What Can I Do First?

Take Care of You!
Any act of sexual violence can be traumatic, and everyone heals in their own way, at their own pace.
The most important thing to do first is to take care of yourself. Knowing that you have the right to your feelings and space, and having people support your feelings and space, can help you make other decisions that will be right for you and your situation.


How Are You Feeling?
Whatever your reaction is to the sexual violence you experienced, that reaction is completely normal. You have the right to your own feelings, no matter how much or how little physical injury occurred.
It can be tempting to compare how you long it's taking you to heal versus someone else, but you (or friends and family) need to remember:
1. No one else has gone through exactly the same experience you did
2. Everyone handles trauma differently.  

Feelings of guilt or shame are common, but the abuse is still not your fault!
Feelings of guilt can arise for many reasons. The abuser may have told you that it was your fault. Maybe other people you told about it said hurtful things, and made you believe it was your fault.
Remember that any act of sexual abuse or harassment is a choice made by the person who did the abuse. Nothing you did or said caused someone else to hurt you. Abuse is always wrong and it was not your fault .

It may take time for feelings of guilt to go away, and sometimes those feelings can be very strong. People who care are ready to listen 24 hours a day.


Prepare Yourself For Other People's Reactions 
Just like you can't cause someone to hurt you, you also can't control how other people are going to react. Knowing how friends, family, and coworkers sometimes react when sexual violence happens to others, can help you prepare to take care of yourself.
Support from your friends and family has the potential to be very helpful while you heal from the abuse. Unfortunately, some people react in an unsupportive way when they hear about sexual violence. It can be very painful when this happens.
If some people you know do not give you the support you deserve, please remember:
  • your experience is valid
  • your feelings and reactions are valid
  • you deserve to be supported and safe 
  • you did not deserve to be abused.
 If you encounter an unsupportive person, it may help to talk with someone who has proven that they are supportive, such as another friend, family member, or an advocate.



Preserving Evidence of Sexual Assault
If you would like to press criminal charges, the following strategies can help preserve physical evidence of the sexual violence: 
•Avoid washing or tampering with anything that you feel might be relevant to the case. For instance, do not wash the clothing you were wearing, or the bed sheets, blankets, etc., that were there when the sexual  violence took place.
•If you have already showered, brushed your teeth, used the bathroom, eaten, etc., you can still seek medical attention, and you are still eligible to recieve a forensic sexual assault examination ("rape kit").
However, the evidence is best saved if you can avoid showering, using the bathroom, etc.