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What to Do If You've Been Sexually Assaulted

What to Do If You've Been Sexually Assaulted

I am a survivor of sexual assault.

I didn’t tell anyone what happened to me, because at the time, I wasn’t sure that I had been raped. I believed I’d sent some kind of message that I wanted this person—someone I knew and trusted—to do what he did. I was on the edge of 15, and he was older, someone I’d had a crush on. So when he unzipped his jeans and jammed his erection into the back of my throat when we were sitting together in the front seat of his car, I didn’t fight. I didn’t pull away. I only endured, waiting for the pain and paralyzing terror of what he was doing to loosen its vice-like grip on my chest. My throat ached for days, but I thought it was my fault, for flirting with him. For being alone with him in his truck, for wearing a sexy dress, for smoking pot with him and confessing that I wasn’t a virgin. For whispering “wait” instead of screaming “no”—for not fighting harder to get him to stop.

Today, I know that what he did to me was, without a doubt, rape. Rape doesn’t have to include intercourse, and it more often happens with someone you know than a stranger.

If you or any of your friends have questions about what “counts” as rape, you’re not the only one. The following are just some of the ways you can tell if you’ve been raped:
1) If you changed your mind and were ignored.
2) If you were conscious, but silent, and never gave verbal consent.
3) If you were chemically incapacitated.
4) If you were threatened.
5) If you were unconscious.
6) If physical force was used.
7) If, for any reason, you did not or could not consent.

There is no excuse for rape. No matter how you were dressed, who you were with, if you were flirting, or what substances you have consumed, you did NOT contribute to your rape. If the person you were with didn’t explicitly ask for your consent—if they didn’t say, “Are you totally sure you want to do this?” and then waited to hear you give them a clear, verbal “yes” to their question before proceeding with sexual activity, it was rape.

If you have been a victim of rape, there is no right or wrong way to react. You can tell your parents, a friend, or another trusted adult. You can go to the hospital or call the police, but you don’t have to. Each individual who goes through an experience as traumatic as rape needs to make their own decisions about what to do. Looking back on my own sexual assault, I do wish that I had told someone what happened to me so that I would have had help dealing with my pain and confusion. It wouldn’t be until I was in my twenties that I decided to get therapy, and with my counselor’s help, I was able to forgive the boy who hurt me—not for his sake, but for mine. I needed to let go of my anger and shame so that it would no longer haunt me. If I had asked for help sooner, I wouldn’t have suffered so long.

If you suspect you have been raped, counselors, many of whom are rape survivors themselves, are available 24 hours a day. Remember, you are not alone, and what happened was not your fault.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, call the 24-hour National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673), or visit Rainn.org.

  By Amy Hatvany

 

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