“If the occurrence of rape were audible, its decibel level equal to its frequency, it would overpower our days and nights, interrupt our meals, our bedtime stories, howl behind our love-making, an insistent jackhammer of distress. We would demand an end to it. And if we failed to locate its source, we would condemn the whole structure. We would refuse to live under such conditions.” – Patricia Weaver Francisco, Telling: A Memoir of Rape and Recovery
I wrote this poem when I was going through and preparing to receive my healing.
The Story of A Hurting Woman
As she looked into his eyes
She knew right then
That she’d never look at men
The same way again
He stole her innocence
He crushed her pride
But she told no one
Her shame she tried to hide
To this day the thought of it
Still makes her want to lose control
A friend she thought he was to her
Some of the events of that day
Are still a blur
For some reason
That night she did not yell
Because of the embarrassment
Her story she did not tell
He ripped at her clothes
As her mind went blank
Into a secret safe place
In her mind she sank
To hear his name
Still makes her want to cry
He had no right to violate her
But he did have the right to die
A part of her died that day
The part that thought the world was a safe place
The part that trusted men
Now avoids a strangers face
She hurts to this day
And there’s nothing anyone can say
To erase what has been done
But what she did not know was
She wasn’t the only one
By Joanna Willis
I was sexually assaulted in September of 2000. It wasn’t until 2002 that I was mentally, emotionally and spiritually ready to acknowledge what happened to me and deal with the effects that the assault had on my life. I was fearful, angry, bitter, hateful and distrusting of men. Once I was ready to admit that I had been assaulted, I had to deal with the emotional rollercoaster that followed. 2002 was the perfect year to begin my healing process because I rededicated my life to Christ in Jan of that year. I was going to church, reading my word, applying the bible to my everyday life and attending counseling. I wouldn’t have been able to handle the hurt and pain during that season without the Holy Ghost.
Part of the reason why I did not seek help immediately after my assault was because I did not know what to do or where to go. I’m not blaming my parents, college or church, but the fact of the matter is, I hadn’t been educated regarding what sexual assault was, how to protect myself or what to do if I was victimized. My own ignorance, mixed with shame, fear and embarrassment kept me silent and allowed my attacker to go free.
It is vital for everyone to know what to do to if they or someone they know has been assaulted. Also, it’s very important for the loved ones of the survivors (I will not use the word victim) to know what they can do to support them. Please read the following info below.
If You Have Been Sexually Assaulted
- Try to get to a place where you feel safe.
- Reach out for support. Call someone you trust, like a friend or family member. You are not alone; there are people who can give you the support you need.
- Contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline (toll-free 1-800-656-4673) or a local rape crisis hotline are resources for you.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Medical care is important to address any injuries you may have and to protect against sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
- Most importantly, know that the assault is not your fault.
You have the right to…
- Be treated with respect and dignity.
- Privacy. That means you can refuse to answer any questions about the sexual assault, your sexual orientation, your sexual history, your medical history (including HIV status) and your mental health history.
- Have your conversations with a sexual assault counselor/advocate remain confidential.
- Decide whether or not you want to report the assault to the police.
- Not be judged based on your race, age, class, gender or sexual orientation.
- Have a sexual assault counselor/advocate accompany you to medical, law enforcement and legal proceedings.
- Request that someone you are comfortable with stay with you in the examination room.
- Ask questions and get answers regarding any tests, exams, medications, treatments or police reports.
- Be considered a survivor of sexual assault, regardless of the offender’s relationship to you.
If you are considering filing a police report…
- Try not to bathe, shower, change your clothes, eat, drink, smoke, gargle or urinate prior to the exam.
- Seek medical attention for an exam and evidence collection as soon as possible after the assault.
- Bring a change of clothes with you.
- You have the right to have a sexual assault counselor/advocate with you during your medical exam.
- Reporting to the police is your choice.
Remember, you are not alone and you are not to blame for what happened.
A Word to Support Persons
The survivor of sexual assault has been through a very traumatic experience and it is important that she/he receive support, assistance, and accurate information. Your being there in a supportive way is immensely valuable.
Allow the survivor to make choices and remain in control. Give reassurance that she/he is not to blame. Listen as she/he talks about the experience. Be accepting of the survivor’s many emotional reactions including anger, fear, anxiety, and depression.
Believe what the survivor tells you. Know that revealing this experience takes a great deal of strength and courage. Letting the survivor know that you believe what they have told you and that the assault was not their fault is extremely important.
Be respectful of privacy. Don’t tell anyone about the assault without the survivor’s permission. The survivor has only chosen to tell you and it may be hurtful or detrimental to their healing process and recovery.
Be a good listener. Here are some things to keep in mind when a survivor chooses to talk with you:
- DO concentrate on understanding the survivor’s feelings
- DO allow silences
- DO let the survivor know you are glad s/he told you
- DON’T interrogate or ask for specific details about the sexual assault
- DON’T ask “why” questions such as “why did you go there?” or “why didn’t you scream?” or “why didn’t you go to the hospital right away?”
- DON’T tell the survivor what you would have done or what they should have done
Let the survivor make their own decisions. Always let survivors weigh their options and decide how to proceed in their own recovery process. Telling a survivor what you think they “should do” about the options available to them can contribute to a survivor’s sense of being disempowered. Instead of taking charge, ask how you can help. Support the decisions the survivor makes, even if you don’t agree with them!
Remind the survivor that you care. Being “there” for survivors is very important. You can do this in a number of ways; by being a good listener; accompanying them if they seek medical attention or walking over with them to get counseling or crisis support at the Counseling Center; making arrangements to have dinner or coffee with them; asking the survivor “how can I be helpful”; voicing your concern by saying things like “I’m sorry that this has happened”; telling them how courageous they are; or telling them that you don’t see the survivor any differently may all be tangible ways to show that you care about the survivor.
Give the survivor space if s/he needs it. Be sensitive to the fact that the survivor might want to spend some time alone. Don’t take it personally. Survivors may just need some time to pay attention to their own needs from time to time.
If you are a romantic partner of the survivor, ask for permission before touching or holding the survivor. Do not rush sexual contact. The survivor needs to decide when it is right to have sexual contact and to pace the intensity of involvement. Accept the fact that the survivor’s renewal of sexual interest may occur at a slow pace. Discuss the subject of sex in a non-sexual environment.