Sexual Assault

Whether you are a parent, professor, administrator, student, coworker, or friend—you can make a difference in someone’s life by noticing the warning signs of sexual assault and abusive relationships. Sexual violence, like many other crimes, can occur on college campuses and at locations frequented by college students.

It’s not easy to come forward

In eight out of 10 cases of sexual assault, the perpetrator is someone the victim knows.1 This can make it more difficult for someone to be open about sexual assault, particularly if the perpetrator is part of a friend group, a classmate, or someone who is well liked by other peers. No matter who the alleged perpetrator is, the survivor deserves support and care.

Whether you are a parent, professor, administrator, student, coworker, or friend—you can make a difference in someone’s life by noticing the warning signs of sexual assault and abusive relationships. Sexual violence, like many other crimes, can occur on college campuses and at locations frequented by college students.

It’s not easy to come forward

In eight out of 10 cases of sexual assault, the perpetrator is someone the victim knows.1 This can make it more difficult for someone to be open about sexual assault, particularly if the perpetrator is part of a friend group, a classmate, or someone who is well liked by other peers. No matter who the alleged perpetrator is, the survivor deserves support and care.

Warning signs that a college-age adult may have been sexually assaulted

Some of the warning signs for sexual assault in college-age adults may be caused by events that are unrelated, such as being away from home for the first time. It’s better to ask and be wrong than to let the person you care about struggle with the effects of sexual assault. You can ask questions that point to a specific person or time like, “Did something happen with the person you met at the party the other night?” You can also simply reaffirm that you will believe them when they are ready to come forward, and that it’s not their fault.

If you notice these warning signs in a college-age adult, it’s worth reaching out to them:

  • Signs of depression, such as persistent sadness, lack of energy, changes in sleep or appetite, withdrawing from normal activities, or feeling “down”
  • Self-harming behaviors, thoughts of suicide, or suicidal behaviors
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Anxiety or worry about situations that did not seem to cause anxiety in the past
  • Avoiding specific situations or places
  • Falling grades or withdrawing from classes
  • Increase in drug or alcohol use

The majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows, such as a friend, family member, acquaintance, or partner.1 Often, abusive partners will try to cut the victim off from their support system. As someone outside of the relationship, you have the potential to notice warning signs that someone may be in an abusive relationship or at risk for sexual assault.

Some warning signs include:

  • Withdrawing from other relationships or activities, for example, spending less time with friends, leaving sports teams, or dropping classes
  • Saying that their partner doesn’t want them to engage in social activities or is limiting their contact with others
  • Disclosing that sexual assault has happened before
  • Any mention of a partner trying to limit their contraceptive options or refusing to use safer sexual practices, such as refusing to use condoms or not wanting them to use birth control
  • Mentioning that their partner is pressuring them to do things that make them uncomfortable
  • Signs that a partner controlling their means of communication, such as answering their phone or text messages or intruding into private conversations
  • Visible signs of physical abuse, such as bruises or black eyes

College-age adults may also experience sexual harassment or other unwanted behaviors through technology and online interactions. Some people use technology—such as digital photos, videos, apps, and social media—to engage in harassing, unsolicited, or non-consensual sexual interactions. It can leave the person on the other end feeling manipulated, unsafe, and exposed, like when someone forwards a text, photo, or “sext” intended only for the original recipient. The laws pertaining to these situations vary from state to state and platform to platform, and they are evolving rapidly. Learn more about the ways people use technology to hurt others.

Remember, you are not alone. If you suspect sexual abuse you can talk to someone who is trained to help. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.

It’s not always easy to know what to say when someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, especially if they are a friend or family member. For a survivor, disclosing to someone they care about can be very difficult, so we encourage you to be as supportive and non-judgmental as possible.

Sometimes support means providing resources, such as how to reach the National Sexual Assault Hotline, seek medical attention, or report the crime to the police. But often listening is the best way to support a survivor.

Here are some specific phrases RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline staff recommend to be supportive through a survivor’s healing process.

“I believe you. / It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.” It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and share their story. They may feel ashamed, concerned that they won’t be believed, or worried they’ll be blamed. Leave any “why” questions or investigations to the experts—your job is to support this person. Be careful not to interpret calmness as a sign that the event did not occur—everyone responds to traumatic events differently. The best thing you can do is to believe them.

“It’s not your fault. / You didn’t do anything to deserve this.” Survivors may blame themselves, especially if they know the perpetrator personally. Remind the survivor, maybe even more than once, that they are not to blame.

“You are not alone. / I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can.” Let the survivor know that you are there for them and willing to listen to their story if they are comfortable sharing it. Assess if there are people in their life they feel comfortable going to, and remind them that there are service providers who will be able to support them as they heal from the experience.

“I’m sorry this happened. / This shouldn’t have happened to you.” Acknowledge that the experience has affected their life. Phrases like “This must be really tough for you,” and, “I’m so glad you are sharing this with me,” help to communicate empathy.

Continued Support

There’s no timetable when it comes to recovering from sexual violence. If someone trusted you enough to disclose the event to you, consider the following ways to show your continued support.

  • Avoid judgment. It can be difficult to watch a survivor struggle with the effects of sexual assault for an extended period of time. Avoid phrases that suggest they’re taking too long to recover such as, “You’ve been acting like this for a while now,” or “How much longer will you feel this way?”
  • Check in periodically. The event may have happened a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean the pain is gone. Check in with the survivor to remind them you still care about their well-being and believe their story.
  • Know your resources. You’re a strong supporter, but that doesn’t mean you’re equipped to manage someone else’s health. Become familiar with resources you can recommend to a survivor, such as the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673) and online.rainn.org, y en español a rainn.org/es.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE or visit the Online Hotline, y en español a rainn.org/es.

 

Source: https://www.rainn.org/

Confidential resource, on-campus

RMC/ JSU Student Health Center​

1701 Pelham Road South, Jacksonville, Alabama​

256.782.5310​

www.jsu.edu/studenthealth​

  • Pregnancy testing​
  • STI screening​
  • Referrals to other resources 

JSU Student Counseling Services​

On-call counselor 24/7, contact UPD to access​
147 Trustee Circle​
256.782.5475​

www.jsu.edu/ccservices​

Giselle Sharp is the victim and survivor counselor working especially with students who have experienced sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking.


Confidential resource, off-campus

2ndChance, Inc. 

  • 24-hour crisis hotline for domestic and sexual violence survivors​
  • Emergency shelter​
  • Forensic exam support and advocacy in local Emergency Department​
  • Court and legal advocacy​
  • Support groups and holistic wellness activities for survivors and their support systems​
  • Counseling services​
  • Assistance with pets​
  • And more!​​

Crisis Line: 256.236.7233​
Administration Office: 256.236.7381​

2ndchance.org​

  • Rape Response Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Facility​
  • Specially trained to handle sexual assault cases​
  • Offers exams 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.​
  • Free of charge​

Birmingham, Alabama​
205.323.7273​
crisiscenterbham.org/rape-response.php​ 


Private resource, on-campus 

Title IX Office​

Oversees the university’s centralized review, investigation, and resolution of reports of sexual misconduct, sex-based discrimination, or sex-based harassment (including incidents of sexual assault, stalking, dating violence, and domestic violence).​

Coordinates supportive measures

Jasmin Nunez
700 Pelham Road North​
Angle Hall, Suite 301-A​
Jacksonville, Alabama 36265​
256.782.5769​
titleix@jsu.edu

University Police Department (UPD)​

Salls Hall 700 Pelham Road North​
Jacksonville, Alabama 36265​
256.782.5050​
jsu.edu/police​

​Call UPD if you need to access a counselor after-hours, UPD will connect you ​

If you have recently been sexually assaulted, please consider reaching out to the following resources for help:   

2ndChance, Inc. ​ 

  • 24-hour crisis hotline for domestic and sexual violence survivors​ 
  • Emergency shelter​ 
  • Forensic exam support and advocacy in local Emergency Department​ 
  • Court and legal advocacy​ 
  • Support groups and holistic wellness activities for survivors and their support systems​ 
  • Counseling services​ 
  • Assistance with pets​ 
  • And more!​ ​ 

Crisis Line: 256.236.7233​ 

Administration Office: 256.236.7381​ 

2ndchance.org​

 

Rape Response Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Facility​ 

  • Specially trained to handle sexual assault cases​ 
  • Offers exams 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.​ 
  • Free of charge​ 

Birmingham, Alabama​ 

205.323.7273​ 

https://www.crisiscenterbham.org/rape-response/ 

Sexual violence happens in every community and affects people of all genders and ages. Sexual violence is any type of unwanted sexual contact. This includes words and actions of a sexual nature against a person’s will and without their consent. A person may use force, threats, manipulation, or coercion to commit sexual violence. 

Forms of sexual violence include: 

  • Rape or sexual assault 
  • Child sexual assault and incest 
  • Sexual assault by a person’s spouse or partner 
  • Unwanted sexual contact/touching 
  • Sexual harassment 
  • Sexual exploitation and trafficking 
  • Exposing one’s genitals or naked body to other(s) without consent 
  • Masturbating in public 
  • Watching someone engage in private acts without their knowledge or permission 
  • Nonconsensual image sharing 

There is a social context that surrounds sexual violence. Social norms that condone violence, use power over others, traditional constructs of masculinity, the subjugation of women, and silence about violence and abuse contribute to the occurrence of sexual violence. Oppression in all of its forms is among the root causes of sexual violence. Sexual violence is preventable through collaborations of community members at multiple levels of society—in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, faith settings, workplaces, and other settings. We all play a role in preventing sexual violence and establishing norms of respect, safety, equality, and helping others. 

What is consent? 

Consent must be freely given and informed, and a person can change their mind at any time. 

Consent is more than a yes or no. It is a dialogue about desires, needs, and level of comfort with different sexual interactions. 

Who does sexual violence impact? 

Victims of sexual violence include people of all ages, races, genders, and religions — with and without disabilities. 

  • Nearly one in five women in the United States have experienced rape or attempted rape some time in their lives (Black et al., 2011). 
  • In the United States, one in 71 men have experienced rape or attempted rape (Black et al., 2011). 
  • An estimated 32.3% of multiracial women, 27.5% of American Indian/Alaska Native women, 21.2% of non-Hispanic black women, 20.5% of non-Hispanic white women, and 13.6% of Hispanic women were raped during their lifetimes (Black et al., 2011). 

Victims often know the person who sexually assaulted them. 

People who sexually abuse usually target someone they know.            

  • Nearly three out of four adolescents (74%) who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well (Kilpatrick, Saunders, & Smith, 2003). 
  • One-fifth (21.1%) were committed by a family member (Kilpatrick, Saunders, & Smith, 2003). 

Victims are never at fault. 

Choosing to violate another person is not about “drinking too much,”  “trying to have a good time,” or ”getting carried away,” nor is it about the clothes someone was wearing, how they were acting, or what type of relationship they have with the person who abused them. Violating another person is a choice. 

Rape is often not reported or convicted. 

A person may choose not to report to law enforcement or tell anyone about a victimization they experienced for many reasons. Some of the most common include: 

  • a fear of not being believed 
  • being afraid of retaliation 
  • shame or fear of being blamed 
  • pressure from others 
  • distrust towards law enforcement 
  • a desire to protect the attacker for other reasons 

The Impact of Sexual Violence 

The impact of sexual violence extends beyond the individual survivor and reaches all of society. 

Impact on survivors 

An assault may impact a survivor’s daily life no matter when it happened. Each survivor reacts to sexual violence in their own way. Common emotional reactions include guilt, shame, fear, numbness, shock, and feelings of isolation. 

Physical impacts may include personal injuries, concerns about pregnancy, or risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. Economic impacts of sexual violence include medical and other expenses in addition to things like time off work. The long-term psychological effects survivors may face if their trauma is left untreated include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, isolation, and others. 

Impact on loved ones 

Sexual violence can affect parents, friends, partners, children, spouses, and/or coworkers of the survivor. As they try to make sense of what happened, loved ones may experience similar reactions and feelings to those of the survivor such as fear, guilt, self-blame, and anger. 

Impact on communities 

Schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, campuses, and cultural or religious communities may feel fear, anger, or disbelief when sexual assault happens in their community. Violence of all kinds destroys a sense of safety and trust.  There are financial costs to communities including medical services, criminal justice expenses, crisis and mental health service fees, and the lost contributions of individuals affected by sexual violence. 

Impact on society 

The contributions and achievements that may never come as a result of sexual violence represent a cost to society that cannot be measured. Sexual violence weakens the basic pillars of safety and trust that people long to feel in their communities because it creates an environment of fear and oppression. 

A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that individual victims of sexual violence incur $122,461 over a lifetime in costs associated with lost wages, health, criminal justice, and property damage (Peterson et al., 2017). Additional research shows that sexual violence can derail a person’s education and employment, resulting in a $241,600 income loss over a lifetime (MacMillan, 2000). 

Sexual assault and the related trauma response can disrupt survivors’ employment in several ways, including time off, diminished performance, job loss, and inability to work (Loya, 2014). 

In 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alone recovered $164.5 million for workers alleging harassment (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2016). Indirect costs for employers include decreased productivity, higher turnover, and reputation damage. 

Source: https://www.nsvrc.org/about-sexual-assault 

If you decide to seek support from a therapist after sexual assault or abuse, you may have some questions. That’s perfectly normal. Working with a therapist can help you deal with some of the challenges you may be facing. 

 

What is therapy? 

Psychotherapy, more commonly referred to as “therapy,” is an open, non-judgmental space to work through problems or challenges. In therapy, you may learn new coping skills, ways to deal with your feelings, and strategies for managing stress. You can also explore thoughts that you might not say out loud to a friend or family member. 

 

What should I consider if I’m looking for a therapist? 

Experience with your issue. If you survived a trauma like sexual assault or abuse, it can be helpful to know that your therapist has experience working with your specific challenges. Ask about their experience working with survivors of sexual assault and how they’ve helped them overcome issues specific to this kind of trauma. 

Personality. Success in therapy depends on creating an open, honest dialogue with your therapist. It’s often easier to open up when you “click” with your therapist’s personality and style. It’s okay to interview a few prospective therapists on the phone or have a couple of sessions before finding the right fit. 

Type of therapy. There are different approaches, or theories, of psychotherapy that will influence how your sessions play out. Some forms of therapy involve more talking, while others involve more “homework” or exercises to practice after your session. Some therapists subscribe to a particular theory, while others may blend elements from multiple approaches. Learn about the different forms of psychotherapy from the American Psychological Association (APA) and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). 

Who are therapists? 

The term psychotherapist, or “therapist,” is an umbrella term for a mental health professional who is trained to help people who are dealing with challenges in their lives, including recovering from traumatic experiences. Therapists come from different educational backgrounds, including psychology, psychiatry, social work, or counseling, and are licensed to provide therapy services. The biggest difference among these professionals is the type and amount of training they have received. Read about the different types of mental health professionals at NAMI. 

 

How do I find a therapist? 

Call your insurance company to find out which therapy providers are covered by your insurance plan. Many insurance websites have a locator function to help find support near you. 

Call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Referral Helpline at 1.800.662.HELP (4357) or search for a local treatment center using their locator tool. 

If you are a student, you may have access to free services through your on-campus counseling center. Many of these resources do not require insurance. 

Visit centers.rainn.org to find a local sexual assault service provider that can connect you with resources in your area that are prepared to helps survivors of sexual assault. 

You can also find support from other local resources, such as a community center or faith-based organization. 

A safe, confidential space 

Generally, what you say to your therapist will remain private. Therapists know that in order to be comfortable sharing very personal information, you need trust that anything you share will stay between the two of you. There are a few exceptions to this rule to keep you and others safe. For instance, if a therapist believes that a patient has made a credible threat to hurt themselves or others, the therapist may notify a family member or law enforcement in order to keep everyone safe. Learn more about privacy rules and protections as they relate to mental health through the Department of Health and Human Services. 

 

Talking about timelines 

Some people are concerned that starting therapy means entering into a lifelong contract. That isn’t usually the case. While there is no timeline for recovering from sexual assault or abuse, you may be able to work with a therapist for a defined amount of time to help you find ways to heal from the experience. 

 

Therapeutic treatments are designed to give you to tools to structure your life and interact with your environment in a healthy way that works for you. Some patients are ready to leave therapy after a few months. Other patients find a therapeutic relationship to be beneficial and want to continue counseling for a longer period of time. You can, and should, talk about timelines with your therapist. A flexible timeline can help you set goals for recovery and make it easier to track your progress. 

 

When you’re ready to leave therapy, remember that the door doesn’t have to remain closed. You can always schedule a check-in appointment at a later time or resume therapy if you need it. 

 

Changing therapists 

You may decide at a certain point that your relationship with your therapist isn’t working out. Maybe you aren’t seeing the progress you had hoped, or maybe you feel that you just don’t “click.” For the sake of your own health and progress, do not abruptly stop attending sessions. Consider the following tips to help you through process of transitioning to new support. 

 

First, write out your concerns. Then set them aside for a little while. Review this list later when you’ve had some time to think about it. It can be helpful to bring this list into a session with your current therapist to guide a conversation about your concerns. 

Communicate with your therapist. Ask to reserve time at the end of the appointment to discuss your concerns. It can seem intimidating to tell a therapist you wish to leave. Remember that they are professionals. Most therapists will be able to give you a referral for another professional that might be better suited for your particular situation. 

Get a second opinion. If you’re not sure that this current treatment is working out for you, you can seek the opinion of another professional. They may confirm your concerns or they could reaffirm that you are on the right track. 

Be prepared to retell your story. A new therapist won’t know your personal history. You may have to retell parts of your life that you haven’t addressed explicitly in a while. You are entitled to ask for a copy of your records to share with your new therapist, but it’s likely that they will want to do their own assessment. 

To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual abuse by someone in the medical field and you have questions or need help, visit the Therapy Exploitation Link. 

Source: https://www.rainn.org/articles/how-can-therapy-help 

JSU offers counselling free of charge with an especially trained victim counselor. Schedule you session today!  

​ JSU Student Counseling Services​ 

  • Individual and group counseling sessions​ 
  • Free of charge for JSU students​ 
  • Special counselor specifically for victims and survivors of sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, and stalking available (Giselle Sharp)​ 
  • On-call counselor 24/7, contact UPD to access​ 

147 Trustee Circle​ 
256.782.5475​ 

www.jsu.edu/ccservices​

Giselle Sharp Victim Service Counselor, other counselors available

It can be hard to talk about an experience with sexual violence, and sometimes it may feel most daunting to bring it up with people you are closest to, such as family, friends, or a romantic partner. Whether you choose to tell others right away or years later, or prefer not to disclose is completely up to you. If you’re considering telling someone about what happened, below are a few questions you may want to ask yourself beforehand, tips to help prepare for the conversation, and ways to cope with unhelpful reactions if they occur. 

 

This article does not cover questions you may have about deciding to report to law enforcement. For more information, please see reporting to law enforcement. 

 

If you are under 18 or over 65, you should be aware that some people are legally required to report what you tell them to the authorities. Who is a “mandatory reporter” varies by state, but often includes teachers, childcare workers, eldercare workers, and some members of the clergy. To learn the laws in your state, visit RAINN’s databases on children or the elderly. 

 

Thinking about disclosing? 

Telling someone that you’ve experienced sexual violence is 100% up to you. There is no one-size-fits-all that applies to survivors—each person’s story and healing journey are unique. There are many different reasons why survivors choose to disclose or not to. Remember, deciding to tell your story doesn’t have to mean sharing every detail—it’s your decision to tell as little or as much as you’re comfortable with. 

 

How should I tell someone? 

Talking about sexual assault is never easy, but if you do choose to tell someone about your experiences, it can be helpful to have a plan about how you would like to do it. Below are a few suggestions for what you might want to consider before disclosing to a loved one. It can also be helpful to discuss some of these questions with RAINN’s hotline staff or a therapist you trust. 

 

What. What you choose to share about your story is completely up to you. If the person you’re telling does not know how to respond and is trying to think of something to say to you, they may end up asking for details of what happened. Just because they asked doesn’t mean you have to tell them. You can always say, “I wanted to tell you that this happened to me but I don’t feel comfortable sharing any more details about it right now.” 

 

Who. From what you know about the person you are planning to tell, do you think they will react in a supportive way? Have you heard them make unsupportive or judgemental remarks about sexual assault when it comes up in the news? Have they shared an experience they have had with sexual assault? Do they know the perpetrator, and if so, could this affect their reaction to your disclosure? 

 

When. It will be best to have the full attention of the person you are disclosing to and also give them time to process what you’ve shared. If someone is about to go to sleep, leave the house, or is intoxicated, consider waiting for a better time to tell them. 

 

Where. If you feel safe with the person you are disclosing to, then it will probably be best to choose a private place to tell them about what happened. However, if you fear they might become angry or violent, a public location would be safer and you could ask someone you trust to come with you. 

 

How. The way you choose to tell someone is about what will make you most comfortable. It can be in-person, over the phone, or in the form of a letter. There are positive and negative aspects to each of these ways of telling someone, but it all comes down to what is right for you. For instance, if you are worried about being interrupted or being asked too many questions, writing a letter could be helpful. 

 

No matter how you choose to tell someone, it is a good idea to set some ground rules first. You can say something like: “I’d like to tell you about something that’s hard for me to talk about and it would mean a lot to me if you would just listen and not ask any questions.” 

 

Talking to a romantic partner about sexual assault 

Talking to a romantic partner about sexual assault can be difficult—whether the assault happened recently or decades in the past, and whether you just started dating or have been together for many years. 

 

Though you don’t ever have to tell a romantic partner about sexual assault, if you’re sexually intimate with them it can help both of you to understand what you are comfortable with and anything you might want to avoid because of your past experiences. If you feel strong emotions or flashbacks during sex, it could be helpful to tell your partner how you would like them to support you during these times. 

 

Communicating with your partner about specific sexual activities or situations that make you uncomfortable doesn’t mean you have to tell them any details of what happened. If you’re unsure how to bring it up, you can try something like: “I am not ready to talk about it in too much detail, but I want to let you know that I don’t like to do ____ and prefer instead ____ because of something really difficult that happened to me in the past.” 

 

Emotions of the person you disclose to 

You deserve to be listened to and supported when you choose to tell your story. However, the reality is that sometimes the conversation will not go the way you hope. Even with the best intentions, someone may not know how to react. 

 

It is common for loved ones of a survivor to experience a range of emotions when learning that someone they care about has experienced sexual violence. Some survivors feel that they end up providing a lot of emotional support to the person they disclose to, which may not be helpful in the healing process. Here are a few emotions the person you are speaking to may be feeling: 

 

Anger. Many people you tell will feel anger toward the perpetrator and may express that they want to seek revenge on your behalf. This is a natural way to feel, but isn’t always helpful. 

Confusion. Sometimes the person you tell will be so scared of saying the wrong thing, that they’ll stall for time by asking lots of questions about the assault and what led up to it. Often, these questions will make it sound like they’re blaming you for what happened, or suggesting that you could have avoided the attack by doing something different. If that’s how it’s coming across to you, let them know—and remind them that the best thing they can do to help is to just support you. 

Fear. Loved ones may fear for your safety and feel extremely protective. While it is OK to want to help, being overly protective of a survivor of sexual violence can take away their feelings of control over their own decisions.  

Frustration. Someone who cares about you may feel powerless to help. But healing is different for each survivor and may take a long time, and it is important for those supporting you to be patient. 

Guilt. Someone close to you may feel guilty or responsible for what happened to you, even if they are not. They may be trying to think of how they could have prevented this from happening, but the fact is that the only person responsible for the sexual assault is the perpetrator. 

Shock. It is natural to feel shocked and disturbed that someone they care about has experienced sexual violence, however sometimes this can come across as not believing the survivor's story. 

Supportive and unsupportive reactions 

Having someone react in a supportive way can be an important step toward healing and may help you feel comfortable sharing your story with more people. But even if disclosing goes well, it can still be an emotional experience—and that’s OK. Sometimes telling your story can bring back painful memories. This is natural. Remember, every survivor has a unique healing process. 

 

Examples of supportive reactions to disclosing: 

 

They listen to you in a non-judgmental way. 

They show support by saying: 

“I believe you.” 

“It’s not your fault.” 

“You are not alone.” 

“I’m sorry this happened.” 

“I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can.” 

It can be very hurtful when someone you trust reacts in an unsupportive way. If you don’t receive a supportive reaction, it’s important to remember that this is reflective of them and not of you. 

 

Examples of unsupportive reactions to disclosing: 

 

They doubt or question your story. 

They ask what you were wearing or doing when the assault occurred, making you feel blamed or shamed. 

They say you should have gotten over it by now. 

It can be especially difficult to disclose to a family member if the perpetrator of the abuse was another family member. You can read our article on Help for Parents of Children Who Have Been Sexually Abused by Family Members for more information. 

 

Tips for dealing with unsupportive reactions 

The person you have told may not be providing the support you need, but remember that you are not alone. To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org (y en español rainn.org/es). 

 

If someone in your life isn’t supportive, that doesn’t mean that others won’t be. However, while you determine to whom and whether you’ll share your story again, we recommend that you be kind to yourself and take care of your own needs as best as you can. Ask yourself what you are feeling and think of self-care activities that help to ground you and make you feel better. Take a look at RAINN’s self-care page for some ideas. 

 

Planning your disclosure 

If you’d like support developing a plan to disclose your experience with sexual violence, feel free to call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org (y en español rainn.org/es). We’re here to help you. 

Source: https://www.rainn.org/articles/telling-loved-ones-about-sexual-assault 

Self care is about taking steps to feel healthy and comfortable. Whether it happened recently or years ago, self care can help you cope with the short- and long-term effects of a trauma like sexual assault. 

 

Physical self-care 

After a trauma, it’s important to keep your body healthy and strong. You may be healing from injuries or feeling emotionally drained. Good physical health can support you through this time. Think about a time when you felt physically healthy, and consider asking yourself the following questions:  

  • How were you sleeping? Did you have a sleep ritual or nap pattern that made you feel more rested? 
  • What types of food were you eating? What meals made you feel healthy and strong? 
  • What types of exercise did you enjoy? Were there any particular activities that made you feel more energized? 
  • Did you perform certain routines? Were there activities you did to start the day off right or wind down at the end of the day? 

Emotional self care 

Emotional self care means different things to different people. The key to emotional self care is being in tune with yourself. Think about a time when you felt balanced and grounded, and consider asking yourself the following questions: 

 

What fun or leisure activities did you enjoy? Were there events or outings that you looked forward to? 

  • Did you write down your thoughts in a journal or personal notebook? 
  • Were meditation or relaxation activities a part of your regular schedule? 
  • What inspirational words were you reading? Did you have a particular author or favorite website, like RAINN’s Pinterest board, to go to for inspiration? 
  • Who did you spend time with? Was there someone, or a group of people, that you felt safe and supported around? 
  • Where did you spend your time? Was there a special place, maybe outdoors or at a friend’s house, where you felt comfortable and grounded? 

Self care isn’t always easy to take on by yourself. To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org. 

 

Share this information with others. Download and distribute to friends and loved ones. 

 

Source: https://www.rainn.org/articles/self-care-after-trauma