Answers for Difficult Questions
"What if I didn't fight back? Is it my fault?"
Submitting to sexual assault to save your life, or to keep from being hurt, or because you were afraid does not make it any less a crime. Submission is not consent. Sexual assault is never your fault.
"Aren't sexual assaults usually committed in dark alleys by strangers?"
50% of sexual assaults happen in victims' homes. Nationwide, in 60-80% of sexual assaults the victim knows the offender.
"He's my husband so it can't be sexual assault, right?"
Wrong. No one, not even a partner, has the right to force you to do anything.
"Why do I feel so strange?"
You have experienced a terrible crime and trauma, but you have survived. Right now you may have a lot of different feelings, and:
- You may not be able to sleep, or you may have nightmares.
- Your eating habits may change.
- You may be afraid to be left alone, or you may want to be left alone.
- You may have trouble concentrating or making decisions.
- Your relationship with your sexual partner may change.
“Will I ever recover?”
Recovery is a process that is different for everyone. Sometimes the first reaction is shock, disbelief, and fear. You may respond by appearing very upset or by appearing calm and controlled. You may be unsure who to tell or what to do, and may not even be sure of how you feel.
As time passes, you will begin to work through the trauma in your own way. You may feel the need to change your address, job, or lifestyle in order to gain a sense of control and safety.
If you feel you are sliding backward or feeling unable to cope with the sexual assault, it is important for you to remember that what you are going through is very common. Treat yourself gently and try not to put heavy demands on yourself. You still may not feel like yourself and may feel upset at times, but hopefully these periods will become briefer and less frequent as time goes by.
People have a wide range of reactions and recovery experiences following a sexual assault. It may help to talk to counselors who have experience helping sexual assault victims. If, as time goes by, the sexual assault experience seems to be interfering with your life (you can't sleep or you're having trouble concentrating, etc.), or you are feeling depressed, you may find it helpful to seek professional help.
“How Can Family, Friends and Co-Workers Help?”
Often, family, friends and co-workers want to help, but are unsure about what to do. Be direct about telling them what you think you need or don't need from them.
“What Is The Sexual Assault Exam?"
A sexual assault exam is a medical exam done by medical personnel following a sexual assault. You are examined and treated for any injuries, and tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and pregnancy, if applicable. During the exam, a sexual assault evidence kit may be completed. This kit is used to collect physical evidence, such as hair or semen, which may provide supportive physical evidence to be used in court.
“Should I Have the Kit Completed if I am Not Sure About Reporting to the Police?”
Having the kit completed as soon as possible after a sexual assault, even if you cannot decide whether to report the assault to the police, can be a good idea. Important evidence may be lost or destroyed as time passes. The law requires that the completed kit be held for a short period to allow you time to decide if you want to give a statement to the police or not. During this period, the kit will not be identified by your name. You can still choose not to report to the police. The cost of the exam is paid by Peace Over Violence, the Medical Center, the State, or other entities.
“Should I Report the Assault to the Police?”
Reporting an assault to the police is a personal decision. For some it is an empowering experience whether or not the police choose to pursue the case. For others it can feel blaming and pointless. Discussing these feelings with the Project SAFE staff or a counselor can be very helpful. It is beneficial to report an assault as soon as possible if you choose to report. Hospital staff or a sexual assault counselor can contact the police for you, or you may contact them yourself. You can not be requested or required to take a lie detector test by any police department, prosecutor or investigator because you file a sexual assault complaint. Reports can be made without the victim's name. This can be helpful to law enforcement if they receive multiple reports about the same person.
“What Happens After I Report To The Police?"
After you contact the police, you will need to give them a statement in your own words about what happened to you, including a description of the offender (if it was a stranger) and where the attack happened. You must sign the statement. If later you remember other information, you should call the police to add it to your statement.
You should be careful not to wash or throw out any items related to the assault. You should tell the police about them because they may need to collect these items, including clothing or linens, as evidence. The police may need to contact you during their investigation. Arrests do not always happen quickly or at all.
Someone from the prosecutor's office (a prosecutor or an investigator) may contact you after the offender is arrested. You also may be contacted by a Victim Advocate who works for the Office of Victim Services with prosecutors and victims. A sexual assault counselor can help you through the legal process.
You may want to share this section with people in your life.
Although there is no "right" way to respond to a victim, those who want to be helpful should:
- Be supportive.
- Be sensitive to the fact that some sexual assault victims don't want to be touched. (hugged, patted, etc.)
- Try not to be awkward or to show pity. The sexual assault experience is only one part of a person's life; try not to let it overshadow everything else.
- Show interest, but don't pry.
- Help in making decisions (if asked) by offering options (Who to tell, whether to report to police, where to stay, etc.), without making decisions for the victim.
- Avoid being overly-protective or overly-attentive. Victims may want to be near others to feel safe and to keep busy, but they may not want to be the center of attention.
- Be patient and understand that because anger and frustration cannot be taken out on the offender, victims may release their feelings on loved ones. Old problems may get worse and new ones may arise.
- Consider getting counseling for themselves. Counseling can help them maintain the strength and understanding they need.