Surviving a Sexual Assault

Being subjected to a sexual assault is one of the most traumatic experiences imaginable. Without comfort, support and advice impacts can be profound and long-lasting. In addition to the deep emotional scars, there are often a number of practical issues which require urgent attention. No two victims are the same. Children, women and men have all been victims of sexual assault. Each victim of a sexual assault deserves compassion as well as competent, sensitive and individualised support. Irrespective of the circumstances of the assault, there is genuine hope for recovery. There are countless stories of survival, healing and rebuilding! Sexual assault victims of all types have triumphed and continued to lead meaningful and rewarding lives. Help is often required to start you on a journey to healing. This article is intended to boost your courage and provide hope for a brighter future. It provides general advice. I strongly recommend that you seek individual advice and support at a local level from a specialised rape crisis center. Making the decision to seek assistance and support often requires considerable courage but is rarely regretted. At the conclusion of this short article, there is a brief summary of immediate steps which should be taken after a sexual assault or rape. Please refer to this list of recommendations. In the useful links section of this website you will also locate several useful addresses throughout the world which will lead you towards more detailed and specific information.

Irrespective of the exact circumstances of your assault, there are several important points which must be clearly made and understood. These points are listed below.

It is never too soon to get help

Seek assistance as soon as possible. Early intervention will often help to minimise the emotional scarring from the assault. Problems can be anticipated and managed. Practical issues can be sorted out. It is imperative that the relevant forensic specimens are collected at the first opportunity. When specimens are collected early, the quality of the evidence is improved. Sometimes a delay may even result in the accidental removal or destruction of important evidence.

It is never too late to get help

Sexual assault victims often benefit from advice and support months or even years after the event. Many victims fail to report the initial assault because of fear of the consequences. Some individuals carry the burden of fear and shame for years. Serious complications such as relationship problems, self-harm or post tramatic stress disorder (PTSD) can result. If these problems are identified, they can be effectively treated. It is never too late to recieve the compassionate care that you deserve!

You are not to blame for the assault

A sexual assualt is never justified. Never under any circumstances are you to blame if you have been the victim of a sexual assault. There are no excuses nor any mitigating circumstances. Do not feel guilty and do not in any way feel responsible. You are not to blame, full stop.

Make absolutely certain that you are safe

You may need to make temporary arrangements to stay with a trusted friend. If this is not possible then find crisis accommodation in a safe environment such as a refuge.

Rebuilding your life after a sexual assault requires time, patience and commitment. Strength and courage are important but there are many people who can help. There are considerable resources available to assist the survivors of sexual assault. There are several excellent books available on this important issue. Psychological therapy is continually improving. There are extensive resources which can be accessed via the web. This site will guide you towards some of those resources. You may also find useful information in other sections of our links page. For instance, many victims of sexual assualt have also been subjected to other forms of violence. Compassion, understanding and help is available. The hardest step is often finding the courage to start. Never lose hope! Remember that many victims have fully recovered after a sexual assault and achieved personal happiness, loving relationships and success. With a little help, you can too!  

Advice for victims immediately following a sexual assault

1. Immediately find a safe place away from potential harm

2. Preserve all evidence of the attack. Do not wash or brush your teeth until the forensic               examination is completed. Do not change clothes. (You might need to take some additional     warm clothing).

3. Write down all details of your attacker while these are fresh in your mind. Were there any         other witnesses? Try to get their contact details. Never consume any alcohol or drugs.

4. Call your local rape crisis center an ask for assistance. You will often find details in a               prominent place in your local phone directory. If you cannot find a phone book then contact     the phone company and ask for the number of your nearest center. No luck? Refer to the         links section of this site under sexual assault to locate a center in your area. Time is               critical. Remain calm but do not delay. If such services are unavailable then contact a             doctor or hospital.

5. Consider keeping a sample of urine if you suspect that you might have been drugged.

6. Always consider the following important practical issues.
        a) Possible pregnancy
        b) Possible sexually-transmitted disease

7. Report the assault to the authorities. If possible, ask for the assistance of a counselor             during this process.

8. Be strong, proud and hang in there! Your healing journey has already begun.

Good Luck!

By Andrew Rylatt (Medical Doctor)
27th January 2004

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