Sexual Assault

You may be wondering why this happened to you-why would a person assault another person in this way? Why was I victimized? It is normal to want to find a reason why this has happened.

You did not do anything to prompt the attack. You did not “lead them on” by the way you were dressed, what you said, or what you did. Sexual assault is not committed out of a sexual urge or need. It is a way to control another human being in the most personal way.

Perpetrators of sexual assault, (also referred to as rape throughout this booklet) choose to rape and this choice has nothing to do with anything you did. They may rape someone they do not think will report them or someone who may be vulnerable (because of age, disability or if using alcohol and drugs).

Questioning your own actions is normal. You may wonder about choices you made and how they made you more vulnerable. You may have heard in the past that there are things you can do to “prevent” being sexually assaulted. You may have been doing some of these things before you were attacked, and they were not effective. Or if you were not doing these things you may be blaming yourself or feel like you somehow deserved what happened. The truth is that only the perpetrator can ultimately “prevent” a sexual assault-and only then by not committing it. The things you may or may not have been doing to avoid a rape were not flawed or wrong. Rapists surprise their victims by catching them off guard, tricking them, taking advantage of normal behaviors, or by lying. There is no way to “prevent” these things.

You are not to blame! You did not cause the assault to happen. If you could have avoided it, you would have. Place the blame for the assault where it belongs- with the rapist.

I should have…

Replaying the incident and wondering what you could have done to stop the assault is normal. One of the scary things about sexual assault is that someone else had control over what happened to you. It is a terrifying experience.

Maybe your voice or your body froze. Maybe you believed that struggling would have only made the rapist hurt you more. Maybe you weren’t conscious to know what was happening. Maybe the rapist was just too big, too strong, or there were too many of them. Maybe you were so shocked that it was nearly over by the time that you realized what was happening.

Even if you froze or were scared and didn’t feel like you could fight off the attack, you were still raped. “Freezing” is a normal response that helped you survive the experience. Remember, Nebraska law does not require that you physically or verbally resist if you feel that it is useless.

There is no right or wrong way to react to being sexually assaulted. Your reactions were completely normal and you did the best you could to survive the assault.

Evidence collection

To collect other potential evidence, the examiner may:

  • Comb through your hair and collect any debris.
  • Pull or cut approximately 20 strands of hair from several areas of your scalp.
  • Ask you to spit or suck on a little piece of paper or cotton swab.
  • Run a cotton swab along your gum line and across the crevices between your teeth.
  • Comb through your pubic hair and collect any stray pieces or debris.
  • Pull or cut approximately 20 pubic hairs from several areas of your genital region.
  • Scrape under your fingernails and/or possibly clip them.
  • Swab any other areas of your body where the perpetrator may have left body fluid, such as a bite mark.

The nurse examiner or a doctor will then perform an internal examination by inserting a speculum into the vagina to look for injuries. Then, the examiner will use cotton swabs to take samples from inside the vagina, as well as the rectum.

The effects of rape.

Rape can have long-lasting effects on victims and their families. Fear, anger, and feelings of helplessness may take a long time to heal. It is not uncommon for victims to experience rape related fears for years following an assault. Some survivors may feel “back to normal” in less time. For others, the healing process may be complicated by other circumstances such as having experienced previous sexual assaults or repeated assaults by the same perpetrator. Feeling isolated or being made to feel ashamed of or responsible for the rape can also impact the way a person heals. Whatever the circumstances, sexual assault is a life-altering event that challenges the way we think about the world.

People who have been traumatized often alternate between feeling overwhelmed by and feeling relatively detached from the experience. This may seem unmanageable and confusing, but it is a natural and expected response to trauma. Be assured that for most people, the effects will become more manageable after a few weeks of intense crisis. However, emotional pain and feelings of being overwhelmed may come and go for a long time after the assault. Many survivors experience a grieving process similar to when there is a death of a loved one. It is helpful for both the survivor and those who love them to get as much support as possible.

Other common reactions.

  • Thinking or talking about the assault constantly
  • Not wanting to think about it or talk about it at all
  • Re-living the experience through nightmares and flashbacks
  • Trying to forget and live life as if it never happened
  • Not being able to concentrate
  • Being easily startled or jittery
  • Not sleeping-or sleeping too much
  • Not eating-or eating too much
  • Increasing use of drugs or alcohol
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Feeling irritated
  • Anxiousness or anxiety attacks
  • Depression
  • Feeling isolated and different from everyone else
  • Grieving
  • Feeling guilty or responsible
  • Trying to figure out how it could have been stopped or prevented

The long-term effects of sexual assault are not always negative. In fact, some survivors have said that the assault changed their lives in ways they felt were positive. For instance, some survivors feel stronger and more prepared to handle a crisis because they were able to handle the sexual assault. Others feel safer and have more confidence in their decisions because they have learned to trust their “gut instinct” instead of questioning it. Some survivors feel that they have better friendships now than they did before the assault because they learned who their true friends were during their time of crisis.

Everyone has their own way of coping with traumatic events. There is no one way to recover from a rape, nor is there a set amount of time. What is important for you to know is that many people who have experienced rape have come through the experience and live full lives. You can too.

If this isn’t the first assault.

Some people experience multiple sexual assaults by different perpetrators during their lives. You may be wondering why this has happened to you again. Maybe you are thinking that something about you invites people to hurt you, or maybe you feel you somehow deserve the assaults because of choices you made. No matter how many times you have been assaulted, and no matter what the perpetrators may have told you, YOU DID NOTHING to deserve what has happened to you. Only the perpetrator knows why he made the choice to rape you, but be sure that you did not invite the assault.

 

 

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