EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS
You came to the right place
In the aftermath of a sexual assault, survivors often experience a wide range of reactions and emotions. Responses are very individual, with no two people reacting the same way. There is no “expected” way to react in the aftermath of such a trauma. Survivors may experience shock, numbness, confusion, tears, anger, frustration, guilt, self-blame, loneliness, loss of control, fear, distrust, or anger. All of these are normal reactions to trauma.
You may still be processing what has happened to you. We hear you. Go easy on yourself and give yourself time to recover. Whatever you are feeling, it’s important to know that it’s okay to not feel okay. Most importantly, there is help available. You do not have to go through this alone. And remember, what happened to you is not your fault.
This site is designed to provide information and resources in the aftermath of sexual assault. If you believe you are a victim of sexual assault, you may be able to use this site to gather information and make decisions about your next steps.By guiding you through a series of questions, you can start to figure out what options are right for you. You may choose to get in touch with victim services, who can help you through this process, or you may decide to start reporting to authorities.
Meanwhile, you do not have to tell anyone you are looking at this site or provide your name while you are exploring your options.
If you would like to talk with a victim services professional right away, you can contact RAINN, a national sexual assault help line at 800-656-HOPE (4673).
Get immediate help
If you are injured or in immediate danger, try to find a safe place and call 911. Or get someone to call for you. If an emergency response is required, the 911 call operator will stay on the line with you, until a police officer arrives to help you. If you are new to the United States, you should be aware that the police can be called for help and there is no cost to you.
If you are injured or in pain, get medical help right away. You have the right to a medical forensic exam at no cost and you can get medical treatment even if you don’t have enough money or insurance to pay for it. Call 911 if you cannot make it to the hospital on your own.
Talk to a friend or family member
After a sexual assault, most people tell someone what happened, whether it is a friend, family member, or someone else they love or respect. However, some people never tell anyone, and it can contribute to the trauma experienced. Remember, what happened to you is not your fault.However, the decision to tell someone is yours and yours alone. For many people, it can be very helpful to talk to a loved one after they have been sexually assaulted. That person may be able to provide comfort and support, and even help you access other forms of assistance.
How will others respond
For some survivors, it can be hurtful when their loved one doesn’t respond in the way they hoped. Most people don’t understand sexual assault very well, so even if the person loves you very much, they may have an immediate reaction of disbelief, anger, or even blame.
Sometimes it can be helpful to prepare the person how you would like them to respond. For example, you may say something like this:
“I’m about to tell you something very difficult, but I’m worried about how you will respond – so I’m asking you to please just listen to me, and not react right away.”
Contact victim services
In many communities, there are victim service professionals who provide information and support for people who have been sexually assaulted. These professionals are often called “victim advocates,” and they can help by explaining your options, answering your questions, and maybe even going with you to a medical exam or a police interview if you decide to report the sexual assault to law enforcement.
Many survivors find it very helpful to have a victim advocate there to help them understand what is happening and to provide assistance for them and their loved ones.
Victim services can help you
The role of victim services professionals, such as victim advocates, is to provide support and resources for victims of sexual assault. Victim advocates are often available through a 24-hour hotline, such as a rape crisis center or other victim assistance organization, providing around-the-clock services, so they can meet you at the hospital or police department if you decide to report your sexual assault. This means you do not have to be alone.
Victim advocates can also frequently connect you with counseling services, which may be free, or you may be asked to pay for them at a reduced rate based on your annual income. Counseling services can help you to explore your feelings as a result of the sexual assault and help you on the path toward healing.
Are victim services confidential?
Some victim advocates work for a community organization like a rape crisis center, while others work for a government agency like a police department. This is important because it affects what services they can provide, and whether the information you give them will be kept confidential.
Victim advocates who work for a community organization like a rape crisis center focus exclusively on providing services for sexual assault survivors and their loved ones. It does not matter whether you decide to report to law enforcement or not – they can offer you services like information, emotional support, and other types of assistance. Often, they can keep confidential everything you tell them in private, but you should ask them just in case there are any exceptions to this based on state law or other factors. You definitely want to know this before you start providing private information.
Advocates who work for a government agency typically only provide services for victims if they report their sexual assault to law enforcement. Their primary role is to support victims through the process of a law enforcement investigation and possible prosecution. This means they can coordinate with police and prosecutors to help the process run more smoothly, but it also means they usually cannot keep the information you provide them confidential. They may be required to share it with police or prosecutors.
Again, it is best to ask any victim advocate what services they can provide and what information they can keep confidential versus sharing with other professionals. There are also some types of information that any advocates will have to share, like if you are in danger of being hurt – or if they think you might hurt yourself or someone else. To keep you safe, that type of information may need to be provided to law enforcement.
There are many steps a survivor must take on the road to moving forward. Some people find that connecting with victim services or police can help to give them a sense of control and start the healing process. But taking those first steps to speak up can be hard. That’s okay! We understand. By guiding you through a series of questions, we can help you gather information to figure out what options are right for you.
This Web site is funded in part through a grant from the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice. Neither the US Department of Justice nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, this Web site (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided.)