If you are reading this page as a rape survivor know that you are not alone and that there is help available. Hopefully the following information will help you to access that help.
If you are reading this as a friend, parent, partner, sibling etc. of a rape survivor I hope you are able to use this information to help the survivor in your life as well as find ways to help you cope with the stress that comes with supporting a rape survivor.
If you are a rape survivor:
First, know that what happened to you was a terrible thing and IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT.
This can be a difficult thing to believe and rape survivors commonly blame themselves for the assault. Try to remind yourself that no one ever has the right to force you to do something that you don't want to do.
No matter what you were wearing, no matter how much you had to drink, no matter if you had slept with the rapist willing before IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
No one ever deserves to be raped, including you. You do deserve to start healing from this and you do deserve help in that healing process.
You are a survivor. You have survived a vicious crime and you should give yourself credit for that. Whatever you did to survive that attack you did to keep yourself alive and safe.
Do not let others tell you that you should have fought harder or screamed louder. You did what you needed to do and it worked because you are alive today and reading this page.
There are services available to help. Your local rape crisis center can inform you of their services for rape survivors. Calling 1-800-656-HOPE will connect you to your nearest rape crisis center at no charge to you. This call will not appear on your phone bill.
On the Internet, you can go to www.rainn.org You will find a website dedicated to rape survivors including a contact list of rape crisis centers in the US.
In Cleveland, you can contact the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center's 24 hour hotline at 216-619-6192 or their web site.
If you have just been assaulted. I strongly encourage you to seek medical treatment. This can be a scary after all you have been through but there are great benefits to it.
Before you do anything like shower, change clothes, brush your teeth, eat or drink-go to an emergency room. Doing any of these things can destroy evidence that can be collected during your exam.
Physical injuries from the rape that may not be apparent can be identified and treated. HIV and sexually transmitted infection testing can be done.
For female survivors the "morning after pill" can be given within 24-hours of the assault to prevent pregnancy. (Some religiously affiliated hospitals may not distribute this drug.) Evidence such as DNA from the rapist can be collected and documented.
While you may not feel like pressing charges now, you may change your mind in a month and that evidence is important. Many communities offer rape survivors the option of having an advocate with them during the exam. The advocate will answer questions and support you during the hospital visit.
They should also inform you of the services available to you at your local rape crisis center. If you think this would be helpful for you, ask if it is possible to have an advocate when you arrive at the hospital.
Jacqueline P. Sweeney-Mance, MA
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