Help for Rape Victims
Help for sexual assault is out there
Getting raped can be the most traumatic event in someones life. As a teenager, I was raped and it affected me for years. In fact, I was still terrified even after getting married and having 4 kids. It took a lot of counseling to get where I am today.
Every 2 minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted
The day I was raped
One day when I was 16, I got into a lot of trouble at school and was afraid to go home. So I asked a friend if I could stay with him. Nick wasn't a close friend. We just hung out a lot because we both knew all the same people.
That day I went home with him. That night, he raped me 5 times.
I didn't go to the police. I didn't tell my parents or even my best friend. The only person I told was my boyfriend. He was angry and we broke up because of it. He must have told someone because a couple days later 5 girls jumped me and beat me up with a warning to not open my mouth again.
59% of all rapes go unreported
I was able to get counseling for the rape shortly after it happened. I was able to work through the shame and the self-blame and feeling unclean and ruined. One of the things that helped me was to write a letter to my rapist. In this letter I wrote what he had done and how it made me feel. Even though I had been talking about it for months, writing it down somehow made it real. It made me confront feelings I didn't know I had. I held on to that letter for months. Then, when I was ready, my counselor and I burned it. It may seem silly, but burning that letter gave me a sense of closure.
Why seek help?
Victims of rape are:
3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
9 times more likely to contemplate suicide.
13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
Yes, I had gotten help. I knew it wasn't my fault. I knew there was nothing I could have done. As I said before, I was able to work through the shame and the self-blame and feeling unclean and ruined. But I wasn't able to work through the fear. The fear followed me for years.
I didn't see Nick for the longest time. Then one day I was at the grocery store with my husband and child and I saw him. I don't really remember what happened. I remember feeling fear and I remember my chest hurting. The next thing I remember, we were in our driveway. My husband said my face turned white and I started shaking. He said he had to lead me out of the store and help me into the car. I changed stores, but then Nick started working at that store too. So every time I saw him, I would just leave my cart and walk out of the store, white faced and shaking. This continued for years. Then, he quit both stores and I didn't see him again.
After the divorce I was on a first date with a man I really liked. He took me to a nice restaurant and things were going great. When the waiter came, I looked up and saw that it was Nick. I fell out of my chair and knocked over my water trying to get away. I ran out of the restaurant and then had to explain my actions to my date. I can't tell you how embarrassing that was.
I was so tired of being scared.
A couple months later, the same guy took me out for my birthday. We were on the fourth bar so I was pretty tipsy. We walked in and the first thing I saw was Nick. Maybe it was the liquor, but this was the first time I saw him and wasn't filled with fear. This time I was filled with anger. I grabbed him by his shirt collar and forced him into the very crowded womens bathroom. I slammed him against the wall and screamed at him that he had raped me and I wasn't going to be afraid anymore. And he said the last thing I expected him to say "I know and I'm sorry". Those 5 words set me free. Although he was escorted out of the bar that night by my request, I've since been able to see him and not be paralyzed by fear.
He doesn't control my life anymore.
Signs of ongoing trauma or PTSD
repeatedly checking the locks
sleeping with your shoes on
having flashbacks or nightmares
What to do after you're raped
What you do immediately after you're raped can determine whether or not your rapist goes to jail. First you need to call the police. Then it's more of what you shouldn't do.
- Don't pee.
- Don't shower or douche.
- Don't wash or wipe any part of your body.
- Don't change clothes.
- Don't touch anything in the area .
- Don't brush your teeth or gargle with mouthwash.
- Don't drink anything.
I know it seems impossible because these are the only thing's you'll want to do. But performing any one of these acts can potentially damage evidence left by your attacker.
When you get to the hospital or rape crisis center, you'll be asked to consent to certain things. You need to think hard about each one.
- Do you want to consent to a rape exam? A rape exam can be painful and almost as degrading as the rape itself. Your entire body will be searched for evidence of your attacker. You're hair will be combed, your fingernails scraped. Samples will be taken from every cavity. Pictures of any injuries will be taken. As horrible as it sounds, without a rape exam there is almost no chance of prosecuting your attacker.
- Do you want medication to prevent disease, infection and pregnancy? You don't know what kind of disease your attacker may have had, so it's best to take preventative medication. Some balk at taking the morning after pill to prevent pregnancy. And that's ok. It's your body. But before you say no, you should ask yourself if you'll feel the same way after you find out you're pregnant with your attackers baby.
- Do you want an HIV test? As scary as it sounds, contracting HIV is a very real possibility. If you decide to be tested, the doctor may give you medication to help prevent HIV called "post-exposure prophylaxis" (PEP). You'll need to take it for 28 days. You should be tested again after 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months.
- Do you want to talk to the police? You don't have to talk to the police. It's your decision. But if you think you want to prosecute, it's best to talk to the police while everything is fresh. The most important thing to remember when talking to the police is to be honest. Try to remember details like how the attacker looked or smelled. Try to remember if he touched anything. Inform the officer of anything you touched afterward. It's okay if you can't remember everything. Just as long as you're honest.
National Sexual Assault Hotline
Get help online
How to help yourself
There are things you can do to make yourself feel better.
- Counseling is first and foremost. You need to talk to someone.
- Join a support group. As bad as this sounds, it helps to know that you aren't alone. And it truly helps to talk to people that actually knows what you've been through.
- Take a self defense class. Knowing how to defend yourself can go a long ways towards alleviating you fear.
- Keep a journal. Write down any thoughts and feelings, even if they don't seem relevant. This can help you to manage your emotions.
Things to remember
Getting raped is never the victims fault.
No matter the circumstances, a rape victim is never "asking for it".
No means no.
In the aftermath
I hate to say this but it has to be said. Don't expect things to ever be completely normal again. There will always be something that will take you back to that horrible day. It might be a certain smell. It could be a certain object. The point is, you will get flashbacks.
I've had counseling. I've come to terms with what happened and my feelings about it. But I'm not the same person I was before I was raped.
For instance, I can't go anywhere near a futon because I was raped on a futon.
Seeing the Miami Dolphins logo makes me physically sick because the guy who raped me wore a Miami Dolphins coat.
Hearing someone talk with a lisp put my rapist's picture in my head because he had a lisp.
Despite all that, I think I'm a stronger person now. I went through one of the worst things a woman can go through.......and I survived. And so can you!
Photos and text; Â© 2010-2013 Catherine Taylor. All Rights Reserved
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