What Should You do Following a Sexual Assault?

YWCA St. Joseph Provides Services For Those Who Have Experienced Sexual Assault

Seek immediate medical attention after a sexual assault. Taking a trusted friend is good.Recently, headlines have regularly told of newly disclosed sexual assault happening to celebrities in the workplace and on dates. For most of the population, there’s no press waiting to hear the details, but it can still be terribly intimidating to report a case of sexual assault. With increasing awareness around the topic, you may be wondering if you can accurately identify sexual assault and know what to do if it happens to you.

What is sexual assault? Sexual assault is any sexual activity that is not mutually consented to. It often involves a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend, date or acquaintance and they may use threats or intimidation to coerce you into an activity. Sexual assault can also include being drugged, drunk, unconscious or simply too young to give consent. Someone who is mentally disabled is also not able to legally agree to sexual contact.

It is never your fault. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had sexual contact with the person in the past, it doesn’t matter where you were or what you wore. You have the right to say “NO” at any time.

What should you do if you are sexually assaulted? Go directly to seek medical attention, preferably in an emergency room where they are trained to administer a “rape kit” exam. It’s very important that you don’t take a shower, change your clothes or clean yourself up in any way before going to the emergency room so that as much evidence as possible can be gathered during the exam. On the other hand, you can still go to the hospital for help even if you showered or changed clothes.

In the immediate aftermath of sexual assault, you may feel reluctant to consider reporting the assault to police. It’s important to consider that you may feel differently later, and it’s important that you allow evidence to be gathered. Ask a trusted friend or relative to go to the emergency room with you so that you have support.

Rape kits can be performed up to 72 hours after an assault. In our community, an anonymous report can also be made if the victim chooses not to talk with law enforcement. As a victim of sexual assault, a trained advocate will come to the emergency room and help you with all the choices and the resources after the event.

Many victims of sexual assault find it helpful to talk with someone, whether that’s a fellow sexual assault survivor or a counselor.

For more guidance on what to do if you experience sexual assault, visit the YWCA St. Joseph FAQ page for Victim Services. You are also encouraged to call the 24-hour YWCA Shelter hotline to receive immediate assistance at 816-232-1225 or 1-800-653-1477.

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