If you’ve experienced sexual assault or abuse, the following advice can help you find support and begin to heal.
By Daniela Santiago
Sexual Assault Center Advocate
The experience of a sexual assault or sexual abuse can leave you feeling all over the place. You may be unsure who to call, where to go, or what to do next. It’s normal to feel emotions like shock, disbelief, shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, and/or suicidal thoughts.
As a Sexual Assault Center Advocate, I want you to know that help and support are available – free of judgement, free of cost, and fully confidential. If you’ve been sexually assaulted, here are 5 things to know to help you decide how, when, and where to get help.
1. Are you safe? Your safety is a top priority. If you do not feel safe, reach out to someone you trust who will provide a place where you can feel safe.
2. This was not your fault. The only person to blame is the perpetrator. It does not matter what you were wearing or what you said. No one deserves to be abused or harassed.
3. Know your options. You are not required to report what happened to you. If you do feel comfortable reporting, contact law enforcement in the area where the assault happened. Whether you report the assault or not you can be connected to an advocate with the Sexual Assault Center in your area by calling (920) 436-8899. Our advocates will offer you support and can connect you with local resources. Remember that advocates are specially trained staff who will be non-judgmental and believe you! You can also seek medical care. Doctors and nurses will not force you to report the assault. Depending on when the assault occurred, a Sexual Assault Nurse Exam (SANE) could result in valuable evidence – evidence that can be submitted whether you choose to report now or later.
4. Healing is not immediate. It may take months to years to heal from a sexual assault due to its traumatic effect on an individual. It is important that you listen to your emotions, your body, and your mind. You may wish to speak with a professional counselor who will listen to you and teach you tools to use as you become a survivor of sexual assault.
5. You are not alone. There are support groups available where you can meet with others who have survived sexual assault in a relaxed and safe environment, all while learning ways to cope. There are many community resources staffed with people who want to help you, support you, and see you succeed. It’s never too late to speak up!
Sexual assault, abuse and harassment touches many lives. We know that it happens to children, adolescents and adults. No matter what your situation is, the Sexual Assault Center is here to help you find a way forward. For more information about our services, please visit our web page or call us at one of the 24/7 hotline numbers listed below.
All Sexual Assault Center Services and free and confidential.