What should you do if it happens to you?

First thing first – if you have been the victim of a sexual assault or rape it was not your fault. You are not to blame – regardless of the circumstances. No one ever asks to be raped.

There is no right or wrong way for people to react – everyone is different and deals differently when traumatic events occur in their lives. Often it is part of our natural instinct to carry on and pretend that nothing has happened. It is all part of coping.

Reporting what has happened:

The ideal thing to do (if there can be such a thing) is to contact the police, or to visit either A&E or a SARC (sexual assault referral centre) as soon as possible. The fact is the earlier you seek help the more likely it is that the perpetrator(s) will be caught.

If you do report what has happened to you, you will have to be examined by a doctor as part of the investigation – which is probably the last thing that you will want to happen but it is very important, not only to collect evidence, but to deal with any issues around possible pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

Many people feel dirty afterwards and they can’t wait to get showered and cleaned up – again that’s a natural reaction. However, against all of your instincts – don’t wash, brush your teeth, smoke, drink, eat, change your clothes, go to the toilet or tidy up at all. This will help the police and doctors collect as much evidence as possible.

All of the staff are trained to make the experience as least traumatic as it can be and to be as supportive as possible. These services are designed to help you and make you feel safe again.

When you come to be interviewed it is important that you tell the truth. There is nothing to be ashamed of; regardless of how much you may have drunk or what drugs you may have taken; what you may have been wearing or if you flirted with them; accepted a drink or invited them in – it does not mean that you asked for it. Remember it is not your fault.

Many people may think you have a duty to report what has happened to you, that justice needs to be done and that you should not let them get away with what they have done to you or be able to do the same thing to anyone else.  This can feel very difficult and although we would like to think they would be caught, prosecuted and put away for a long time, in reality this is not always the case.  However, you don’t have to make this choice on your own, there are people that can support you and help you to have the confidence to do what feels right for you.

For some people reporting what has happened to them – regardless of whether or not they get a conviction, offers a sort of closure on the whole thing. It can be a way of saying, what you did to me is not ok – I am not hiding away from what you have done and I am taking control of my life again.

For others it is the last thing they want. They do not want to have to relive the whole thing for the police, and then the courts. Another problem is that once proceedings have been put in motion the course is somewhat out of your control – it may be very quick or it may be a long drawn out process , which you will more than likely be expected to participate in.

Whether or not you want to involve the police is up to you however it is important that you do tell someone and get support.

The reason a sexual assault can be so damaging is that it can affect your current and future relationships. An act that should bring nothing but joy, pleasure and intimacy has been corrupted and tainted – especially if it was done by someone you knew and trusted.

As we have said there is no right way of doing things – but like any negative experience it will not go away unless you talk about it with someone who can support you to deal with what has happened. Talking will help you to tackle all of those mixed up emotions and enabling you to regain control of your life. When bad things happen, we can either let them control us or we can step up, accept them for what they are and rebuild. This does not have to be what defines your life and relationships – you can choose that for yourself.

Services that can help:

See service finder (look under Sexual Abuse & Rape support)

In Warwickshire try –

 

 

 

Find a Service

Find a Service

Select your area from the list below.

What STIs can kill you?

Read more in Your Questions