These numbers are likely shocking, particularly if you are not familiar with just how common sexual violence is in our country. The sheer scope of the problem can be overwhelming. Because issues related to sexual violence are so complex, each individual will have a different path to recovery.
Healing from a traumatic experience like sexual assault can take weeks, months or years. There is no specific timeline for recovering. There is also no one right way for victims and survivors to respond to sexual violence.
After a person experiences sexual assault or rape, it can be tempting to tell them what to do — to go to the police, to talk to a therapist, or to switch schools or get a new job if the assault was connected to that setting. This type of advice is often well-intentioned, but can put pressure on a victim to do something that they aren’t ready to do or don’t want to do. It also ignores the reality that doing certain things — like reporting their assault — isn’t always the best option for a victim or survivor.
Rape and sexual assault are traumatic experiences. The impact of sexual violence often goes far beyond any physical injuries, leaving victims and survivors feeling scared, ashamed, or alone. Many victims and survivors experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression in the wake of an assault.
Expecting a victim or survivor act in a certain way or do something specific can make it all the more difficult for them to heal. Remember: sexual violence is about power and control. One of the best ways to help someone recover from this type of crime is to allow them to regain a sense of control and empowerment. Telling a person what to do, or placing expectations on them about what they should do, doesn’t give them the space to do so.
We know that certain things — like therapy, safety-planning, and self-care — can help victims and survivors heal after experiencing trauma. There is hope! At the same time, victims and survivors should be given the choice of how they recover — instead of another person making that choice for them.
At Blackburn Center, we take a trauma-informed approach in all of the services that we provide. Trauma-informed care emphasizes emotional, psychological and physical safety for clients. It also employs the core principles of trust, choice, collaboration and empowerment, and avoids re-traumatizing a victim or survivor. Our policies and procedures are centered on the needs of victims and survivors, with goals established by clients — not counselors.
If a friend, family member, coworker or acquaintance confides in you about being raped or sexually assaulted, believe them. Let them decide what to do, with the understanding that there is no right way to respond to sexual assault. They may cry, scream — or never want to talk about it again. Assure them of your support. Offer them our number (1-888-832-2272), but do not pressure them to call. If you are struggling with how to handle this news, you can also call our hotline and speak to a trained crisis counselor.
If you are a victim or survivor of sexual violence, we are here for you. We offer a variety of services to people whose lives have been affected by all types of violence, abuse and crime — including rape and sexual assault. All of our services are trauma-informed. We are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-832-2272 (TDD available). All calls to our hotline are free of charge, and can be anonymous.