If you have been sexually assaulted, you have options
Your safety and care come first
If you have been sexually assaulted and are looking for guidance, please consider the following:
- Make sure you are in a safe place.
- Contact a friend or family member you trust or call the local sexual assault program center hotline.
- Get medical attention as soon as possible.
- Most of all, know this is not your fault.
Help is available
Healing after a sexual assault can take a long time and you may be wondering if there is anyone who can help. Many survivors have found it helpful to talk to rape crisis counselors / sexual assault advocates. Counselors and advocates offer support regarding your safety, emotional and physical care, and information to help you – and your friends and family – cope with the aftermath of an assault.
Rape crisis centers are on call 24-hours a day waiting to help you.
- You can find the telephone numbers of your local center here.
- Get Help Now: What to do if you are raped in Minnesota, http://rapehelpmn.org/
- You may also call the 24-hour National Sexual Assault Hotline, operated by RAINN, at 1-800-656-HOPE. By calling this number you will be automatically connected to your closest rape crisis center.
You may not know right now whether you will contact the police. But in case you later decide to, preserving and collecting the evidence available immediately after the assault is crucial. The best ways to preserve evidence include the following recommendations:
- As soon as possible, seek medical attention at a facility that offers sexual assault exams, such as your local hospital emergency department. An examination provides immediate medical care by treating injuries and it serves as a means of collecting evidence through a medical forensic exam, an examination of a sexual assault patient by a health care provider (most often a nurse) who has specialized education and clinical experience in the collection of forensic evidence and treatment of sexual assault patients. “Forensic” means the scientific tests or techniques used in collecting evidence of a crime.
- As much as you might want to change your clothes, shower, bathe, wash your hands, brush your teeth, use the toilet or clean up in any way, any of these will reduce the likelihood of collecting important evidence of the sexual assault. If possible, consider refraining from “cleaning-up” before seeking a medical forensic exam.
Medical forensic exams are covered by medical privacy laws. In Minnesota you can complete the evidence collection process even if you are unsure about reporting the incident to law enforcement. A police report is not required to complete a medical forensic exam; a decision to report to police can be made at a later time. Also, the county is obligated to pay for all evidence collection in a sexual assault evidence exam.
In 1983 the Minnesota Legislature passed the Minnesota Crime Victim Bill of Rights. An advocate from a rape crisis center, helpline or advocacy program in your community can assist you in exercising these rights.
You have the RIGHT to be notified of:
- Plea agreements
- Changes in court schedules, date, time and place of plea hearings and sentencing
- Release of offender from prison/institution
- Victim rights
You have the RIGHT to participate in prosecution:
- Right to inform court of impact of crime at the time of sentencing
- Right to have input in pre-trial diversion program
- Right to object to plea bargain
- Right to request a speedy trial
- Right to bring a supportive person to all hearings
- Right to attend plea hearing
- Right to attend sentencing
- Right to give written objections to sentence
You have the RIGHT to protection from harm:
- Threatening or tampering with a witness is against Minnesota law
- Witnesses do not have to give their addresses in court
- Victims have the right to a secure waiting room during court
- Employers may not discipline or dismiss victims or witnesses who are called to testify in court
You have the RIGHT to apply for financial assistance:
- Victims may be eligible for financial assistance from the state or from the offender, if they have suffered economic loss.
Find Help for Someone Else
How to Help Someone Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted: A Guide for Family and Friends
It’s normal to feel upset
When someone you know or care about has been assaulted, it is normal for you to feel upset and confused. At a time when you may want to help most, you will be dealing with a crisis of your own. This guide may help you know what you can do to support person who has been sexually assaulted.
The victim needs your support
Your support at a time like this can be extremely helpful to a sexual assault victim/survivor. Consider the following guidelines to help you through this time:
- Believe the victim/survivor. Believe their experience without question.
- Do not blame them. Whatever the circumstances, they were not looking for or asking to be harmed. It is very common for the victim/survivor of sexual violence to blame themselves. Reassure them that the blame for sexual violence rests squarely and only with the assailant, and that they had no way of knowing what would have happened if they had done something differently.
- Respect the victim/survivor. Respect their fear. Many victims/survivors feared that they would not survive the assault, as assailants often threaten to kill or seriously harm the victim/survivor if they do not comply. This fear does not go away when the attacker does. Help them deal with it by finding ways to increase their safety.
- Accept the victim/survivor. Accept their strong feelings. They have the right to any emotion, to be numb, sad, angry, in denial, terrified, depressed, agitated, withdrawn, etc. Being supportive is an attitude of acceptance of all their feelings, an atmosphere of warmth and safety that they can rest in. Tolerate their needs and be there for them.
- Listen to the victim/survivor. Let them know you want to listen. It does not matter so much what you say, but more how you listen. Try to understand what they are going through. They did the very best they knew how in a dangerous situation. They survived.
- Let them talk, do not interrupt.
- Find time to focus on the victim/survivor. Ask they what they need from you.
- You may feel nervous about stalls and silences. They are okay, just let them happen.
- If they need help to continue talking, try repeating back to them the things they’ve said.
- Reassure them that they’re not to blame. Blaming questions such as, “Why didn’t you scream?” or “Why did you go there?” are harmful. Instead, try, “It’s difficult to scream when you are frightened” or “Going someplace unfamiliar is risky, but you were not asking to be assaulted.”
- Take them seriously. Pay attention. This will help them validate the seriousness of their feelings and their need to work them through. Sexual assault is an experience that a victim/survivor does not get over in a hurry or alone. It may be months or years before they feel fully recovered. Recovery is a process of acceptance, and healing that takes time.
- Stay with the victim/survivor. Stay with them as long as they want you to. A huge loss experienced by sexual assault victims/survivors is the loss of independence and solitude. For a while, many victims/survivors feel too frightened and vulnerable to endure being alone. This will pass with time. Meanwhile, be good company.
- Let the victim/survivor make their own decisions. Do not pressure them into making decisions or doing things they are not ready to do. Help them explore all the options. It is essential to respect confidentiality. Let them decide who knows about the sexual assault.
- Care. Care about their well-being. In caring about your friend, you may need to cope with some difficult emotions of your own. If you are experiencing rage, blame, or changes in how you feel about your friend/relative, you can be most helpful to them by finding ways of coping with your own emotions. Sexual assault is not provoked nor desired by the victim/survivor. Sexual assault is motivated by the assailant’s need for power and control, and often their desire to humiliate and degrade the victim/survivor. The advocacy program in your area has advocates who can help people sort through their feelings and emotions. To find the program nearest you, visit rapehelpmn.org. Programs accept anonymous calls, and phone line staff will help callers talk through their feelings.
Local Advocacy Center
RapeHelpMn.org offers information and links to resources for victims, their friends and families, and health providers in Minnesota. The website also provides connections to Alternate Language Resources for Spanish, Hmong, and Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities.
If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.
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