Being raped or sexually assaulted is a traumatic experience. You may have mixed feelings about what has happened and whether to tell anyone. People can react in very different ways and the information below aims to give guidance on what you might expect and what you may want to consider, to help you make an informed choice about what to do next.
1. Common Responses and Feelings
2. Who Can You Talk to?
3. Practical Considerations – What to do after a Rape or Assault
4. Getting Support - External Agencies and Additional Resources
1. Common Responses and Feelings
If you have been sexually assaulted or raped you may be experiencing a wide range of emotions and reactions, which can be very distressing. This is quite normal for someone who has been through such a traumatic experience. Everyone has different feelings and reactions after a sexual assault and this may change from one day to the next. The impact can be short or long term and can affect you in different ways.
You may be feeling:
- Shock or disbelief – I feel numb. I never thought this could happen to me.
- Shame and embarrassment – how can I show my face again? What will people think?
- Fear – I’m afraid to be alone, to go out or to go to sleep because I’ll have nightmares.
- Sad and worthless.
- Anger – how dare they do this to me!
- Guilt and self-blame – if only I hadn’t…
- Anxious – I’m having panic attacks.
- Physically unwell – I feel sick in the stomach; my head aches all the time.
Some common reactions you might also experience include:
- Feeling responsible for the assault/abuse.
- Feeling isolated, alone and out of touch with the rest of the world.
- Believing no one can understand how you are feeling.
- Unable to stop thinking about the assault.
- Unable to think clearly or to concentrate.
- Not wanting to be touched by anyone.
- Feeling that you cannot trust anyone.
- Feeling unsafe when you are alone.
- Feeling unsafe around others.
Remember that you are NOT to blame, regardless of whether:
- The perpetrator was an acquaintance, date, relative, friend or partner.
- You had been sexually intimate with that person or with others before.
- You were drinking or using drugs.
- You froze and did not or could not say “no”.
- You did not fight back.
2. Who Can You Talk To?
Talking to someone about the experience may help you to cope, to seek support and to heal and therefore it is very important to tell someone about your experience. There are a number of people you may to choose to talk to:
|Within University||In General|
|Your Personal Tutor||A friend|
|Your resident Tutor||A family member|
|Senior Tutor||Your GP|
|Mental Health Co-ordinator||Practice Nurse|
|Well-being Advisor||Independent Sexual Violence Advisor|
|University Counsellor||Other Counselling Services|
|Student Union Welfar Officer|
|University Security Staff|
3. Practical Considerations – What to do after Rape or Sexual Assault
If you have been raped or sexually assaulted you may be concerned about your health. Hospitals and GPs must treat you on a confidential basis and will not report any incident without your consent. It is always advisable to seek medical attention even if you do not want to report the assault to the Police.
It is your decision whether to report a sexual assault and this can be a difficult and very personal decision to make. Here are a number of reasons why other survivors have chosen to report a sexual assault:
- Reporting can help you emotionally as part of the healing process.
- Where sexual violence exists in an abusive relationship, reporting may enable you to end the relationship and end the violence.
- Reporting may be the first step towards prosecution.
- Reporting may help you take some control back in your life.
If you do choose to report an incident to the Police the following are some time limits to be aware of:
- If you took or suspect you were given any type of drug, it is best to be tested within 24 hours.
- If you want emergency contraception, medication should be started within 72 hours.
- If you would like HIV prophylaxis (Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) involves taking anti-HIV medications as soon as possible after you may have been exposed to HIV to try to reduce the chance of becoming HIV positive), medication should be started within 36 hours.
- If you are considering reporting it is best to collect forensic evidence as immediately as possible, this can be stored whilst you decide what to do next.
Steps to take when accessing support:
- You can contact the Police direct on 101 or you can make a self-referral to the Blue Sky Centre (Sexual Assault Referral Centre) on 02476 865505 – both of these contact numbers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Many people do not wish to report immediately or want some time to think things through, this is perfectly acceptable and there are steps you can take to make this easier – the Blue Sky Centre staff can provide advice and information to support you in your decision-making and can store forensic evidence (this is evidence that can be used in court, for example blood or DNA samples) for you until you make up your mind.
- To help get the most effective forensic medical evidence the Blue Sky Centre suggest you try not to eat, drink, smoke, wash, change your clothes, go to the toilet (if you do need to go to the toilet using a bottle and keeping any toilet paper is advisable) or clear up the area where the assault took place. If you have done any of these things don’t worry, it is still possible to collect some evidence – don’t let this stop you accessing support or considering reporting.
- Collecting evidence and making a statement can be a lengthy process, so bringing along a supportive friend or relative might be helpful. It is also useful to take a set of spare clothes if you have not changed since the incident, as they may need to be kept as evidence.
- If you do not wish to see anyone Rape Crisis recommends putting your clothes (including e.g. sanitary pad) in a clean bag in the freezer and brushing your teeth and then freezing the toothbrush.
- Further practical advice can be found on the University of Warwick website by clicking here http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/studentsupport/sexualassault/
4. Getting Support
Warwick Student Union Advice Centre
Warwick Wellbeing Support Services
For advice and guidance following sexual violence, including a Sexual Assault Pathway.
Blue Sky Centre (Sexual Assault Referral Centre) 02476 865 505 http://www.blueskycentre.org.uk/
For immediate support following recent rape or sexual assault.
Coventry Rape and Sexual Assault Centre (CRASAC) Helpline: 02476 277 777 www.crasac.org.uk
CRASAC offer a free and confidential service that provides support for survivors who have experienced any kind of sexual abuse of any kind at any time in their life. Their counselling service is available to women and also to girls and boys aged 5 – 18 years. Their helpline and ISVA services are also available to men and boys.
Rape or Sexual Abuse Support (RoSA – Warwickshire) Helpline: 01788 551 151 www.rosasupport.org
Independent charity working with survivors of rape or sexual abuse, their families and friends. Support women, men, young people and children. Offer a confidential service, working with Independent Sexual Violence Advisors and counselling supporting.
Terrence Higgins Trust Helpline: 02476 229 292 http://www.tht.org.uk
Terrence Higgins has several offices around the United Kingdom, one of which is in Coventry. Terrence Higgins Trust can help if you are living with HIV, know someone who is, or think you might have been at risk of getting HIV.
Safeline Helpline: 0300 123 20 28 Office Number: 01926 402498 www.safeline.org.uk
Safeline Warwickshire provides a range of services to support survivors of rape and sexual abuse and their families, whether historic, recent or current.
Services include free phone helpline, support groups, 121 counselling & psychological support, ISVA, client and professional training, young people projects and useful library resources. We support males & females, younger and older.
Survivors UK: (Men and boys only) Tel: 0845 122 1201 www.survivorsuk.org
National helpline for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault.
Birmingham Rape & Sexual Violence Project (RSVP) Telephone: 0121 643 0301
Telephone helpline: 0121 643 4136 www.rsvporg.co.uk
We will support and inspire those affected by sexual violence and abuse to make positive meaningful changes to live a future with hope and confidence.
Since anyone can experience rape, sexual violence and abuse, RSVP services support females and males from the age of 18 upwards and offers advocacy support from the age of 5 upwards.
The Truth About Rape www.truthaboutrape.co.uk
National campaigning organization raising awareness surrounding sexual violence.
Rape Crisis Coordination Group www.rapecrisis.org.uk
National umbrella body for Rape Crisis member groups. Information about Centre’s in your area.
Victim Support Tel: 0845 30 30 900 www.victimsupport.org.uk
Offers support and information, regardless of whether the crime has been reported or not.
Samaritans Tel: 116 123 www.samaritans.org
Emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Provides details of local advice, information & counselling services for 10-25 year olds. Also refers young people to free services such as drop-in centres.
An interesting article about moderating exposure to media reporting of sexual violence.
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