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What to Do If You Have Been Sexually Assaulted

If you were forced to have any type of sexual contact without consent you are a crime victim and are never to blame! Sexual assault is never your fault!

Below you will find recommended actions immediately following a sexual assault, who to speak to for support and services, what to expect in the short and long term recovery.

You will not be subject to disciplinary actions if you have been drinking or using drugs. We are not interested in the alcohol and drug usage, only your safety and well being. Again, even if you have been drinking or using drugs PLEASE REPORT the sexual assault.

You are not to blame regardless of the circumstances surrounding the sexual assault, even if:

  • You were drinking, had drunk too much, or used drugs prior to the assault
  • If you were on a date or the attacker was a friend, classmate, boyfriend or ex-boyfriend or spouse
  • If you have been sexually intimate with the perpetrator or others prior to the assault
  • If you had sex with the perpetrator the day, week, or month before the assault
  • If you were unable to fight back or say "no"
  • If you were wearing provocative clothing
  • If you were at a bar or club

Recommended Actions

Find a Safe Place To Go
Locate a safe place away from the attacker and out of danger. If you're injured, go straight to the emergency room. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE nurses) and counselors who have been trained to care for someone who has been sexually assaulted. The UT Arlington Police Department can provide transportation to the hospital.

Requesting medical care in no way forces you to report the crime to the police or to UT Arlington personnel.

If you have been the victim of a sexual assault, it is important to have prompt, thorough medical care, as soon as possible after the assault. If you have been assaulted in the last 72 hours, please go to the emergency room immediately. Do not bathe, shower, douche, change clothes, brush your teeth, eat, or drink. Even if you have taken any of the last noted actions, or the assault has occurred more than 72 hours ago, it is imperative that you still get medical care. The following hospitals have trained medical staff to deal specifically with victims of sexual assault.

Arlington Memorial Hospital
817-548-6100
800 W. Randol Mill Rd.
Arlington, TX 76012
www.arlingtonmemorial.org

John Peter Smith Hospital
817-429-5156
1500 S. Main St.
Fort Worth, TX 76104
www.jpshealthnet.org

Preserve all Physical Evidence of the Assault
Do not shower, bathe, douche, urinate, drink, wash your hands, brush your teeth or change your clothes if you have been sexually assaulted. I know this is very difficult to do but it will preserve evidence to be used later on if you decide to file a police report and press charges. Also, if you have been the victim of forced oral sex, please do not eat, drink, or smoke, again to preserve evidence. If you must change your clothes, please put each article of clothing is a separate PAPER Bag. Do not put the items of clothing in a plastic bag as it contaminates the evidence. If you have to urinate, try to capture the urine in a container to be used for evidence testing. Though this is difficult, testing urine is the best way to discover whether or not you were given a date rape such as Rohypnol, GHB, Ketamine, or Valium, as these drugs quickly pass through the body and are only present in the system for about 12 hours. If the assault took place in your place of residence, please do not touch anything and leave the scene as it is.

Get Medical Care as Soon as Possible
Even if you do not plan on making a police report, please get medical care as soon as possible. Although you may not have any apparent physical injuries, you may be at risk for pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, sexually transmitted diseases including Chlamydia, Genital Herpes, HPV/Genital Warts, Hepatitis and HIV, and additional health concerns. Pregnancy prevention and sexually transmitted infections must be given within 72 HOURS of the assault in order to be effective. Arlington Memorial Hospital emergency department can provide immediate medical care for sexual assault victims as well as collect evidence by utilizing a rape kit. The Student Health Center at 817-272-2771, a local clinic or your personal physician can also assist in the treatment of sexual assault victims, including testing for STD's and pregnancy, although they cannot collect evidence.

Write Down All that You Can Remember About the Assault
When you get some quiet time to yourself, write down all the circumstances of the assault that you can remember while they are fresh in your mind. Remember to note what occurred prior to and during the assault, who was present during the assault, a description of the perpetrator, whether alcohol or drugs were present, or any other elements you think are important.

You will not be subject to disciplinary actions if you have been drinking or using drugs. We are not interested in the alcohol and drug usage, only your safety and well being. Again, even if you have been drinking or using drugs PLEASE REPORT the Sexual Assault.

Reach out for Support
Call a friend, family member, the Relationship Violence & Sexual Assault Prevention (RVSP) Program (817-272-9250) on campus or someone you trust for support. Call the UT Arlington Campus Police at 817-272-3003 or Arlington PD at 911 if you are injured and want to report the assault. Just reporting the assault to the police DOES NOT mean that you have to press charges later on. Reporting the crime to the police may help to regain a sense of power and control.

Who to speak to

Contact the Sexual Assault Victim Advocate on Campus
The RVSP coordinator on campus can assist you in reviewing the options you have and making referrals to appropriate agencies when needed. You can utilize one or all of these possible services. Some options you may want to pursue include:

  • Filing a report with the UT Arlington Campus Police, Arlington PD or other Police Departments
  • Pursuing campus and judicial intervention
  • Academic or administrative intervention-Altering academic schedules or housing arrangements if necessary
  • Medical care for treatment of sexual assault related injuries
  • Psychological care for sexual assault related trauma and experiences and your emotional well being
  • Legal assistance or referral if necessary

Consider Seeking Medical Care
Even though you may have been assaulted some time ago, you should still seek medical care at the Student Health Center. They can provide possible treatments to any injuries or sexually transmitted infections which may have resulted from the sexual assault. Even if you did not sustain any physical injuries and have not experienced any medical related problems associated with this assault, seeking medical care is still beneficial as you may be unaware of possible harm you could face.

Request Counseling or Mental Health Services
Unresolved feelings and experiences stemming from this assault can impact future recovery and have long term consequences if never addressed. No matter how long ago the assault took place, please call Counseling Services at 817-272-3671 or Mental Health Services at 817-272-2771 or local Rape Crisis Center at 817-927-2737or National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE to seek help.

Possible long-term psychological effects of sexual assault may include:

  • Rape Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Rape Trauma Syndrome
  • Eating Disorders
  • Panic Attacks
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Flashbacks

What to expect

Each sexual assault survivor responds differently to the trauma and crisis associated with this type of crime.

Normal, Immediate Reactions to a Sexual Assault

* Anger

* Fear

* Embarrassment

* Denial

* Anxiety

* Sleeplessness

* Mood Swings

* Helplessness

* Eating Changes

* Substance Abuse

* Crying or Yelling

* Calm and Unaffected Manner

* Suicidal Thoughts

 

Remember: A sexual assault is NEVER your fault!

Stages of Adjustment

Each person going through a crisis of any kind progresses through stages of emotional adjustment. A survivor may spend a great deal of time in one stage and only touch lightly on another, or may pass through a number of the stages over and over again, each time experiencing them with a different intensity. Furthermore, anyone close to the survivor may experience these stages as well.

  • SHOCK: "I'm numb."

Offering information to the survivor during this stage is not helpful as she will most likely remember very little, if anything, about what occurs during this time.

  • DENIAL: "This can't be happening."

Not yet able to face the severity of the crisis, the survivor spends time during this stage gathering strength. The period of denial serves as a cushion for the more difficult stages of adjustment which follow.

  • ANGER: "What did I do? Why me?"

Much of the anger may be a result of the victim's feelings of loss of strength and loss of control over her own life. The anger may be directed toward the rapist, a doctor, the police, or anyone else, including herself.

  • BARGAINING: "Let's go on as if it didn't happen."

The victim sets up a bargain: She will not talk about the rape in exchange for not having to continue to experience the pain. In so doing, she continues to deny the emotional impact the rape has had upon her life.

  • DEPRESSION: "I feel so dirty—so worthless."

If the victim is warned of this stage ahead of time, she may not be so thrown by it. She may experience drastic challenges in sleeping or eating habits, the indulging in compulsive rituals, or generalized fears completely taking over her life. Professional counseling may be advisable. Though a painful time for her, this stage shows she has begun to face the reality of the rape. As she allows the negative emotions to surface, she should be reminded that these feelings are normal and will not last forever.

  • ACCEPTANCE: "Life can go on."

When enough of the anger and depression is released, the victim enters the stage of acceptance. She may still spend time thinking and talking about the rape, but she understands and is in control of her own emotions and can now accept what has happened to her.

  • ASSIMILATION: "It's part of my life."

By the time the victim reaches this stage, she has realized her own self-worth and strength. She no longer needs to spend time dealing with the rape, as the total rape experience now meshes with other experiences in her life. *Adapted from "Raped", by Deborah Roberts. Zondervan Publishing House. 1981 P. 157-159.

RECOVERY

Recovering from sexual assault can be frightening and traumatic, lengthy process. Victims of sexual assault, in addition to friends and family of sexual assault victims, need to be aware of the long term effects of sexual assault and the resources available to aid in the recovery process both at UT Arlington and in the greater community. Sexual assault is considered a crisis and people respond to crises in many different ways. After an assault, some victims go into shock, often feel fearful, confused, guilty, ashamed, anger, anxiety or may feel isolated. The emotional reaction resulting from a sexual assault is complex and puzzling. As a victim of sexual assault, you do not have to deal with these issues or feelings you may be experiencing on your own. There are many individuals within the UT Arlington Community (RVSP Coordinator, Counseling Services, Psychological Services, Student Health Center, etc) that care about your well being and would like to help you recover and heal.

Each sexual assault victim responds differently to the trauma and crisis associated with this type of crime. Below is a list of common reactions to sexual assault victims may experience throughout the recovery process. As a victim, you may feel any, all, or none of the feelings described below. Regardless of the reactions/feelings experienced, there are many resources available to assist you.

Problems You May Experience

  • Difficulty relating with those close to you
  • Changes in your normal sleeping pattern
  • Changes in your appetite
  • Headaches, stomachaches or other physical symptoms of stress
  • Feelings that may be uncomfortable and/or frightening, including feeling generally "down" or angry at yourself or others (including the rapist)
  • Mood swings, including crying more easily
  • Difficulty with sexuality
  • Difficulty in handling your classes
  • Difficulty in concentrating

There is no "right way" to react to being a victim of sexual assault as each person responds differently. How a person responds to trauma is often determined by:

  • The nature of the event: the actual or feared physical or emotional injury, including death
  • What the event means to the survivor: some experiences, such as war or natural disaster, are traumatic for anyone
  • Past history of trauma
  • Current stressors in the survivor's life
  • Support system and other life resources available to the survivor

The First Few Days or Weeks Following the Assault

In the first few days or weeks after an assault, following the initial shock of the assault, many victims try to forget the attack, and "get on with their lives." Often times, during this stage of the recovery process, victims are inundated with feelings of guilt and self-blame, thinking of ways they could have avoided or changed the situation, or things they could have personally done to keep themselves out of danger. These feelings are often heightened when friends or family question the victim's actions, misunderstand the situation, and generally lack knowledge regarding sexual assaults. Some sexual assault victims then try to deny that the assault had any effect on them, or deny that it happened at all. This is also a time when survivors are likely to feel depressed, scared, or angry. Victims of sexual assault may also find themselves not caring about things that are usually important to them, they withdraw. They may be dealing with certain fears, such as fear of death or fear of seeing the assailant again. Survivors may feel depressed or guilty, they may have negative feelings about themselves, and they may have difficulty with school, work, and other day-to-day activities. Remember, these are all common feelings. However, it is important for survivors to deal with their feelings to prevent a problem later in their recovery.

While all these reactions are normal, remember that the assault is not your fault. Each person's healing process is different, so allow yourself time to heal at your own pace. It may help you to talk to family, friends, or someone you trust. If it is difficult for you to talk to someone within your social network, sexual assault counseling can be very helpful at this point. Trained staff at UT Arlington with specialties and experience in sexual assaults are available anytime you want to talk and will keep everything confidential. Choose the services and resources best suits you through the healing process.

Long-Term Recovery Following the Assault

Survivors often fear that they will never be the same after a sexual assault. With time, the fear and confusion will lessen, but the trauma may disrupt the victim's life for many weeks, months, and years following the attack if help is not received. A goal of long-term recovery is to integrate the assault into your life, acknowledging it's a part of you, but getting to the point where it is no longer a driving force affecting your behaviors, feelings, thoughts, or relationships. Although the memory may always be difficult and uncomfortable, it is possible to be less affected by it as time goes by. Most survivors take some time to recover, but almost all DO eventually recover and are able to move on with their lives. Ongoing therapy, support groups, and help from friends and family can all assist you in the healing process.

Some victims of sexual assault find it empowering and therapeutic to get involved in programs related to sexual assault including volunteering at the local Rape Crisis Center, training to be a sexual assault victim advocate, becoming part of the University's Peer Education Program . Other opportunities include working to prevent rape/sexual assault through education, intervention, and prevention efforts at UT Arlington and in the larger community.