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Interpersonal Violence

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What to do if you are sexually assaulted

If you are sexually assaulted, it is important that you care for yourself in the manner that is best for you. For some, this means reporting the crime immediately and working to have the assailant brought to justice. Others prefer to seek medical and emotional care without reporting the assault as a crime. Regardless of your preference for self-care, these are three steps that everyone who has been sexually assaulted should follow:

  • Get prompt medical care.
  • Remember that the person assaulted is not at fault.
  • Obtain emotional support to help with healing and feeling safe.

Get Medical Care

  1. First, find a safe environment away from the assailant. Then go to a medical center or hospital emergency room to get medical attention, and to be checked for sexually transmitted disease and internal injuries.
  2. Medical attention is confidential.
  3. Most medical centers and hospital emergency rooms have doctors and counselors who have been trained to assist individuals who have been  sexually assaulted. Franciscan Skemp and Gundersen Lutheran provide sexual assault nurse examiner services (SANE) in their emergency rooms.
  4. It's best to seek medical care immediately after a sexual assault. However, if an examination does not occur right away, it is still possible to visit a medical professional to be examined for STDs, pregnancy or injuries.
  5. Write down as much as you can remember about the assault and the assailant.
  6. Medical attention also helps if one decides to press charges, providing evidence needed to prosecute if a criminal case is pursued.
    1. Preserve evidence of the attack-don't bathe or brush teeth.
    2. To preserve forensic evidence, ask the hospital to conduct a "rape kit" exam. Even if the rape was not completed, an exam can still be very helpful in gathering evidence.
    3. Those who think they may have been drugged can ask that a urine sample be collected. The sample will be analyzed by a forensic lab.
  7. It is often helpful to have friends and family members along for support when seeking medical care.
  8. The person who has been assaulted should visit their doctor one or two weeks after the assault to review the results of tests taken in the emergency room.

The person assaulted is NOT at fault

  • Sexual assault is a crime of violence in which the assailant is motivated by a desire to humiliate and achieve power over the person who is assaulted. Ninety-three percent of sexual assaults are committed by  someone known to the victim. (Safe Path, 2004)
  • Sexual assault usually occurs as a deliberate action by the perpetrator. It is not the fault of the person who has been assaulted. No one has the right to have sex against someone's will without their consent.
  • Most people who are sexually assaulted know the perpetrator. Because of this, the person who has been assaulted may not want to reveal the name of the assailant. Some feel comfortable reporting an incident of sexual assault, others do not. The person assaulted should take the steps they feel will best help them feel safe to heal.
  • Many assailants will attempt to lay blame and fault the person who was assaulted by saying these or other things: "You asked for it" or "You wanted it." In fact, how another person acts, what they say or what they wear is never justification for rape.

Obtain emotional support

  1. Being sexually assaulted may be emotionally traumatic and have a major impact on a person's life. Proper support, emotional care, and attention can assist in the healing process and prevent later concerns.
  2. Those who have been assaulted often feel a combination of disbelief, fear, confusion, anger, numbness, anxiousness, guilt, shame, and embarrassment. It's not uncommon to want to be alone or to withdraw from  fiends and family. 
  3. Depression during the first year after a rape is reported by about half of all those assaulted. It is important to keep scheduled visits with doctors and report any physical, emotional, or sexual problems. 
  4. After an assault, it is frequently hard to sleep, eat, concentrate, in school, or participate in everyday activities. It often seems as if one will never get over the distress of rape. While these effects are perfectly normal, seeking professional support can be very helpful. 
  5. Talking with a trained professional in assisting sexual assault victims is the best way to ensure long-lasting healing. Working through the hurt sooner rather than later can help reduce side effects.
  6. Counseling services are free, confidential and available to all enrolled Viterbo students. The counselor is available in the fall and spring semesters. Counseling services is located in the Student Development Center (next to San Damiano Chapel). The phone number is 608-796-3808.
  7. These La Crosse agencies offer 24 hour hotlines and services for those who have been sexually assaulted:
    1. Franciscan Skemp Safe Path Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Services offer free counseling and sexual assault advocacy, 608-791-7804 or 800-362-5454 ext. 27804
    2. Gundersen Lutheran Sexual Assault Services, 608-775-5950 or 800-362-9567, ext. 5950. Offers free counseling and advocacy.
    3. New Horizons Shelter and Women's Center, 608-791-2600 or 888-231-0066
    4. The National Sexual Assault Hotline operated for free, 24 hours each day can also provide you with support and guidance. The number is 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).