Our mission at Ibelieveyou.org is to provide supportive resources for individuals who have been victims of sexual assault. The resources included in this section contain information about responses, concerns, processes of healing and forgiveness, and needs that survivors often experience. Being able to move past abusive experirences can be very difficult. You can experience mental, emotion, spiritual, physical and sexual trauma. As a victim of sexual assault it is understandable that you need assitance in understanding your abuse experience and also understanding your response to it. Sometimes finding the answers that you need or some sense of direction is very hard to do when you are already in a state of confusion and shock. However you are not alone in you experience, many others are not where you are today, but have learned to be Overcomers. To read more information on What to Do After Sexual Assault Has Occured click this link. To gain a better Understanding of Past Abuse and its Effects, click this link.
Survivor's Bill of Rights
You have the right to be believed.
You have the right to be given the same credibility as any other crime victim.
You have the right to seek help.
You have the right to courteous, efficient treatment.
You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, without prejudice against race, class, lifestyle, age, sex or occupation.
You have the right to accurate information, presented in a way that you understand.
You have the right to ask questions.
You have the right to make your own decisions.
You have the right to change your mind.
You have the right to get help and support from others.
You have the right to heal.
* From the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault Advocate Manual, 1994.
Pandora's Aquarium: This is a great forum that offers support to survivors
Aphrodite Wounded: Louise's beautiful website which offers support and advice for women raped by partners. This site is a wonderful and validating resources.
Welcome to Barbados: Shannon's wonderful Tori Amos inspired site for rape and sexual abuse survivors.
Whitedove's Nest: A really comprehensive and creative site created for survivors of sexual abuse and those that support them.
Survivors Can Thrive: A really positive website for survivors who want to thrive. Lots of self help ideas.
In Bloom: Information on rape, sexual abuse, domestic violence, DID, substance abuse, eating disorders and self harming.
I've Been Sexually Assaulted. What Should I Do?
Okay, you've just experienced a sexual assault. You may be feeling physical pain from external or internal injuries, your emotions may be in turmoil or you may feel numb and be in shock. Immediate help is available, so you don't have to cope with this by yourself. The information on this page will help you figure out what to do next.
Reach for help: call a sexual assault center in your area
A network of sexual assault centres and services is available to help you with 24-hour crisis support, plus counselling and other recovery programs. Although these centres are located in Alberta's largest communities, some also serve Albertans living in the smaller towns and rural areas in their region.
We strongly urge you to use the information below to call or visit the website of the closest centre as soon as possible. They are a wonderful source of support for you during this traumatic time, and can help you begin the process of recovery and healing.
Your safety and health come first
Get to a safe place. Go somewhere you feel secure and protected. Phone the police if you think you're still in danger or at risk. If possible, call a relative, friend or neighbour you trust and ask them if they can be with you.
Get medical care.
Your emotional and physical health is very important. If you have just experienced a sexual assault, you may have internal or external injuries that require medical attention. There may also be some risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. Call the closest sexual assault service for information about where to go in your community. If you don't have a sexual assault service in your area, go to a hospital emergency unit, your doctor's office or a walk-in clinic as soon as possible.
As someone who has experienced a sexual assault, you should be treated with dignity and respect at all times. Receiving medical treatment, as well as sexually-transmitted infections prevention, will help you to feel better physically and can also reduce anxiety or stress you may feel later on.
The possibility of becoming pregnant can be a major worry following a sexual assault. You may want to talk to a nurse or doctor about the risk of becoming pregnant, and what can be done to prevent it. It's very important to receive appropriate pregnancy prevention treatment within 72 hours after the incident. If more than 72 hours has gone by, getting medical attention is still very important so that you understand what treatment options you have at this time.
Your feelings after sexual assault
Every reaction is different. Sexual assault is a traumatic, deeply personal experience. There is no right or wrong way to feel or to respond. Reactions can be physical, emotional, mental or spiritual -- or any combination of them.
Whatever emotions or sensations you're feeling are your mind and body's natural responses to what has occurred. If your assault is very recent, you may be in shock. This can mean that you feel numb, unemotional or in a state of total disbelief. You may cry, shake, laugh or be physically sick. These are all normal responses.
Try talking to someone. The hours immediately after a sexual assault are very confusing, and making decisions is difficult. You may feel a need to be nurtured and comforted, and you don't have to cope with your experience alone. Being able to talk to someone you trust, such as a relative, friend, teacher or counsellor, can be an important step in your process of recovery and healing.
The sexual assault services listed above have people there who will listen to you. They can also arrange for you to meet with a counsellor experienced in supporting people who have been assaulted.
Thinking about reporting to police
You've just had an extremely traumatic experience, and it's natural to feel shocked, bewildered and unable to make decisions. You're struggling to cope with immediate needs like personal safety and getting medical care.
There is no right or wrong answer about reporting what has happened to the police, only what the right choice is for you. You might not feel like doing it right now, but you may want to later on.
Telling the police right away may not mean you have to go all the way through the process, but in some areas you are expected to do so when you report. In some areas of the province, the police may give you some time to think about proceeding; however this is not always the case. It's important to know that if you do report, the case may not proceed to charges or to court. Telling the police soon after the assault does give them accurate information and, potentially, access to more evidence that can be used if you decide to proceed in the future.
If you think you would like to report the incident to police, you can call them directly or contact your area sexual assault service or victim services for their support in doing so.
If you want to report the assault to police, don't wash, bathe or change your clothes until you have been looked after and a medical examination is done. It's natural to feel dirty after your experience, but it's important to save any evidence that may still exist on your body or clothing.
If you decide to change your clothes, put everything you were wearing in a sealed bag to give to police, including your underwear. Don't wash them first.
This is NOT your fault
People of every age, race and cultural background experience sexual assault. You did not choose to have this happen to you. Sexual assault is NEVER the fault of the survivor.
It doesn't matter where you were or how you were behaving. It doesn't matter what you were wearing or saying. It doesn't even matter whether you were drinking or using drugs. You did not deserve to be assaulted or abused. Nobody does.
It's not your fault. The person who did this to you is entirely responsible for what has happened. That person has committed a crime.
After the crisis: self-care for you
You've been sexually assaulted. You may be struggling to cope with the challenges of caring for yourself and taking another step or two along the path of healing. Every step you take, and every day that passes, moves you further away from that traumatic experience and closer to your recovery.
The people who love and care about you want to provide as much comfort and support as they can. But good self-care is also an important factor in your recovery. Self-care strategies are most effective when they become a top priority -- and a habit.
Dealing With Past Sexual Abuse
Bringing up the memories is the first step in fighting the battle.
by Dr. Dan B. Allender
The abuser can be anyone. He can be your father, your pastor, your brother, your 70-year-old neighbor. Often a victim has had so many abusers that it seems as if he or she sent a serial letter inviting them to join in the debauchery of abuse. It is not unusual to see a client who has been abused by several family members, a neighbor, boyfriends, teacher, counselor, or employer.
The abuser may be a man or a woman. It is far more common for a young girl to be abused by an adolescent or adult male, but it is inaccurate to presume that men do not abuse boys or women do not abuse girls and boys.
The abuser may be decades older or the same age. He or she may have an honored role in your family or may not be known to you or anyone in your family. In any case, the perpetrator will have a face, a voice, a smell. Even if you cannot recall any details about him, he will be like a faded picture you carry in your wallet. Though you may not have seen him in thirty years or you may have eaten lunch with him yesterday, he still plays a significant part in your daily life, and likely an even greater role in every dream and nightmare.
A great deal of research has been done about the perpetrator and the effects of his abuse. The abuse victim, however, often defends or ignores the perpetrator, especially if the abuser was a family member. It is important to understand how this is done.
Many who have been sexually abused tend to make excuses for the perpetrator or minimize the damage. The most typical way is to find comfort in the fact that at least the perpetrator was not one's closest, most intimate caregiver or friend. Betrayal by an intimate, deeply trusted companion is almost too much for the soul to endure. The victim does not want to face that the perpetrator may have been a person with access to the deepest recesses of his or her soul, a bearer of a key that no one else possessed. For this reason, many who have been abused by an uncle will say, "At least it was not my brother or, even worse, my father." Or if the abuse was perpetrated by someone outside the family, the relief centers around the fact that it was not a relative. The fearful and fallen heart does not want to anguish over the loss of safety and nurturance; therefore, the damage is seemingly diminished in the relief that the perpetrator was not someone closer or that the damage could have been more severe.
The second tendency is to put the abuser in a category that explains away the harm. The damage will be faced to the extent the abuser is seen as the perpetrator of a crime—if not a civil infraction, then certainly a violation of God's law. The battle will not be entered in if one makes excuses for the abuser and his or her crime.
The excuses are legion. The abuser was abused as a child. He had a hard background that would have made anyone a little crazy. He was going through a terrible time with his wife and was so lonely. He drank to the point that he just didn't know what he was doing, so how could he be held accountable? He did so many wonderful things for people, how can I be angry for just one failure? All excuses should be silenced; the perpetrator committed a crime against the abused person's body and soul.
The Resulting Damage
A central point needs to be highlighted again: Sexual abuse is damaging no matter how the victim's body is violated. At first, many will doubt the veracity of that claim; it does not immediately stand to reason that being violently raped by one's father can be compared to being lightly touched through the clothing by a gentle, grandfatherly next-door neighbor. No one would question that being raped by one's father will be far more difficult to deal with than handling the nuisance of a pawing dirty old man. The degree of trauma associated with abuse will be related to many factors, including the relationship with the perpetrator, the severity of the intrusion, use of violence, age of the perpetrator, and the duration of abuse. But in every case of abuse, the dignity and beauty of the soul have been violated. Therefore, damage will be present whether one has been struck by a Mack truck traveling fifty miles per hour, or "merely" hit by a tricycle rolling at the same speed.
Obviously, there are certain abusive relationships that are more damaging than others. An assumption can be made about sexual abuse: With all other factors being equal, damage will be in direct proportion to the degree that it disrupts the protection and nurturance of the parental bond. There are two issues related to the potential disruption: the abuse and the revelation of the abuse. When abuse is perpetrated, it sets into motion the tremors of an internal earthquake that requires a strong and nurturant environment to quell. If that environment is unavailable, or worse yet, if the environment is hostile, cold, and/or insensitive to the resultant damage, then a victim will set aside the internal process of healing to ensure his or her own survival.
For this reason, incest is usually more devastating than extra-familial abuse. A sexual relationship with an older cousin will not be as traumatic as the same sexual experience with one's father. A father is called to be a secure, trustworthy, and life-generating surrogate for God until the child develops the capacity to see his or her heavenly Father as the only perfectly trustworthy Source of life. The victim's struggle to trust will be proportionately related to the extent her parent(s) failed to protect and nurture her as a child.
Intrafamilial abuse will almost always be more devastating except when the revelation of extrafamilial abuse threatens to damage the relationship with the victim's parents or other family members. If a child were to report to his parents that a neighbor was fondling him several times a week, he might fear being doubted or, worse, blamed for the abuse. He might have a hundred other reasons to fear his parents' response, therefore he fears the repercussions of the revelation. To the degree that confidence in the love and respect of one's parents is disturbed, the damage of intra- or extrafamilial abuse will be more traumatic.
Entering the battle
To summarize, the first task in entering the battle is facing the fact that a battle exists. Facing the reality of past abuse is a process. It does not happen quickly or in one climactic moment of honesty. It usually occurs over a lengthy time, during which the past abuse is seen in light of current choices of flight or fight. Often the memories of the past abuse are accompanied with little emotion other than disbelief or incredulity. It is not unusual for the memories to be separated from emotion—often it is as if they are frozen in ice—seen but not able to be touched. At other times the memories will be recalled in small details that seem to have lost context, specificity, or meaning. To open one's heart to a truth that is deeply devastating seems, at first, foolish; however, the hard, cold parts of our soul are continually tempted to thaw by the warmth of the longings of our soul. Every pleasant interchange is an invitation to life; every deep sorrow stirs the passion of grief. Those daily temptations to life are viewed by the person who has been sexually abused, at best, as a two-day vacation to a warm climate and, at worst, as the melting of the polar ice cap. A total meltdown spells disaster; therefore, the icy soul must remain frozen and hidden.
The sexually abused person often denies the abuse, mislabels it, or at least minimizes the damage. The enemy goes unrecognized or misunderstood, so the victim cannot fight the battle. Once the war is avoided, then something must be done with the wounded heart that cries out for solace and hope. The cry must be heard or squelched. Sadly, the choice is usually to stifle the groan. What normally mutes the cry is the internal dynamic that promotes denial, mislabeling, or minimization. The dynamic involves the subtle workings of shame and contempt that serve to keep the soul frozen and the warmth of life at a distance.
Adapted from The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse. By Dr. Dan B. Allender. Published by NavPress. Copyright © 1990. By Dan B. Allender. Used with permission (pp. 52-56). Chapter 1: The Reality of War: Facing the Battle.