Sexual assault victims may immediately face tough situations. Here is a short practical guide on what you can do to hold your life together when you have been the victim of a sexual assault or violent crime.
Contact the police.
This may seem obvious, but it is an important step no matter how recently or long ago it took place. Regardless of whether you think you will be believed, whether the person will be found, or whether they will blame you, it is crucial that you contact the police in order to initiate an investigation and ensure the matter is documented.
Get medical care.
Even if you don’t think your injuries are serious, get medical care as immediately as possible. Go to a hospital, urgent care clinic, or primary care physician and let them see and know what happened to you. Remember too, that following a violent incident, not all injuries may be physical. Sleeplessness, anxiety, stomach/digestive issues are all potential effects of a violent experience that a medical practitioner may be able to help you with.
Let someone close know.
You need an advocate. Your instinct may be to hide, minimize, move on, or conceal, but find someone who will think clearly on your behalf. A rape crisis center is also an excellent resource to consider if a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault took place.
Speak with a therapist.
The real injuries from a violent attack can begin later — sometimes long after the initial shock has subsided — and can last years or even a lifetime. Take care of your future self by reaching out, now rather than later, to a mental help specialist who is experienced in handling the mental health issues that may arise due to traumatic violence.
Tell your employer.
Sexual assault victims may experience extreme shame. But, try as soon as possible, to notify your employer of what occurred. If you are too uncomfortable to tell them yourself, have someone close to you inform them. This may an important step to maintain your employment particularly if the effects of the violence later leads to absences from work for treatment of physical or mental health issues.
If it happened at home, find somewhere else to stay.
You are entitled to protect not only your safety, but your sense of safety. If you were a tenant, consider asking your landlord to set aside your lease agreement.
Work-related compensation may be available.
If it happened while you were working — whether at your office, outside of your office, or even at altogether different location — work-related compensation may be available. If a sexual assault by a supervisor or co-worker was involved, you may have a claim for sexual harassment.
If you are a student, contact your dean.
Put your institution on notice even if the assault did not take place on campus. Your goal is to prevent what happened from negatively impacting your academic record. In addition to requesting time off or additional assistance to keep your grades from suffering, your school may also be able to point you in the direction of additional support services to help you recover.
Get a restraining order.
If you know the person, begin the process of securing a restraining order.
Talk to a lawyer.
For sexual assault victims, one of the most important aspects may be preventing one’s own re-victimization.
Survivors of violence may find themselves facing many direct and indirect effects of the initial trauma, such as housing issues, employment issues, health/mental-health issues, academic issues, or financial issues long after the violent event takes place.
Through legal investigation, it may even become clear that what happened was not only preventable, but foreseeable by those in the best position to have prevented it. An experienced lawyer can hep you navigate these issues, become a part of your support team, and help pave the way for your recovery.
Speak with a lawyer who specializes in helping victims of violent crime.