A sexual assault can trigger a lot of different emotions. A survivor may feel angry, or sad, or humiliated or some combination of emotions that can’t be explained.
Some survivors, like me, will feel these emotions without even realizing that their experience can be considered sexual assault.
Other survivors realize that they were sexually assaulted, but don’t know what to do next.
The Truth About Sexual Assault
The reality is, there’s no right answer. The decision on what to do next is a very personal one and may take some serious thought.
I’m going to provide you with some suggestions and some options, but ultimately what you decide to do needs to be what’s best for you.
My Number One Suggestion
As a police officer, I highly recommend that if you are the victim of a sexual assault, you go to the hospital.
What you need to know about going to the hospital
- Just because you go to the hospital DOES NOT mean you need to make a police report
- You can be seen anonymously
- The hospital can do labs in regards to sexual transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
At the hospital, a Forensic Exam will be conducted by a specially trained nurse called a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). This nurse will do a head-to-toe exam of your body. This is done to check for injuries. The nurse will interview you about what happened and document what you say. She will then collect evidence, which may include clothing, photographs and swabs.
All of this evidence is package up and turned over to law enforcement for safe keeping. If the kit was done anonymously, it is held but not investigated. This allows the victim to decide at a later point whether she wants to move forward with a police investigation.
If the victim has already decided that she wants to report the sexual assault to law enforcement, it will be turned over with her consent and an investigation will be opened.
It is entirely up to you if you want to make a police report after a sexual assault. If you choose to do so, there will be an investigation. In most cases, the investigating agency will work with your best interest and your wishes in mind.
Choosing not to report a sexual assault to the police does not make the sexual assault any less serious. I recommend you find someone you can confide in to help you through the healing process. This may be a trusted friend, a parent, a therapist or a victim advocate.
Victim advocates are individuals who are trained to support you through whatever avenue you choose. They can be present during your forensic exam at the hospital, they can assist you with finding resources and support and they can support you through the legal process should you choose that path.
The most important thing is that you choose what is best for your needs. Surviving a sexual assault is traumatic. You need to take care of yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you are struggling and need help, find the contact information for the National Sexual Assault Hotline here. For more information and support, join my monthly email list.