When working in a law firm that specializes in earning compensation for injury victims, we might occasionally hear questions along the lines of “what should I do if I was sexually assaulted?” This isn’t a situation that many people prepare themselves for, which is why victims of sexual assault are often left clueless about the steps they should take after the incident. This is a problem because victims often find it harder to recover when they skip some of these recommended steps in the immediate aftermath of a sexual assault.
On top of that, it can be more difficult to successfully press charges against your assailant if you don’t take specific steps to gather evidence. By following the steps in this guide, you’ll put yourself in the best position to recover after having experienced sexual assault.
What Is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is any form of deliberate physical sexual contact that occurred without the victim’s consent. It can range from quickly fondling someone’s intimate body parts all the way up to forced sexual intercourse. All forms of sexual assault are illegal; you have a right to take legal action against all unwanted sexual acts.
Sexual Assault vs. Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is a broader term that encompasses all forms of sexualassault includingunwanted sexual contact that isn’t physical. This includes sexual gestures, jokes, comments, requests, or threats. It also counts as sexual harassment if you’re exposed to other people’s sexual acts against your will.
Sexual harassment is illegal throughout the United States. However, the exact definition may differ slightly depending on individual state law. If you want to pursue legal action against your harasser, consider getting in touch with legal experts to discuss whether you have a case.
What Is the Definition of Consent?
To understand whether you were a victim of sexual assault, you must understand the legal definition of consent when it comes to sexual activity. Here are some points to bear in mind.
You cannot legally consent to sexual activity if you’re:
Below the legal age of consent
Incapacitated by alcohol, drugs, or a mental disability
Asleep or unconscious
Being coerced, manipulated, or threatened
If someone continues a sexual act after you withdraw consent, it is considered a non-consensual act. What’s more, if you give consent to one sexual act, it doesn’t automatically mean you consent to a different one. It’s considered sexual assault to engage in sexual contact without a condom without consent. Removing a condom during sexual activity without the other person realizing is also considered sexual assault.
What Should I Do If I Was Sexually Assaulted?
The actions you decide to take after you’re sexually assaulted are likely to depend on what type of sexual assault you experienced.
This list of recommendations considers all types of sexual assault, including the most serious cases of rape and sexual violence.
Get Yourself Out of Immediate Danger
If you have been a victim of sexual violence, your first step should be to get away from your attacker to protect yourself from further danger.
If You’re at Home
If you’re at home, this would involve getting them out of your property and locking yourself in. In cases of extreme sexual violence or someone refusing to stop assaulting you, it might be safest to flee your home.
If You’re Out in Public
If you’re out in public, focus on moving to a crowded area or any building you’ll be protected from further attacks, such as a friend’s home, a police station, or a local medical facility. This is especially recommended if you live alone and the assailant knows your address.
Call 911 if You Have Serious Injuries or Suspect That You’re in Danger
Do not hesitate to contact emergency services if you’re injured or suspect that you’re in danger. An ambulance will make its way to you rapidly if you are seriously injured. Law enforcement officials will do the same if you suspect you are still in danger. You can reach both services by dialing 911.
The professionals who work for the emergency services are trained to be able to help sexual assault survivors. You can rely on them to ensure you’re physically safe, and they’ll be able to offer you advice about the next steps of the recovery process.
Call a Trusted Friend or Family and Ask Them To Come to You
Once you’ve established a sense of safety, the next step is support from a trusted friend or family member. They should travel to you because there’s a good chance that you’re suffering from the shock of sexual trauma, and this can leave you in no fit state to drive anywhere. If you do decide to travel somewhere, have a friend drive you or take a taxi.
In an ideal world, your chosen friend or family member will be able to accompany you to take the next recommended steps. If you don’t have any friends or family members to accompany you in the immediate aftermath of a sexual assault, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-4673 for 24-hour confidential support. This service is run by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).
Admit to Yourself That You Were a Victim
As well as being in shock, many sexual assault victims will be in a state of denial about what happened. This can happen for several reasons; perhaps the assailant gaslighted them, blamed them for what happened, or threatened to do terrible things if they were reported. Some victims simply don’t want to have to come to terms with the fact that they were sexually assaulted.
Even so, you must be able to admit what happened to yourself because a state of denial can prevent you from wanting to go through with the remaining steps outlined in this article. Hopefully, you have at least one friend or family member who you trust enough to tell all the details of what happened. When this trusted person concludes that it was a sexual assault, this can help you admit it to yourself.
Seek Medical Attention
If you have been assaulted, you’ll need to seek medical attention even if you have no visible physical injuries. This is because you will have been exposed to sexually transmitted diseases. You should be able to receive the appropriate tests and medical treatment at any hospital.
Many victims of sexual assault are hesitant when it comes to seeking immediate medical care. The common reasons for this include shame, embarrassment, exhaustion, or denial about what happened. For this reason, we want to emphasize that treatment for sexually transmitted infections is more effective when delivered soon after the incident takes place.
Collect Evidence of a Sexual Assault Using a Rape Kit
The most effective way to collect evidence of a sexual assault is by taking a sexual forensic exam called a “rape kit”. Rape kits should be available at any hospital. A rape kit will allow specially-trained experts to gather evidence of the assailant’s DNA from the victim’s body, clothes, and possessions.
It’s important to undergo a rape kit as soon as possible after a sexual assault and not to wash before doing so. You don’t have to pursue legal action against your assailant after undergoing a rape kit; the evidence can be frozen if you need more time to decide if you want to press charges.
Decide if You Want To Take Legal Action
Many cases of sexual assault aren’t reported to the police. Some victims decide that reporting the crime would make it harder for them to move on from the incident since they’d have to relive it whenever discussing it with the police or another legal expert. Others are worried about the potential repercussions of reporting the assailant.
You have a right not to file a police report if you think it will aid your recovery and improve your emotional well-being. However, it’s worth considering that a police report could help to prevent further incidents of sexual violence from this individual. Although the legal process might be stressful, it can give you peace of mind and a sense of empowerment knowing that justice was eventually served.
Seek Ongoing Mental Health Support
Sexual assaults can often lead to ongoing sexual trauma, and this can lead to serious mental health problems. If you’re struggling to emotionally recover from what happened, it can help to seek professional support from a certified therapist as part of your recovery process.
You’ll be able to speak confidentially with a therapist about what happened, and they’ll be fully trained to support you through the recovery process. A certified therapist will be able to help you understand the emotions you’re experiencing after sexual assault and give you useful advice to help you move on from this traumatic experience.
Consider Ongoing Emotional Support
Therapy is cheaper and more affordable than ever in the modern day, and that’s partly due to the emergence of therapy apps like BetterHelp and Talkspace. You can speak with a certified therapist from the comfort of your own home using these apps, and it’s far cheaper than traditional face-to-face therapy.
With that said, you may also want to check if there are support groups for sexual assault survivors available in your local area. These can also provide a judgment-free zone for you to discuss your experience, and it can be heartening to see the progress of other survivors. On top of that, the National Sexual Assault Hotline is always available if you need extra advice or support.
How Long Does It Take To Emotionally Recover From a Sexual Assault?
It’s impossible to predict how long it will take to emotionally recover from a sexual assault.
It may take weeks, months, or even years. However, it is possible; many sexual assault survivors go on to live happy and fulfilling lives after the incident. It’s widely agreed that seeking professional help will shorten your recovery time. There’s little benefit in trying to fix your mental problems alone.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Ongoing Negative Psychological Effects Associated With Sexual Abuse?
A victim of sexual abuse may be plagued by constant flashbacks of what happened or ongoing thoughts related to the incident. They may have trouble sleeping or experience bouts of anxiety. They could even suffer from acute stress disorder (ASD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of these incessant negative thought loops.
Those who have been sexually abused might engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms to distract them from these constant thoughts; these can include drug and alcohol abuse, overeating, or other destructive behaviors. They might also experience trouble enjoying consensual sexual contact with their partners due to the trauma suffered at the hands of their abuser. If you’re suffering from any such problems, it’s best to seek help from a therapist or another type of mental health expert.
What Should I Do if a Family Member Assaulted Me?
The steps listed in the guide above will apply whether you’re sexually assaulted by a member of your family or not.
If you were to file legal charges, there’s a possibility that they would be charged with incestual sexual abuse.
What Should I Do If I Am a Minor?
As well as going directly to the police, minors can report a sexual assault to local healthcare workers, school officials, or child counseling services.
Minors can also call Child Protective Services in their local area. It’s worth repeating here that all sexual activity with someone below the age of consent is considered sexual assault.
What Are the Consequences of Sexually Assaulting Someone?
Federal law states that someone found guilty of sexual assault may be imprisoned for a maximum of twenty years, but this increases to a mandatory life sentence for multiple offenses against children.
The factors determining a judge’s decision will include the assailant’s previous criminal history, the amount of physical force used, and the circumstances of the victim.
What Are the Consequences of Sexual Assaults That Didn’t Involve Rape or Violence?
Not all forms of sexual assault are punished with prison sentences; cases that didn’t involve sexual penetration or physical harm to the defendant are considered lesser crimes.
Those found guilty of these crimes might be punished with fines, mandatory sex offender counseling, and a place on the sex offenders’ register. This would most likely lead to them losing their job and will seriously harm their chances of being employed again.
How Common Is Assault?
According to a RAINN study, approximately one in six American women will experience sexual assault in her life.
These figures increase when you consider all forms of sexual assault. Women file some 90% of sexual assault reports.
How Can I Help To Improve This Situation?
The international #MeToo media campaign has helped to shed light on this problem. The best thing you can do to help lower these numbers is to report all cases of sexual assault that you witness or experience so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.
Perhaps you’ll also choose to share this guide or any other helpful report with your loved ones. Knowledge is power in these situations.
I Know Someone Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted Recently. How Can I Support Them?
If you know someone who has been a victim of sexual assault, domestic violence, or any other form of abuse, the best thing you can do is be there to listen to them. Many victims of such abuse are afraid that they’ll be judged or blamed for what happened. You should only ever be supportive.
You can also recommend the steps for recovering from a sexual assault that are listed in this article. With that said, it’s rarely helpful to pressure someone into taking legal action or seeking emotional support. Every individual has their own preferred method of recovering from a traumatic incident.
How Do I Stop Being Assaulted?
It’s important to remember that sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. It doesn’t occur because of something you did or didn’t do. Police officers, healthcare staff, therapists, and other mental health experts will never blame the victim for being sexually assaulted. It’s always the perpetrator’s choice to commit a sexual assault, and there are no excuses for doing so.
Even so, here are some steps you can take to minimize the chances of your being sexually assaulted.
Listen to Your Gut
If you feel uncomfortable being alone with someone, trust your instincts and leave as soon as you can.
If you’re starting to get creeped out by the way someone is staring at you, call a taxi or alert a friend.
Stick Together With Your Friends on a Night Out
If you’re on a night out, make sure to stay close to your friends.
Make an agreement that none of you will leave without informing another member of the group first.
Inform a Friend Where You’ll Be Going and When You Plan To Return
If you’re going out on a date, make sure one of your friends knows where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
Keep your smartphone on you at all times. Better yet, have your first dates at a bar or restaurant where you know the staff well.
Get a Ride Home
Don’t walk home alone late at night. Order a taxi or contact a friend and have them drop you off right outside your front door.
If you are walking alone, do your best to avoid isolated areas.
Be Aware of Your Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol can make you lose your inhibitions and become less aware of your surroundings. This can make you more susceptible to assault, so know your drinking limits and stick to them.
If You Do Have a Drink, Don’t Let it Out of Your Sight
A lot of sexual predators target their victims by slipping a drug into their drinks that makes them drowsy. These are known as “date rape” drugs as they’re often used to facilitate a sexual assault during a romantic one-on-one encounter.
They are also used in nightlife environments, so make sure never to leave your drink unattended when you’re out at a pub or a nightclub. Keep an eye on it at all times, and don’t accept a drink from anyone you don’t know.
Don’t Invite People You Don’t Know Into Your Home If You’re Alone
You shouldn’t invite people into your home if you’re alone or travel alone to their property unless you trust them. It can take time to develop that trust. Don’t allow someone to push for this isolation faster than what makes you comfortable.
In a romantic context, this might mean not going back to each other’s home until you know you’re ready for consensual sex. There’s nothing wrong with that. If this person cares about you, they’ll be willing to wait.
What Should I Do If I Was Sexually Assaulted: Any More Questions?
If you want to speak to an expert about recovering from a sexual assault, phone the 24-hour National Sexual Assault Helpline at (800) 656-4673 at any time. The experts there can offer advice about seeking medical care, taking legal action, or anything else that a victim of sexual assault may need.
You can call your local rape crisis program for advice on crisis intervention, legal resources, counseling, and support groups. The Blue Knot Foundation is another great resource that provides support for adult survivors of childhood abuse.
We hope this guide gave you all the information that you need about what to do if you were a victim of sexual assault. If you’re looking for an experienced, award-winning injury attorney in Kansas City who can help you understand your legal options,call us today at 816-542-6734.