What should I do if I have been sexually assaulted?
- Make sure you are in a safe environment. If you believe you are still in danger, call 911.
- Once you’re out of physical danger, contact someone you know and trust, such as a friend, relative, teacher, school counselor, friend’s parent, doctor or supportive adult.
- Call us for advice, support and help. We have trained, Master’s level crisis counselors available 24/7 to answer your questions and help you through the recovery process. You can reach us at 407-500-HEAL.
- If you are under 18, tell a trusted adult. (But remember, not every adult may be able to help. You may need to tell more than one person before you find someone who can help.) It’s important to be aware: if you disclose your identity and location and that you are being harmed, the person you tell may be required by state law to alert authorities.
- Consider reporting the attack to police. If you would like to report, call 911.
- While many survivors find pursuing justice an important part of their recovery process, only you can decide if it is the right choice for you. If you have questions about the process, call us and we can explain your options and what to expect.
- If you do plan to report the attack to police, or think there’s a chance you will want to in the future, write down all the details of the attack that you can remember — while the memory is still fresh.
- If you do report: Some prosecutions end in a plea agreement, without trial, which means that the victim does not have to testify. However if your case does go to trial, you will generally have to testify. If you are worried about having to testify, let the police or prosecutor know about your concerns. They can explain the laws in your state and help you understand what might happen if you do go to trial.
- Complete a forensic exam (sometimes called a “rape kit”).
- As the certified Rape Crisis Center serving Orange and Osceola Counties, our agency conducts the forensic examinations. Please call us at 407-500-HEAL to speak with a crisis counselor.
- After a sexual assault, there may be evidence of the attack left behind on the victim’s body and clothing. A forensic exam collects this evidence and documents the physical findings.
- It is important to have a forensic exam as soon as possible —while the evidence is still able to be collected, which is within 120 hours of the incident.
- Under federal law, you are entitled to receive a free forensic exam even if you do not report to the police.
- You can have the evidence collected first and then decide if you want to report to law enforcement at a later time.
- Don’t bathe or brush your teeth in order to preserve the forensic evidence.
The forensic exam involves collecting evidence of the attack, such as hairs, fluids and fibers, and preserving the evidence for forensic analysis. If you suspect you may have been drugged, let the SANE know during the forensic exam.
- Medical considerations:
There are medical concerns that arise both immediately following the assault and much later. Even with no visible physical injuries, it is important to be tested for STIs and pregnancy.
- VSC can provide you with free antibiotics for STIs as well as help you to arrange follow-up testing.
- The Centers for Disease Control recommends post-exposure HIV prophylaxis for victims of sexual assault (prophylaxis is treatment meant to prevent, rather than treat or cure, a disease). VSC can provide you with referrals for testing.
- CDC recommends follow-up testing as well as other blood tests to rule out HIV at two weeks, six weeks, three months and six months after an assault.
- Rape, just like consensual intercourse, can lead to pregnancy. Therefore, it is important for female victims to be tested after an assault.
I didn’t resist physically — does that mean it isn’t sexual assault?
- People respond to an assault in different ways. Just because you didn’t resist physically doesn’t mean it wasn’t sexual assault— in fact, many victims make the conscious decision that physical resistance would cause the attacker to become more violent. Lack of consent can be expressed (saying “no”) or it can be implied from the circumstances (for example, if you were under the statutory age of consent, if you were temporarily incapacitated, or if you were afraid to object because the perpetrator threatened to harm you or a loved one).
I used to date the person who assaulted me — does that mean it isn’t sexual assault?
- Sexual assault can occur when the offender and the victim have a pre-existing relationship (sometimes called “date rape” or “acquaintance rape”), or even when the offender is a victim’s spouse. It does not matter whether the other person is an ex-lover or a complete stranger, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex in the past.
I don’t remember the assault — does that mean it isn’t sexual assault?
- Just because you don’t remember being assaulted doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen and that it wasn’t rape. Memory loss can result from the ingestion of GHB and other “rape drugs,” and from excessive alcohol consumption. Note, without clear memories or physical evidence, it may be more difficult to pursue prosecution (talk to us or your local police for guidance).
I was asleep or unconscious when it happened — does that mean it isn’t sexual assault?
- If you were asleep or unconscious, then you didn’t give consent. Note, though, that without clear memories or physical evidence, it may be more difficult to pursue prosecution (talk to us or your local police for guidance).
I was drunk or he/she was drunk — does that mean it isn’t sexual assault?
- Alcohol and drugs are not an excuse — or an alibi. The key question is still: did you consent or not? Regardless of whether you were drunk or sober, if the sex is nonconsensual, it is rape. If you were unconscious due to drug or alcohol consumption, that means you were unable to give consent.
I thought “no,” but didn’t say it — does that mean it isn’t sexual assault?
- It depends on the circumstances. If you didn’t say “no” because you were legitimately scared for your life or safety, then it may be rape. Sometimes it isn’t safe to resist, physically or verbally.