- Find a safe environment — anywhere away from the attacker. Ask a trusted friend to stay with you for moral support.
- Know that what happened was not your fault and that now you should do what is best for you.
- Report the attack to police by calling 911. A crisis counselor on the Shelterhouse Crisis Line can help you understand the process. Call toll-free at 877-216-6383.
- Preserve evidence of the attack – don’t bathe or brush your teeth.
- Write down all the details you can recall about the attack & the attacker.
- Utilize the Midland County Sexual Assault Nurse Examine (SANE) program. A specially trained nurse will conduct a medical forensic exam at no cost to you. Call Shelterhouse at 877-216-6383 to have a SANE exam. (These can be done immediately.)
- If you suspect you were drugged, ask that a urine sample be collected. The sample will need to be analyzed later on by a forensic lab.
If you know that you will never report, you may still consider the following:
- Get medical attention. Even with no physical injuries, it is important to determine the risks of STDs and pregnancy. The Midland County SANE program can offer compassionate medical care at no cost.
- Call the Shelterhouse Crisis Line at 877-216-6383 or the National Sexual Assault Hotline, operated by RAINN, for free, confidential counseling, 24 hours a day: 1.800.656.HOPE.
- Recognize that healing from rape takes time. Give yourself the time you need.
- Know that it’s never too late to call. Even if the attack happened years ago, Shelterhouse can still help. Many victims do not realize they need help until months or years later.
How Can I Help A Friend Who Was Sexually Assaulted?
To provide support to a friend who has been sexually assaulted:
- Listen without judging.
- Let your friend know the assault was not his/her fault.
- Let your friend know that she/he did what was necessary to prevent further harm.
- Let your friend know that you care.
- Encourage your friend to talk about the assault with an advocate or counselor. Also encourage your friend to seek medical attention.
If you suspect a friend or family member has been sexually assaulted, there are signs to look for. While there is no standard response, victims may experience a few, none or all of the following:
- SHOCK AND NUMBNESS: Feelings of lightheadedness, confusion, being easily overwhelmed, or not knowing how to feel or what to do.
- LOSS OF CONTROL: Feeling like their whole life has been turned upside down and that they will never have control of their life again.
- FEAR: Fear that the rapist may return; fear for general physical safety; fear of being alone; fear of other people or situations that may remind the victims of the assault.
- GUILT AND SELF-BLAME: Feeling like they could have or should have done something to avoid or prevent the assault; doubts regarding their ability to make judgments.
- ISOLATION: Feeling that this experience has set them apart from other people; feeling that other people can tell they have been sexually assaulted just by looking at them; not wanting to burden other people with their experience.
- VULNERABILITY, DISTRUST: Feeling that they are at the mercy of their own emotions or the actions of others; not knowing who to trust or how to trust themselves; feelings of suspicion and caution.
- SEXUAL FEARS: Feeling that they do not want to have sexual relations; wondering whether they will ever want or enjoy sexual relationships again; fears that being sexually intimate may remind them of the assault.
- ANGER: Feeling angry at the assailant. Victims might find themselves thinking about retaliation. They may be angry at the world since they no longer feel safe. If they are religious, they may feel angry that their faith did not prevent this from happening.
Rape-Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Many rape victims experience what is referred to as Rape-Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Rape Trauma Syndrome. The four major symptoms of this are:
- Re-experiencing the Trauma: Rape victims may experience recurrent nightmares or flashbacks about the rape or may have an inability to stop remembering the rape.
- Social Withdrawal: This symptom has been called “psychic numbing” and involves not experiencing feelings of any kind.
- Avoidance Behaviors and Actions: Victims may desire to avoid any feelings or thoughts that might recall to mind events about the rape.
- Increased Physiological Arousal Characteristics: This symptom can be marked by an exaggerated startle response, hypervigilance, sleep disorders or difficulty concentrating.
If you think someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please seek help by calling the Shelterhouse 24-Hour Crisis Line at 877-216-6383.
What are Facts and Myths About Sexual Assault?
Knowing the facts about sexual assault can help us better address the issues in our community. Some facts about sexual assault are more commonly known. For example, women are at greater risk to be victims of sexual assault in their lifetimes then men. Those who are younger are most at risk of sexual assault with 80% of rape victims under age 30. Persons with disabilities are at 1.5 to 5 times the risk of sexual abuse and assault as are members of the general population.
Below are some myths about sexual assault.
- One myth is that sexual violence is perpetrated by strangers. The fact is only 34% of rapes were committed by a stranger. The rest were committed by someone known to the victim – friends, acquaintances, relatives or intimate partners.
- A common myth is that sexual assault primarily takes place in dark alleys, parking lots or deserted areas of parks. The Department of Justice reports that 6 out of 10 sexual assaults/rapes take place in a home or apartment of either the victim or friends, relatives or acquaintances.
- Another myth is that the victim dressed or behaved in a way that somehow “invited” an attack. The reality is that no one asks to be abused or assaulted. The assault is not the fault of the victim – no matter where the victim was, the time of day or night, what the victim was wearing or what the victim said or did. If victims do not want the sexual contact, then the abuse was in no way their fault.
I didn’t resist physically – does that mean it isn’t sexual assault?
People respond to an assault in different ways. Just because you didn’t resist physically doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape — in fact, many victims make the good judgment that physical resistance would cause the attacker to become more violent. Lack of consent can be express (saying “no”) or it can be implied from the circumstances (for example, if you were under the age of 16, or if you had a mental defect, or if you were afraid to object because the perpetrator threatened you with serious physical injury).
I used to date the person who assaulted me – does that mean it isn’t sexual assault?
Sexual assault can occur when the offender and the victim have a pre-existing relationship (sometimes called “date rape” or “acquaintance rape”), or even when the offender is the victim’s spouse. It does not matter whether the other person is an ex-boyfriend or a complete stranger, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex in the past. If it is nonconsensual this time, it is sexual assault.
I don’t remember the assault – does that mean it isn’t sexual assault?
Just because you don’t remember being assaulted doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen and that it wasn’t rape. Memory loss can result from the ingestion of GHB and other “rape drugs” and from excessive alcohol consumption. That said, without clear memories or physical evidence, it may not be possible to pursue prosecution (talk to your local law enforcement for guidance).
I was asleep or unconscious when it happened – does that mean it isn’t sexual assault?
Sexual assault can happen when the victim was unconscious or asleep. If you were asleep or unconscious, then you didn’t give consent. And if you didn’t give consent, then it is sexual assault.
I was drunk or he was drunk – does that mean it isn’t sexual assault?
Alcohol and drugs are not an excuse – or an alibi. The key question is still: did you consent or not? Regardless of whether you were drunk or sober, if the sex is nonconsensual, it is sexual assault. (If you were so drunk or drugged that you passed out and were unable to consent, it was sexual assault. Both people must be conscious and willing participants.)
To talk about these or other questions, a crisis counselor on the Shelterhouse Crisis Line is available. Call toll-free at 877-216-6383.