Sexual assault is a grave crime that can occur in various situations, including while you’re going to or coming from school or work, or even while running everyday errands. It’s a distressing event that can lead to a lifetime of emotional, physical, and psychological trauma. What makes it even more disconcerting is that the assailant could be someone you know, such as a family member or friend.
After the assault, you may be in shock, wondering what to do, who to talk to, or what to say. You may even think you are at fault, as you replay scenarios of how you could have avoided it. Coping with the aftermath of sexual violence and assault is challenging, but blaming yourself will not help. It will only worsen the situation.
While there’s no way to undo what happened, there are steps you can take immediately after the assault to ensure your safety and well-being. Here are a few pointers:
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Prioritize Your Safety
The first step after an assault is to get as far away from the assailant as possible. Some perpetrators may resort to desperate measures to avoid consequences, such as attempting to harm or kidnap you. Therefore, your top priority is getting yourself to safety before contacting someone for help.
Find a public location where the assailant cannot attack you and call someone you trust, 911, or the emergency number in your local area. While waiting for help to arrive, find a coping mechanism that helps you feel better. For instance, you can meditate or take deep breaths.
Seek Medical Attention
Once you reach a safe place, you might instinctively want to take a shower in an attempt to wash away the traumatic experience. However, it’s not recommended to do so. Showering can destroy vital evidence that a healthcare professional could gather to support a sexual assault case. Without this evidence, pursuing a successful lawsuit against the perpetrator could become more difficult.
Collecting evidence for your sexual assault case is an added advantage of seeking medical attention after sexual assault. The most crucial reason for seeing a doctor is that they can conduct testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and prescribe medication to help prevent infections and pregnancy.
Also, sexual assault typically involves a struggle between you and the perpetrator, resulting in cuts, bruises, and even broken bones. A healthcare professional can provide appropriate treatment for these injuries and may also refer you to a reputable therapist to help you process and heal from the traumatizing ordeal.
On the other hand, for individuals who have been falsely accused of sexual assault, it’s crucial for them to get the best sex crime attorney to protect their rights and uncover the truth.
Report The Assault
Some countries require doctors to file a sexual assault report for every survivor they treat. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t file a report as well. Find the courage to make that call or go to report the assault to the necessary authorities.
It may be an incredibly difficult step to take, especially if it was a family member or a loved one, but they violated you and your human rights, and reporting them will be finding justice for yourself.
As challenging as it may be, gather evidence and present your case. It could be your only chance of preventing it from happening again. The assailant may not harm you again, but they may find someone else to victimize. Filing a case against them is your chance to save someone else’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being. You wouldn’t want them to undergo the trauma you experienced.
Sexual assault may rob you of your joy and passion for life. Processing what happened may be more challenging than expected. You may experience flashbacks of the event, and the stigma may be so overwhelming that you just want to bury it in your subconscious. However, it’s vital to accept that it happened and find ways to address it.
Although it’s clear that you are not at fault for the incident, feelings of guilt and shame may sometimes arise, particularly if you isolate yourself from others. These emotions often stem from misconceptions, such as believing that you trusted the wrong person, took a shortcut to get home faster, were too intoxicated, or didn’t do anything to prevent the situation.
If you don’t address these feelings, they can significantly impact your life. It’s important to speak with someone you trust who won’t judge you or place the blame on you. This person can support you during your healing process and help you find professional help if necessary.
If there’s no one you feel comfortable confiding in, you might consider scheduling cognitive behavioral therapy sessions or reaching out to support organizations like the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, as well as other support groups for sexual assault survivors. These resources can help you reestablish positive connections with society and overcome emotional distress and depression.
Sexual assault is a challenging and painful topic for many survivors. It can leave a lasting imprint on your life, distancing you from society and those you love.
However, by following the steps outlined in this article, you can mitigate the effects of sexual assault. Recognize that it’s not your fault and seek help promptly. Taking these actions may be crucial as you embark on a journey towards healing and regaining a sense of hope and empowerment.