Recently, my friends and I were discussing sexual assaults. There has been a string of high-profile assaults in the area, along with convictions. Below is a guideline/suggestions should you, or an acquaintance become a victim of an assault. This page should not be used to replace information received from experts in the field, but only as a guideline.
If you are the Victim of a Sexual Assault:
- Go to a safe place.
- If you want to report the crime, notify the police immediately. Reporting the crime can help you regain a sense of personal power and control.
- Call a friend, a family member, or someone else you trust who can be with you and give you support.
- Preserve all physical evidence of the assault. Do not shower, bathe, douche, eat, drink, wash your hands, or brush your teeth until after you have had a medical examination. Save all clothing you were wearing at the time of the assault. Place each item of clothing in separate paper bags. Do not use plastic bags. Do not clean, or disturb anything in the area where the assault occurred.
- Get medical care as soon as possible. Go to a hospital emergency department, or a specialized forensic clinic that provides treatment for sexual assault victims. Even if you think there are no physical injuries, you should still have a medical examination, and discuss with a health care provider the risk of exposure to sexually transmitted infections. Also, there’s the possibility of a pregnancy resulting from the assault. Having a medical exam is also a way of preserving physical evidence of a sexual assault.
- If you suspect a rape drug was used ask that a urine sample be taken. Drugs, such as Rohypnol and GHB, are more likely to be detected in urine than in blood.
- Write down as much as you can remember about the circumstances of the assault, including a description of the assailant.
- Get information whenever you have questions or concerns. After a sexual assault, you have a lot of choices and decisions to make, e.g., about getting medical care, making a police report, and telling other people. You may have concerns about the impact of the assault and the reactions of friends and family members. You can get information by calling a rape crisis center, a hotline, or other victim assistance agencies.
- Talk to a counselor who is trained to assist sexual assault victims. Counseling can help you learn how to cope with the emotional and physical impact of the assault. You can find a counselor by contacting a local rape crisis center, a hotline, a counseling service, other victim assistance organizations, or RAINN. RAINN is a national victim assistance organization at 1-800-565-HOPE (4673).
- For local inquiries: Please contact MOCSA’s (Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault) Crisis Line: (816) 531-0233 or (913) 642-0233. Website: http://www.mocsa.org/abtus.php
Making a Police Report:
If you want to make a police report, contact the police as soon as possible. Call 991. The sooner you make a report, the more likely it is that the police will be able to collect important evidence and apprehend the assailant. A prompt report can also strengthen a case for prosecution. However, even if some time has passed since you were sexually assaulted, it is never too late to make a police report, or to seek help from other victim assistance agencies.
In many communities, police officers have had special training in assisting sexual assault victims. If you want to know about the police in your area, contact a counselor or advocate at a local rape crisis center. Rape counselors and advocates are likely to know how the police in their community usually respond to sexual assault reports. Advocates can also accompany you when you make a police report.
Most police departments will send one or two uniformed officers in a patrol car to take a report, obtain evidence, and assist you in getting the services you need. If you contact the police shortly after the assault (within a few days), they will usually recommend that you receive immediate medical care, even if you do not have any apparent physical injuries.
During the first interview, the police will ask you questions about the assault. It may be difficult to recall some of the details, and some of the questions may remind you of the most painful aspects of the assault. The police ask specific questions because it is important to document the crime fully, and to identify all forms of abuse you suffered. If you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed by any questions, you have the right to ask the police to explain the reasons for the questions, and how your answers will be helpful.
The police officers will prepare a written report, using the information you give them. You should review the report before you sign it to make sure that it is accurate. If your assailant is arrested and prosecuted, your report may be used during a court trail. In most jurisdictions, you can request a copy of the report for your own records.
Many police departments can also provide information about resources in the community that offer victim assistance, including medical care, counseling, legal information, and financial aid. In addition, the police can help you resolve concerns about your personal safety.
If you are undecided about making a police report, talking about your concerns with a rape counselor, or a victim advocate can be very helpful. In most communities, you can find rape counselors or advocates at a rape crisis center, another victim services agency, or through a hotline. Look in the telephone yellow pages under “Rape”, or ask the Directory Assistance operator for the number.
Some reasons for making a police report:
To regain your sense of personal power and control: Many victims say that after a sexual assault, they are left with a feeling of powerlessness. Often, victims begin to feel better when they find ways to regain their sense of personal power and control. Making a police report is one way to do something about what happened to you. Taking action can give you a sense of empowerment.
To document the crime that was committed against you: By making a police report, you will be creating a formal, legal record of the crime that was committed against you. Even if you are unsure at the moment whether or not you want to participate in the prosecution of your assailant, a police report is useful if you later decide that you want to do so.
To preserve evidence of the assault: In most communities, if you make a police report within 72 hours after the assault, the police will assist you in getting a specialized medical examination. During the examination, a doctor or nurse will gather physical evidence and document the findings in a medical record. Like a police report, a medical record may provide valuable evidence if the assailant is prosecuted.
To protect others from being sexually assaulted: Most rapists are repeat offenders. They commit a large number of crimes, and hurt many people. Your report may help the police arrest and prosecute a sex offender, which in turn may help prevent others from being sexually assaulted.
Having someone accompany you when you make a police report:
A friend or family member can go with you to make a police report. You can also have an advocate from a rape crisis center accompany you to provide emotional support and help make sure that police are sensitive to your needs. Most rape crisis centers provide advocate services free-of-charge.
Contact a local rape crisis center, or police department, to find out about your rights in your state or country.
Requesting a female or male officer, or an officer who speaks a certain language:
You can specifically request a female or male police officer. Similarly, you can request an officer who speaks the language that is most comfortable for you. Many police departments will make every effort to respond to your requests.
Men as Survivors:
Sexual assaults affects us all, despite gender. Not until recently has the prevalence of the sexual assault of men been discussed. In fact, nearly 10 percent of all rape victims are male. There are many myths that a man may have to overcome throughout their healing process. Such myths are:
Does rape only happen in prison?
While it is true that sexual assaults of males is a part of the prison culture, the occurrence of male rape is not isolated to that culture. Sexual assaults can occur at any place, and at any time.
Are men who rape other men gay?
Rape is not about preference or desire-it is about power and control. The motivation of the rapist is to humiliate the other person. A survey of convicted rapists found at least half of these men did not care about the gender of their victim; they raped both men and women. Most male rapists identify as heterosexual.
Can rape happen to “real men?”
Rape is something that can and does happen to an entire spectrum of men, regardless of physical strength or prowess. Being raped does not mean the survivor is weak or a wimp. Anyone can overpowered or taken by surprise. Size and strength is often no match for weapons, overwhelming odds, or a surprise attack.
Can a man still have an erection if he is frightened?
All studies so far have found that survivors commonly do report erections and even ejaculations while being raped. Some women have orgasms, too. These are uncontrollable, automatic, physiological responses, and do not mean that survivors enjoy the experience.
Can a women rape a man?
Women can and do commit rape of men, although this is much less common than rape by men. Sexual assault of a man by one or more woman is just as serious as any other type of violation.
Protect yourself Against Sexual Assault:
I know that being assaulted is never the victim’s fault, but are there measures I can take to protect myself?
Know your sexual intentions, and when you want to stop. You have the right to say “No” to any unwanted sexual contact. If you are uncertain about what you want, ask your date to respect your feelings.
Communicate your limits firmly and directly. If you say “No”, say it like you mean it.
Don’t give mixed messages. Back up your words with a firm tone of voice and clear body language. If you are lying down, for example, getting up can communicate this message.
Don’t assume that your date will automatically know how you feel, or will eventually “get the message” without your having to tell.
Listen to your gut feelings. If you feel uncomfortable or think you may be at risk, you probably are. Leave the situation immediately and go to a safe place.
Don’t be afraid to “make waves” if you feel threatened. If you feel you are being pressured or coerced into sexual activity against your will, don’t hesitate to state your feelings and get out of the situation. A few minutes of social awkwardness or embarrassment is preferable to the trauma of sexual assault.
Be careful not to let alcohol or other drugs decrease your ability to make quick, clear and unequivocal decisions.
When on a first date, go out with a group of friends. Go to a public place like a movie, concert or restaurant. Carry money for a taxi and a charged cell phone. Have a plan if things go wrong.
What if I went on a date willingly, or started talking to the person first, doesn’t mean I consented?
You always have the right to say no, even if:
- You have been drinking;
- You have been making out;
- You have had sex before;
- You said yes, than changed your mind;
- Your partner says, “You owe me”;
- You’re flirting or wearing sexy clothes; or
- You think she/he will get mad.