I am not a victim of sexual assault. I am a sexual assault survivor.
But that doesn’t make me any less human. And it doesn’t make the estimated 321,795 other survivors of sexual assault in 2015 any less human either. I’m not here to ask for pity or to give a testimony. What I am here to do is tell you why this is a problem that we need to talk about. According to RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), every 98 seconds an American was sexually assaulted in the year 2015. RAINN works to provide programs, services, and information to victims of sexual violence as well as their loved ones. They have information on various related topics such as what is classified as sexual assault, what your state’s laws are, and some of the effects of sexual assault. In the state of Pennsylvania, someone charged with sexual assault would be charged with a second-degree felony with up to 10 years of jail time. They could also be charged a fine of up to $25,000.
As for the survivor, they can be left with mental, physical, and emotional damage that they’ll have to deal with for the rest of their lives. These effects include but are not limited to: depression, self-harm, flashbacks, PTSD, eating disorders, STIs, pregnancy, substance abuse, sleep disorders, dissociation, and suicidal thoughts. The best option if you or someone you love has been assaulted it to seek help. If you’re worried about physical injury, going to the hospital is a good idea. While there, they can perform a sexual assault forensic exam, also known as a Rape Kit. This is a head-to-toe examination that will collect any DNA evidence. Even if you’re not concerned about any physical injury, this exam is still a good idea because it can provide crucial evidence should you choose to report the crime. In terms of the mental and emotional effects, calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) can help. They can connect you with a trained staff member from a local sexual assault service provider in your area. They will direct you to the appropriate local health facility. Some providers may even send a trained advocate to accompany you to your appointments.
If therapy isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of other options. 7Cups is a great online therapy option, as is RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline and, in dire situations, the Crisis Text Line. All three of these sites are operated by volunteers (RAINN’s hotline is not run by volunteers) who are trained to help people who just need to talk it out. If talking isn’t your thing, maybe a coping box could be helpful. A coping box is exactly what it sounds like: a box or container of some sort packed with things that you can turn to when you’re having a bad day. It can contain anything that helps cheer you up, comforts you, or helps distract from the situation. Some common items to put in a coping box are coloring supplies, hard candy, play dough, a journal, calming music, and- depending on the size of the box- a warm blanket.
If you or a loved one has been sexually assaulted, do not hesitate to seek help- legal or emotional. The aforementioned effects can be life altering but can be helped, whether through therapy or simply situational closure. And always remember that nobody is a victim, only a survivor. You will get past this and you will prosper.