Rape and sexual assault are crimes of violence, power and control. Each year in the US there are, on average, 321,500 victims of rape and sexual assault ages 12 or older. A rape or sexual assault occurs when a person is forced or threatened into engaging in sexual contact against her or his own will. This unwelcomed sexual contact may include forced kissing, touching and intercourse.
Who should I look out for?
Rapists use sexual assault as a weapon to dominate, humiliate and hurt others. How a person looks, acts or dresses does not invite sexual assault. Victims are selected because they appear vulnerable. Someone the victim knows – a neighbor, family member, classmate, co-worker or someone they are already involved in a relationship with – commits more that 75% of sexual assaults. Sexual assault can occur anywhere as well. No matter who commits the crime, the victim is never to blame for what happened. There is no excuse for abuse.
Does anyone “Ask” for it?
NO! It is the rapist who decides to attack another person – no one asks or deserves to be violated. No Matter what one wears or how one behaves, it is never the victim’s fault! Anyone can be a victim – Age, race, educational level, economic status and gender do not predict who is the most likely to be victimized.
How can I stay safe?
People who assault others look no different than any other person. However, there are signals that may indicate that a person might not respect you. These signs may include but are not limited to: not respecting your wishes, talking about or looking at you or your body in a way that makes you uncomfortable, or trying to get you drunk or giving you drugs. Ignoring your feelings or refusing to listen to you could also be warning signs.
RAPE IS ONLY ONE FORM OF SEXUAL VICTIMIZATION
Others include stranger rape, date or acquaintance rape, marital rape, incest, childhood sexual abuse, criminal sexual contact, sexual harassment, stalking, peeping and all forms of non-consensual or coercive sexual exploitation.
What should you do if you are raped or sexually assaulted?
FIRST, get to a safe place. One you are safe you can:
- Notify the police: You can file a report, press charges or receive information.
- Seek medical care: you may have received injuries during the attack that requires medical attention.
- Have the hospital collect evidence. If you choose to report the attack to the police, try not to bathe, brush your teeth or use the bathroom until you reach the hospital. Evidence from the attack may remain that can be collected and placed into an evidence collection kit.
- Seek emotional support. Remember, you did nothing to cause the attack. The assault was not your fault!
- Call Hotline at (252)473 – 3366. A trained sexual assault victim’s advocate will meet you at the hospital or police station and stay with you during the medical exam and police interview. The advocate will help you find a counselor, keep you informed about the status of your case and make sure you understand each step of the process. Most importantly, the advocate will help you regain your power and control!
The Aftermath of the Attack
If your or someone you know has been raped or sexually assaulted, normal feelings may range from fear, anger, humiliation, embarrassment and depression, to disbelief, shame or guilt. Some victims may experience a loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping or may find it hard to trust others after the assault. Remember, the rapist did this to the victim; the victim is never to blames.
Sexual Victimization can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Symptoms of PTSD may include:
- Flashbacks, trouble sleeping and/or nightmares
- Feeling isolated and unable to connect with others, even loved ones
- Angry outbursts or feeling anxious, guilty or sad
- A sense of overwhelming dread.
How to transition into the mindset of a Survivor?
- Seek professional help
- Pay attention to diet and exercise
- Recognize memory triggers
- Talk to a trusted friend
- Make a safety plan
- Avoid self-blame and “if only…”
- Connect with other survivors when you are ready.
Are you a Secondary Survivor?
If you are someone trying to support a survivor of sexual assault, you may need counseling too. Call the crisis line (252)473-3366 to discuss your feelings and develop strategies to help yourself cope. Another option is to call the Hotline business office at (252)473-5121 and ask to speak to the Sexual Assault Service Coordinator. With support and honesty, you can both recover from this senseless crime, perhaps becoming even stronger than before! Remember, the most important thing is to tell a survivor, that they did everything they could have to survive, that you trust their abilities to recover and you will be there to empower them to help reclaim their life.