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What To Do If You've Been Sexually Assaulted

Learn what you can do to prevent sexual assault plus important information to consider if you've been sexually assaulted.

10 Things Anyone Can Do To Help Prevent Sexual Assault

  1. Be aware of language. Words are very powerful, especially when spoken by people with power over others. When we see women as inferior, it becomes easier to treat them with less respect, disregard their rights, and ignore their well-being.
  2. Communicate. Sexual violence often goes hand in hand with poor communication. Our discomfort with talking honestly and openly about sex dramatically raises the risk of rape. By learning effective sexual communication -- stating your desires clearly, listening to your partner, and asking when the situation is unclear - you can make sex safer for yourself and others.
  3. Speak up. You will probably never see a rape in progress, but you will see and hear attitudes and behaviors that degrade women and promote rape. When your best friend tells a joke about rape, say you don't think it's funny. When you read an article that blames a rape survivor for being assaulted, write a letter to the editor. When laws are proposed that limit women's rights, let politicians know that you won't support them. Do anything but remain silent.
  4. Support survivors of rape. Rape will not be taken seriously until everyone knows how common it is. By learning to sensitively support survivors in their lives, we can help both women and other men feel safer to speak out about being raped and let the world know how serious a problem rape is.
  5. Contribute Your Time and/or Money. Donate your time or money to an organization working to prevent violence against women in our community.
  6. Organize. Join an organization dedicated to stopping violence against women. Men's Anti-Rape groups are powerful in the fight to end sexual violence.
  7. Talk with women... about how the risk of being raped affects their daily lives; about how they want to be supported if it has happened to them; about what they think men can do to prevent sexual violence. If you're willing to listen, you can learn a lot from women about the impact of rape and how to stop it.
  8. Talk with men... about how it feels to be seen as a potential rapist; about the fact that 10-20% of all males will be sexually abused in their lifetimes; about whether they know someone who's been raped. Learn about how sexual violence touches the lives of men and what we can do to stop it.
  9. Work to end ALL oppression. Rape feeds off many other forms of prejudice -- including racism, homophobia, and religious discrimination. By speaking out against any beliefs and behaviors, including rape, that promote one group of people as superior to another and deny other groups their full humanity, you support everyone's equality.
  10. Always make sure it's consensual. If you're going to have sex, make sure that it's consensual. Consensual sex is when both partners are freely and willingly agreeing to whatever sexual activity is occurring. Consent is an active process, you cannot assume you have consent - you need to ask. Consent cannot be given legally when an individual is intoxicated.

What to do if...you are sexually assaulted

The police can take you to the hospital if you need a ride OR call the Rape Crisis Center in your area for an advocate to help you through the process and join you at the hospital.

  1. Find a Safe Place. Get to a safe place - anywhere away from the attacker. Call someone you trust, such as a friend, relative, or police officer to come meet you.
  2. Get Medical Attention Immediately. You may have injuries that aren't yet evident. Even if you have no physical injuries, immediate medical care is important to reduce risks of pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. You do not have to press charges if you seek medical attention.
  3. Preserve Evidence. You don't have to decide if you want to prosecute right away, but preserving the evidence helps if you decide to prosecute at a later date.
    • Don't bathe or brush your teeth
    • If you have already changed your clothes, place them in a paper bag (NOT plastic) to preserve them.
    • To preserve evidence, ask the hospital to conduct a rape kit exam. If you suspect that you may have been drugged, ask for a urine sample to be collected.
  4. Get Professional Help. Getting help does not mean you have to prosecute. Professionals trained in crisis intervention are available free to UB students (see info below). As you are considering your options, it is vital to remember:
    • It is not your fault
    • Every rape or sexual assault is different
    • It doesn't matter what you did or did not do during the assault
    • Healing from a sexual assault takes time
    • It is never too late to get help, even if the assault happened years ago.
  5. Report the Assault. If or when you are ready, you can report the assault to the police.

Someone you know is sexually assaulted

  1. Believe Them. Listen to them, be there, support them, and don't be judgmental.
  2. Help them understand their options (see above).
  3. Encourage them to seek medical help and contact law enforcement . . . if they permit you to. It is their decision.
  4. Be patient. This will take time for your friend to process and to heal. Encourage them to contact a Rape Crisis Center or the police for assistance.

You have witnessed a sexual assault

  1. Contact the police.
  2. If you have information regarding a crime that took place in the past, you can still contact the police, and even report it anonymously.
  3. Get help, if you need it. Talk to an adult or school counselor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who needs to know?
You have the right to choose who you tell. You may consider talking to a trusted friend or family member, a trained counselor or the police.

Will my parents be called?
Not without your permission, unless you are under 18 years of age. In the case of a life-threatening emergency, the hospital may call your closest relative.

How can you keep the person who hurt me away?
A report would need to be filed with the police. Orders of protection can be obtained through police and legal system.

Do I have to go to court?
Only if you want to press charges and you don't have to make that decision right away. The police or district attorney's office can explain that in more detail.

Will the person who hurt me know I talked to the police?
Only if you prosecute the person who hurt you.

What if I know someone who has been assaulted?
You can file an anonymous report with the police department

What if I have a pregnancy, HIV/STD or injury concerns?
You can go to any local emergency room for testing, medical care and emergency contraception. Local Planned Parenthood offices can also assist.

APA Reference
Writer, H. (2008, December 27). What To Do If You've Been Sexually Assaulted, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/relationships/teen-relationships/what-to-do-if-you-have-been-sexually-assaulted

Last Updated: June 8, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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