What to Do When You've Been Sexually Assaulted?
According to RAINN, every 98 seconds a person is sexually assaulted in the United States. 1 in every six women and 1 in every 33 men have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. However, only 6 in every 1000 perpetrators will end up in prison. These statistics are quite scary.Recently, several women have revealed being sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein, a powerful man in Hollywood. The survivors who spoke about the sexual assault are Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevingne, Léa Seydoux, Lauren O’Connor, Heather Graham, Kate Beckinsale, and Minka Kelly (full list here).“People are wondering why more women didn’t come forward sooner or why they come out in numbers because it’s safer. I have not named my abusers because to start that process is an emotionally draining, financially draining, really everything draining thing to do, and to go through; I want to do it when I’m ready. To go after the person that assaulted you takes quite a toll...”, says actress Evan Rachel Woods (full video here).
What to Do When You've Been Sexually Harassed/Assaulted?
It’s not your fault: You didn't do anything wrong. It's the person who assaulted you who is responsible.Disclose when you’re ready: Everybody's different. Some individuals come forward with their ordeal right away, but others become reluctant to talk due to fears, shock, or trauma. You’re not "less brave" because you didn’t speak out against your attacker immediately.Take care of yourself: You deserve happiness, well-being, and safety. Maintain your lifestyle and continue doing what you enjoy. Also, make plans that give you a break from thinking about the assault such as starting a new hobby or revisiting an old one.Take time to relax: Consider meditation or deep breathing exercises. Maybe journaling helps you sort through your thoughts and find peace. Build time into your day for these moments of relaxation so that you don’t skip out.Seek help: Use the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673), online.rainn.org or call 800.273.TALK (8255) can be helpful. To search for your local sexual assault service provider, click here. If you’ve been thinking about suicide, please reach out to National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Also, consider talking to a mental health professional to help you deal with these thoughts and feelings.If someone is dealing with the aftermath of an assault, it can be challenging to help. However, it's crucial to not victim blame. A sexual predator will victimize a person no matter what they’re wearing and how they’re acting. Also, some people can’t speak about sexual assault right away. Often, it's scary, it's shocking, and victims feel shame. So be as supportive and non-judgemental as possible.
How to Help Someone Who’s Been Sexually Assaulted?
Be kind: Use words like “I believe you. It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.”, “It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything to deserve this.”, “You are not alone. I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can.”, “I’m sorry this happened. This shouldn’t have happened to you.”Listen, be there and avoid judgment: It can be difficult to watch someone struggle with assault for a long time. There is no timeframe for trauma recovery. Avoid phrases that suggest they’re taking too long to recover such as, “You’ve been acting like this for a while now.” If the survivor seeks medical attention or plans to report, offer to be there. Your presence can provide the support they need.Check in often: The event may have happened a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean the pain is gone. Check in with the survivor to remind them you still care about their well-being and believe their story.Know your resources: Become familiar with resources you can recommend to a survivor, such as the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673), online.rainn.org, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or 800.273.TALK (8255).Be patient and encouraging: Avoid putting pressure on them to engage in activities they aren’t ready to do yet. Encourage them to practice good self-care during this challenging time.Some tips were taken from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Go to RAINN’s website for more information or to donate.