If You Have Recently Been Sexually Assaulted
- Get to a safe place.
If you are in danger, or want to report the incident, call 911 for immediate police assistance.
- Call the 24-Hour Victim Services Hotline at 814-944-3585 or 1-800- 500-2849
An advocate is available to talk with you about safety and any other concerns you may have, give you the information you need and, if you like, will accompany you to the police station, hospital, or doctor’s office.
Victim Services Program Advocates receive specialized training to assist victims of sexual violence at the hospital and/or police department. At the victim's request, staff or volunteers will meet them at the hospital and/or police station.
- Get medical attention right away.
You do not have to talk to the police in order to get a forensic exam. You may have sustained injuries that you cannot see or feel. Medical personnel can talk with you about your options for the prevention of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections and perform a medical exam to address your medical needs and collect evidence.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will pay for the medical procedures involved in collecting evidence after a sexual assault. Our role during the accompaniment is to provide support to the victim, their family, friends and/or significant others.
- Preserve possible evidence.
Do not shower, drink or eat, douche, or change your clothes. These activities destroy physical evidence that can be used if you choose to report the assault to the police.
- Do not move anything at the scene, if possible.
If you choose to press charges, the police will need to examine the scene for evidence.
Natural Reactions Following a Sexual Assault
It is natural for the effects of the assault stay with you for a while. During the months following an assault, you may continue to experience a wide range of emotions such as fear, distrust, anger, shame, humiliation, and guilt. Some survivors may even believe that there is something wrong with them because they continue to have difficulties months after the assault. Remember that this is natural and that it is important to respect your own timetable of healing.
After several months you may find that the more severe symptoms, such as nightmares or flashbacks, have disappeared, while other symptoms, such as increased levels of anxiety and fear, may persist for some time. You may find that certain times and/or events - particularly the anniversary day of the assault - trigger some of these feelings.
Everyone recovers in a manner that is unique and appropriate to them. Recovery from sexual assault occurs in stages and is very personal; what one person considers recovered another might not. Some survivors express their feelings while others keep their feelings to themselves. Some try to block intense emotions by keeping themselves busy, while others deal with these feelings by talking about the assault frequently. Some are afraid of crowded situations and prefer to keep to themselves, while others are afraid to be alone.
You may experience various forms of trauma. Reactions to trauma vary from person to person. What is traumatic for one person may not be traumatic for another. Survivors may experience physical trauma such as, intense stress reactions, increased breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate, as well as tightening of the muscles. Survivors may feel exhausted but unable to sleep, and they may have headaches, increased or decreased appetites, or digestive problems.
Survivors may experience emotional trauma such as, intense feelings of anger, vivid dreams, nightmares or flashbacks of the event and feelings of fear and insecurity, and trouble concentrating. Others may experience a sense of feeling disconnected, shock, or disbelief. These are all normal feelings for someone who has experienced a traumatic event.
It is important not to isolate yourself; however, the manner and pace in which you deal with these feelings and reactions should be one that is comfortable for you.
Talking about the assault and developing a network of support can be a very important part of the healing process. For some people, talking with friends and family is most helpful. Others prefer speaking with a trained counselor. Some people think that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Others see it as making use of available resources and expertise, recognizing that most people are not naturally prepared to handle a sexual assault.
Support group members often discover that they are not alone - that others have felt the same way they do. It is also a chance to share ideas about what has been helpful for recovery. In addition, some survivors have found it helpful to take a self-defense class and/or learn about risk reduction and ways to increase their sense of safety.
If you have experienced victimization and feel as if your life has changed as a result of a crime, the Victim Services program is here to help you. You may want to talk to a victim advocate or counselor about the trauma, the anxiety, and emotional distress you may be experiencing. If you are trying to decide whether you want to report a crime, we can provide you with information and options to help you make this decision, guide you through the criminal justice system, and help you solve problems that may arise as you cope with your reactions to the crime.
Important Things to Remember
- Recovery takes time.
- It was not your fault.
- Being vulnerable or intoxicated is not an excuse for someone to assault you.
- Rape or sexual assault is not an act of sex or lust – it is about aggression, power, and humiliation.
- Complying and cooperation is not the same as consent.
- Sometimes cooperating or complying is the best thing to do.
- Take care of yourself physically and emotionally. This includes proper eating, rest and relaxation, doing nice things for yourself, and asking for help.
The Victim Services Program
The Victim Services Program works to assure the protection, health, safety and well-being of all persons receiving services. Services are provided by specially trained advocates at Family Services Incorporated, as well as law enforcement agencies, medical facilities, and other human service agencies throughout Blair County as requested. Victim services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.