a difficult task and knowing where to start can seem overwhelming. Many times victims simply don’t deal with it, hoping the trauma will go away on its own.
Here is a guide on what to do after you have been sexually assaulted to start you down the road to recovery. It covers everything from what to do immediately after, to where to look for support, and even how to hire a sexual assault lawyer. should you need it.
As this can be an upsetting topic for some, please read ahead with caution.
Make Sure You Are Safe
After a sexual assault, many survivors feel disconnected from reality (commonly called derealization), overwhelmed with a flight or fight response, and generally unsafe. So, one of the first things you need to do in the days and weeks after the incident is to reach out to people you love and trust, especially if being alone is panic-inducing.
It doesn’t matter if you go stay with them or they come to stay with you. Having someone you know you can count on to protect and nurture your mental and physical well-being can be an important part of the initial recovery process.
You should also ensure it is a person you feel comfortable explaining what you need of them. For example, if you need them to be there as you crawl into bed for a week, ask them to stay with you. If you need them to hold your hand as you go about life, as usual, explain this.
Decide If You Are Going to Seek Medical Attention
While it is always recommended you go to both the police and the hospital after an assault, the idea of answering questions and being examined can be too much for some to handle. If you do decide to go, make sure you take someone with you. This is not something you should do alone.
It is important to remember to not take a shower, bath, or wash any part of your body, even if that is the only thing you can think of doing. This is to ensure you don’t wash away any evidence which was left behind. If you do change your clothes, make sure you bag the ones you were wearing during the assault in case there is trace evidence on them.
If you are worried about getting pregnant, be sure you get a plan b pill. If you are worried about STDs, talk to the medical professionals attending you to see what they suggest.
Get Professional Help
Like any other kind of physical and psychological trauma, victims are going to need help processing what happened to them.
Thankfully, there are plenty of resources available to rape survivors. From hotlines to local abuse and women’s shelters, to sexual assault therapists, there are plenty of options to match what you feel comfortable with.
One of the best places to start is with RAINN (the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network). You can reach out to them either by phone or online through their website’s chat feature. Through their network, they can connect you with local services for rape survivors to get the help they need.
Just remember, when talking about your sexual assault, people are going to have a lot of advice on what to do when it comes to talking to professionals. Some will swear group therapy is the way to go; others will push one on one. It is important to remember what worked for one person may not be what is best for you.
So, don’t engage in any sort of help you are not comfortable with. If you think hearing from other survivors is going to help make you feel less isolated, then, by all means, get involved in a group. However, if you are worried that a group setting may constantly trigger you, one on one will probably be the better option.
Knowing Your Legal Rights
Much like getting professional help, reporting a sexual assault is highly personal. Some survivors go straight to the cops. Others aren’t sure because the idea of having to relive their experience is simply too much to handle. This can all be compounded if the victim has had negative experiences with law enforcement in the past.
Plus, there is also the fact that most assaults are not committed by a stranger. One recent statistic states that the majority of all sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.
This is why many victims don’t report the assault because they are afraid of the potential fallout of pressing charges against someone they know. This is with good reason since there is a lot of victim-blaming or not taking claims of assault seriously. So, if you are helping someone through this difficult period, it is important to not push them into anything they aren’t comfortable with when it comes to pressing charges.
It is also important to remember that even if after you report the crime and nothing happens, you aren’t without legal recourse. You can hire a sexual assault lawyer and sue your rapist in civil court. Again, this is a highly personal choice.
Some victims have said it has helped in the recovery process. Others have claimed being face to face with their attacker again has set them back when it comes to feeling safe again.
One More Word On Recovering From Sexual Assault
Recovering from sexual assault can take a long time and while you may be anxious to get back to “normal” it is important to not push yourself too hard too fast. That said, engaging in social activities you once enjoyed can be a good way to feel like you are reclaiming your life.
So, by regularly taking stock of what your little inner voice is encouraging you to do can be good. Just remember to take a support person. And don’t be too hard on yourself.
None of this is your fault. You are not alone. And you can recover from this with patience and hard work.
All the best and keep reading our blog for more helpful advice.