Coping With Rape & Sexual Assault

Coping With Rape & Sexual Assault

Introduction

Being raped or sexually assaulted is a very distressing experience with effects that can be long lasting.

The majority of rapes reported are against women and some of the language used in this information will reflect this. It is however recognised that there are male rapes, of which increasing numbers are being reported. The Student Counselling Service offers support to anyone who has been the victim of any sexual assault.

Feelings

People who have suffered sexual attacks describe feeling:

  • Frightened
  • Humiliated
  • Confused
  • Isolated
  • Guilty
  • Dirty
  • Ashamed
  • Grief
  • Depressed
  • Numb

Powerless and out of control.

Sometimes after an attack a person find it difficult to eat or sleep. It is very difficult to concentrate or focus on anything other than the attack and so university life can become very stressful especially with deadlines or exams looming. Each person’s reaction is going to be different, very often emotions and feelings will change on a minute to minute basis.

It is not uncommon, even many years after the event, to experience the whole gamut of emotions over again. These feelings and emotions can be triggered off by any number of events and can very often come as quite a shock. Flashbacks can occur spontaneously or be triggered by a situation, smell, sight or sound.. For healing to take place, it will be important to discover your feelings and to start to express them in a healthy, rather than a destructive, way.

Anybody who has been attacked so viciously may loose their faith and trust in the world. Perceptions change. A period of mourning for the loss of an old life may be followed by a gradual acceptance and a learning to live with the effects the attack has had on your life.

Often it is difficult to talk about what has happened; yet it is healing to have love, support and understanding from those around you. Often it can be useful to talk to someone outside your close network of friends and family. There are trained counsellors available at Student Services If you would like to talk to a counsellor, view the councelling homepage for details.) or the local Rape Crisis Centre (01905 724 514)

Facts about Rape and Sexual Assault

The perpetrator of the rape may well be known to the woman.

There is a myth that sexual violence is only carried out by strangers. In fact the majority of offences are committed by a man known to the woman. He may be a friend, a partner, a workmate, a relative, a neighbour or a person in authority.

Rape is not always accompanied by other physical violence.

When a woman is sexually assaulted she may react in various ways. Some women scream or fight back; many become quiet - too shocked to speak or cry out. Paralysed by fear, they may be unable to resist. If violence is threatened some may take the decision to struggle less in the hope of getting away with the least amount of physical harm. Consequently, they may or may not have torn clothes or signs of struggle afterwards. Verbal intimidation, threats or emotional blackmail may be used by the assailant. Therefore a woman does not need to show physical injuries to prove she has been assaulted.

Rape and sexual assault, whether by a stranger or a friend, is never the woman's fault.

Rape and sexual assault is always more about the use of force or power to humiliate, control, hurt or violate a woman than about sexual desire or passion. There is evidence to suggest that a very large number of attacks are premeditated. The appearance of the woman in terms of status, age, cultural background, occupation, previous relationships is irrelevant; any woman can suffer sexual assault or rape.

What to do After a Rape or Assault

Everyone reacts differently after an incident of this nature. Some people choose to report it immediately, but many women will just try to carry on as normal and not tell anyone for a long time. However, often distress can surface a considerable time after the event. No matter how much later, a person can always seek help from counsellors, GPs etc. Do not feel you have to cope on your own simply because you did not report the incident soon after it happened.

Health Issues

However difficult in the hours after a rape it is important for your future well being to consider your health. Hospitals and GPs are bound by law to see you on a confidential basis. This means that when you receive treatment after a rape or sexual assault they do not report the incident to the police unless you expressly ask them to.

Consider being tested for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. They include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Syphilis
  • Herpes
  • Genital Warts
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Trichomas Vaginalis
  • HIV

The Genito-Urinary Clinic local to Worcester University is held at the John Anthony Centre, Newtown Road, Worcester. If you have other injuries that require immediate attention then there is a casualty department at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.

There is a drop-in Sexual Health Clinic in the Health Centre Woodbury on Mondays, 12:00 - 2:30.

Reporting to the Police

When you go to the police station you can take someone with you. This can be a friend or family member or a professional. Both Rape Crisis and Victim Support will provide someone to accompany you to the police station to give your statement and undergo the medical examination.

Sexual violence is a criminal offence and you can, if you wish your perpetrator to be prosecuted, report the crime to the police. It is your choice. You can do this later if you wish but the reason for reporting a sexual assault immediately is so that forensic evidence can be taken. Evidence will be collected by means of a medical examination by a police surgeon - who will be a GP employed part-time by the police.

If the attack was physically violent the police forensic team may also wish to visit the scene of the crime to collect more evidence.

When you go to the police station you can take someone with you, such as a friend or professional worker. Ask for an officer who has had special training (this would usually be a woman).

Today the police are trained to use tact and sensitivity. No one has the right to ask you to disclose any personal details about your previous relationships and sexual life.

If you have reported a sexual offence you have the right to withdraw the complaint at any time. The police may require clothing to be left for forensic examination. The police station can provide you with other clothing, but it is a good idea to take a change of clothes with you.

If you are very traumatised after the assault you may arrange another time for a statement to be made. If English is not your first language the police can arrange for an interpreter to be present. The police officer will explain police procedures to you and give you advice and information on the next stages including the court process.

Useful Contacts

Worcester Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre
www.wrsasc.org.uk 01905 724514

Accident and Emergency Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, Charles Hastings Way, Newtown Road, WR5 1DD, Worcester

There are 2 Genito-Urinary Medicine Clinics which are part of the Sexual Health Service in Worcester: one at the John Anthony Centre, Newtown Road, Worcester (01905 351601) and the other at the Arrowside Unit, Alexandra Hospital, Redditch (01527 516398)

Victim Support 01905 28252

Rape Crisis 01905 724 514

The Samaritans 01905 21121

Worcester Police 03003 333000

Survivors (Male Rape) 020 7833 3737

The Glade SARC (sexual assault referral centre) 08081 782058

National Aids Helpline 0800 567 123