Steps to Take Immediately Following a Sexual Assault
Statistically, 20 percent of all women will experience sexual assault at some point during their lifetime, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One in 71 men will also be victims of sexual violence. This means it is likely that someone you know will be affected. That is why it’s important to know how to respond in the event of sexual assault.
Get Medical Treatment Immediately
Although being a victim of sexual violence is shocking and traumatizing, it’s important that the victim seek medical attention as soon as possible. Whenever possible, go to a hospital right away. Don’t change clothes, brush teeth, bathe, eat or drink if possible. If the victim feels they must change their clothes, place them in a paper – not plastic – bag and take them with you to the hospital. The victim doesn’t have to plan to press charges for medical care to be needed. There are multiple reasons why a victim should seek medical attention.
The person who has experienced sexual assault may not feel that they want to share their situation with anyone much less publicly press charges against the perpetrator. Yet, it’s important to undergo a medical examination as soon as possible. For starters, the perpetrator may have shared an STD with their victim. The victim may have suffered physical damage of which they are unaware. Pregnancy may result from the assault. Finally, it is possible that after some time has passed the victim will decide to prosecute and having professional evidence will greatly help the case.
Contact the Police, a Family Member or a Close Friend
Though the victim may want to hide themselves and their experience, what they really need is the support of people who believe them and will stand beside them. The victim doesn’t need to make an on-the-spot decision about whether or not to press charges, but it’s a good idea to file a police report. Sexual assault can cause emotional harm and often reactions of embarrassment, shock, denial and helplessness may result. It’s important that supportive loved ones offer the victim time and space to process what has happened. Prosecution can happen at a later date if the victim so desires.
The YWCA is Available 24/7
At the YWCA, we staff a 24-hour emergency hotline. Victims of sexual assault may call us at any time to receive guidance. We have trained advocates who can direct victims toward the proper steps to take. Call us at 816-232-1225 or 800-653-1477 to speak with a victim advocate. Victims who fear they are in imminent danger should call 911 for police protection.