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Know your rights, get support, and heal from abuse.  

There is no one way to heal from sexual trauma. Every survivor has to find what works best for them. This list below encompasses some of the ways that survivors primarily find helpful. Please take what you need and leave the rest. 

I went to the police 10 years after the abuse occurred. I'm relieved that I had a very good experience filing a criminal complaint with the police. I know this is certainly not everyone's experience, but most police stations have made an honest effort to become trauma-informed in working with abuse victims. Please use the contact form on this website to ask me any questions about my experience. I'm happy to support you in this process.  

Get Support

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RAINN offers 24/7 support services. Even if you’re unsure if what you experience qualifies as a specific type of abuse, these options are there for you to ask questions and figure out what happened.

Sexual Assault and Harassment

Domestic and Dating Violence

Other Victims of Crime

Reporting to Law Enforcement

The decision to report to law enforcement is entirely yours. Some survivors say that reporting and seeking justice helped them recover and regain a sense of control over their lives. Understanding how to report and learning more about the experience can take away some of the unknowns and help you feel more prepared.

How do I report sexual assault?

You have several options for reporting sexual assault:

  • Call 911. If you are in immediate danger, dial 911. Help will come to you, wherever you are.

  • Contact the local police department. Call the direct line of your local police station or visit the station in person. If you are on a college campus, you may also be able to contact campus-based law enforcement.

  • Visit a medical center. If you are being treated for injuries resulting from sexual assault, tell a medical professional that you wish to report the crime. You can also choose to have a sexual assault forensic exam. To find an appropriate local health facility prepared to care for survivors, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673).

To learn more about the options in your area, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673). You’ll be connected to a staff member from a local sexual assault service provider who will walk you through getting help and reporting to law enforcement at your own pace. In most areas, specific law enforcement officers are trained to interact with sexual assault survivors. Service providers can connect you to these officers and might also send a trained advocate to accompany you through the reporting process.

Who will I be talking to?

In most areas, specific law enforcement officers are trained to interact with survivors of sexual assault. In addition, many law enforcement agencies participate in Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs), which provide a survivor-centered, coordinated response to sexual assault. SARTs incorporate medical personnel, law enforcement, and sexual assault service providers in your area. They work together to organize the investigation, reduce the repetition of questions and interviews, and facilitate communication among all agencies involved.

Learn more about communicating with law enforcement.

Is there a time limit on reporting to the police?

There is no limitation on when a victim can report a crime to police. However, in many states, there is a limitation on when charges can be filed and a case can be prosecuted. This is called the statute of limitations. Statutes of limitation vary by state, type of crime, age of the victim, and various other factors. Visit RAINN’s State Law Database to learn more about the criminal statutes of limitation where you are.

What are some common concerns about reporting?

If you have questions or concerns about reporting, you’re not alone. The list below may have answers to some common questions that are on your mind.

  • The perpetrator got scared away or stopped before finishing the assault. Attempted rape is a serious crime and can be reported. Reports of attempted rape and other assault are taken seriously.

  • I know the person who hurt me. About 2/3 of victims know the perpetrator. It can be unnerving to be violated by someone you know. Regardless of who the perpetrator is, sexual assault is against the law.

  • I’ve been intimate with the perpetrator in the past, or am currently in a relationship with the perpetrator. Sexual assault can occur within a relationship. Giving someone consent in the past does not give them consent for any act in the future. If you did not consent, they acted against the law—and you can report it.

  • I have no physical injuries, and I’m worried there’s not enough proof. Most sexual assaults do not result in external physical injuries. It's important to receive medical attention to check for internal injuries. You can also choose to have a sexual assault forensic exam to check for DNA evidence that may not be visible on the surface.

  • I’m worried law enforcement won’t believe me. There has been great investment in police training on this topic. While there are occasional exceptions, most law enforcement officers are understanding and on your side. If you do encounter someone who isn't taking your case seriously, ask for their supervisor and let your local sexual assault service provider know.

  • I don’t want to get in trouble. Sometimes minors are afraid of being disciplined, either by the law or by their parents, because they were doing something they shouldn’t have when the abuse occurred. For example, a teen might have been consuming alcohol, or a child might have been breaking a house rule. It’s important to remember that sexual assault is a crime—no matter the circumstances. Nothing you did caused this to happen.

Do I have to report to get rape kit?

By law, you are not required to report to law enforcement in order to receive a sexual assault forensic exam, commonly referred to as a “rape kit.” The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 has made it easier for someone to have a “Jane Doe rape kit,” where they are given a code to identify themselves if they choose to report later.

Does it matter whether or not I know the perpetrator? Can I still have an exam?

There is value in having a sexual assault forensic exam performed, regardless of whether or not you know the identity of the perpetrator or perpetrators. DNA evidence collected during the exam can play an important role in the case against the perpetrator.

Will I have to pay for the exam?

By law, you should not be billed for the direct costs of a sexual assault forensic exam. The way states handle this law can vary. Since 2009, states have been required to provide sexual assault forensic exams for free or via reimbursement, regardless of cooperation with law enforcement. Starting in 2015, health facilities will no longer be able to charge for exams upfront and ask for victims to file reimbursement through their insurance later. If you have questions about a bill your received related to your exam or about any other aspects of the process, you can contact your local sexual assault service provider or state coalition.

 

 

 

Title IX 

  • Title IX is a federal law in the United States. Its main purpose is to prevent discrimination based on sex or gender in educational programs and activities, including those in high schools and colleges.  

  • It's important to note that Title IX applies to all educational institutions that receive federal funding, including most public and many private schools.

    • Equal Opportunities: Title IX ensures that both male and female students have equal opportunities to participate in educational activities, sports, and programs. This means that schools cannot discriminate against students based on their gender regarding admission, recruitment, scholarships, or other opportunities.

    • Sports and Athletics: Schools must provide equal opportunities for male and female students to participate in sports programs. This means that schools must offer equal opportunities, facilities, and funding for both male and female athletes.

    • Sexual Harassment and Assault: Schools are required to take prompt and effective action to address any reports of sexual harassment or violence and to provide support and resources to victims.

    • Gender Equity in Education: Title IX aims to promote gender equity in education. This includes addressing gender-based stereotypes, ensuring fair treatment in classrooms, and providing equal access to educational resources and opportunities.

    • Complaint Procedures: If a student believes that their school is not complying with Title IX regulations, they have the right to file a complaint with their school or the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The OCR is responsible for investigating these complaints and ensuring that schools are following Title IX guidelines.

  • All of this means that you are protected under this federal law, and if the adults at your school do not take you seriously, you can go above them to the Department of Education.

What conduct is prohibited by Title IX?

Title IX Complaint form 

Healing from sexual trauma

There is no one way to heal from sexual trauma, every survivor has to find what works best for them. This list below encompasses some of the ways that survivors largely find helpful. Please take what you need and leave the rest. 

Share your story 

While it might be difficult, opening up about your experience can initiate the process of healing. Overcoming such trauma involves confronting it and recognizing that your identity isn't shaped solely by the events you've endured. Every time you share your story, it gets easier to integrate what happened into your life and healing journey. You might make someone who hasn’t been able to share yet feel seen and understood, which is an empowering feeling. Sharing looks different for everything; it can be with just one trusted person, in a safe space like a support group or therapy session, or with the world publicly, and everything in between. 

 

Therapy and Counseling

 Seeking professional help from therapists or counselors who specialize in sexual trauma can provide a structured and guided way to address the emotional and psychological effects of the trauma. Look for therapists or support groups that use trauma-informed approaches, which recognize the impact of trauma on individuals and emphasize safety, choice, collaboration, and empowerment. Ask your therapist about the different types of treatment available to you, such as: EMDR, emotional regulation skills, setting boundaries, medication, mindfulness & grounding techniques, self-care, etc. 

 

Support Groups 

Connecting with others who have experienced similar trauma can provide a sense of belonging and validation, reducing feelings of isolation. Support groups can help you feel understood and lead to lifelong friendships and finding your chosen family. 

 

Advocacy and Empowerment

 Engaging in advocacy work related to sexual trauma can provide a sense of purpose and empowerment, turning your experience into a force for positive change. This might look like getting involved with local or national nonprofit advocacy groups that work to end sexual violence. Examples include: raising awareness campaigns, support groups, legal advocacy or lobbying for policy change, crisis hotlines, community workshops, policy change, art and creative expression, peer education, and creating safe spaces virtually or in person. 

 

Education

 Educate yourself about trauma and its effects. Understanding the common reactions and coping mechanisms can help you feel less isolated and more in control of your healing journey.

 

Do what empowers you

What are the things that make you feel powerful and in control? It will look different for each person. Examples include positive self-talk or affirmations; setting goals; physical activity like sports, hiking, mountain biking, and yoga; expressing yourself through the arts like singing in front of a crowd, doing stand-up comedy; volunteering in your community to help others; being a positive role model; turning challenges into opportunities to learn, adapt, grow stronger. 

 

Build a strong support network 

Identifying the people in your life who support you may be another helpful step toward healing. Make a list of whom you can trust and rely on whenever you feel scared, ashamed, guilty, angry, or afraid. Then lean on them. If you don’t have these people, it’s time to find them. Support groups are a great place to start. 

 

​​Ask for help

Asking for help shows immense resilience, courage, and leadership. It’s the first step to breaking the silence, finding validation and support, and reducing isolation. You may find that after asking for help for the first time, you will restore a sense of control. 

 

​​Practicing Self Care

This helps manage emotional well-being and stress. Prioritize sleep, healthy eating, staying active, mindfulness and meditation, limiting screen time, finding creative outlets, connecting with friends and family, journaling, setting realistic goals, unplugging and disconnecting, spending time in nature, learning new skills, practicing gratitude, listen to music, volunteer to help others, learn relaxation techniques, socialize, develop time management, and practice self-compassion. 

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