You, a loved one, a friend, a co-worker or a neighbor may have been sexually assaulted. You may have been exposed to sexual violence through television, newspapers, magazines, or the internet. Sexual violence affects victims young and old, healthy and infirm, wealthy and people living in poverty, employed and unemployed, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation/identity, educational status, and relationship status, religious or political affiliation.
Sexual assault happens to people you know and feel connected to. With recent national statistics indicating that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men will be assaulted in their lifetime, chances are you already know a survivor.
Sexual violence can be non-verbal, verbal, or physical. Behaviors are unwanted, repeated, and unreciprocated. Some environments support a culture where sexual violence is accepted or condoned. This is called “rape culture” or a “culture of violence.”
Sexual assault includes (over or under clothing):
Sexual harassment, while often verbal, can affect victims in the same way that physical assaults do.
Sexual harassment includes:
Consent means that a person has given permission or agreed to participate in a behavior or act. For consent to be given, a person must be aware of what they have agreed to and have the capability to understand and enter into the agreement. Here are some important things to remember regarding consent and sexual violence:
Sexual assault is not about sex. It is about power and control. In cases of sexual assault and sexual harassment, the perpetrator’s goal is to exert and maintain power and control over the victim. Sexual assault is NOT about fulfilling sexual needs or desires. Sexual assault is meant to humiliate, intimidate, and harm the victim. Victims are NEVER responsible for sexual assault or sexual harassment. The responsibility for sexual crimes should be assigned to the perpetrator. For example, if someone robs a bank, the crime is theft and the weapon is the gun or threat of harm. Similarly, in sexual assault, the crime is theft of dignity, sense of safety, and personal power and the weapon is sexual acts and language.
The majority of people who experience sexual violence are assaulted by someone they know: a family member, current or ex-partner, or acquaintance. Stranger assaults, though they do occur, are less frequent.
Get to a safe location. Call a friend, family member, or the YWCA 24 hour crisis line at 603-668-2299.
If you need medical help, call 911, go to your local hospital, or your own doctor’s office. An advocate will meet you at the hospital or the doctor’s office. If you would like, you can request that the police come to you at the scene, your home, or at the local hospital.
Getting medical attention is about your health and safety. Going to the hospital is not a decision to report the crime. Law enforcement will respond to the hospital if you request that they be called. You do not have to go alone. An advocate will meet you at the hospital 24 hours a day via the crisis line to discuss your concerns, options, and provide support. If family or friends accompany you to the hospital, advocates can offer them support as well with your permission.
Important Notes About SANE Exams
Even if you do not go to the hospital, it is recommended that you see your own doctor for follow-up care after the assault to make sure you are healthy.
Whether you seek medical attention or not, you have the right to report the assault to the police department. You may call 911 to have an officer respond to the scene of the assault or to your home. You may also walk-in to the local police department and file a report there. You do not have to do this alone. An advocate can meet you at the local police department and offer emotional support while you file the report. The YWCA Crisis Service covers the following cities and towns:
When reporting a sexual assault, most often a uniformed patrol officer will take the initial report. That report is then assigned to an investigating officer who will contact the victim for a follow-up interview.
Victims/survivors are under no obligation to report sexual assaults to law enforcement. Some survivors report that reporting the crime to law enforcement helped them to feel safer and reclaim their power by holding the perpetrators accountable. However, for others, the criminal justice process can feel overwhelming. Advocates can support victims/survivors who would like to use the criminal justice system through the court process. You do not have to do this alone.
People who have been sexually assaulted have many valid reasons to feel unsafe in the world and in their relationships. Many victims/survivors experience similar feelings and thoughts about being assaulted. If someone you care about was assaulted, you may experience some of the same feelings.
Acute Stage (2 days to 2 months)
Common feelings and thoughts include shock, fear of the attacker, vulnerability, physical pain, difficulty communicating, misdirected anger, guilt, flashbacks, humiliation, disclosure concerns, disempowerment, and denial.
Reorganization Stage (2 months to 1 year)
Common feelings and thoughts include high stress, sense of loss, somatic symptoms, generalized fear of attack, self-blame, altered lifestyles, sleep disorders, hyper vigilance, phobias, sexual dysfunction (absence of interest or increased interest), eating disorders, criminal justice concerns, realigned support network and depression.
Integration Stage (1 year to Lifetime)
Common feelings and thoughts include occasional flashbacks, perceptual or sensational triggers, and depression around the anniversaries of the trauma.
You can survive and recover from sexual assault. The YWCA Crisis Service can provide referrals for qualified counselors who can work with victims/survivors to feel safe again and reclaim their voices and personal power. There are also support groups offered at the YWCA for survivors of sexual violence.
The YWCA Crisis Service advocates respond to Child Advocacy Centers (CAC) in Manchester and Derry to support parents of children who may have been abused. There are some important things you should know about the advocate:
We believe that you and your child(ren) are entitled to physical, emotional and sexual safety at all times. By having child victims/survivors interviewed at the Child Advocacy Center (CAC), children only have to be interviewed once. A visit to the CAC is:
Common parent/guardian responses to child abuse and child sexual abuse:
Some practical concerns if the abuser lived at home:
Emotional concerns for children:
The YWCA advocates can provide referrals for counselors who are skilled with working with children and their families as they cope with child sexual abuse.