About Sexual Assault
What you need to know:
- Most sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim (a friend, date, classmate, neighbor or relative) rather than a stranger.
- West Virginia has no statute of limitations on reporting sexual assault. This means that even 20 years from now a sexual assault can be reported.
- West Virginia law allows for victims (who are not minors) to go to a medical facility and have forensic evidence collected without reporting the crime to the police. The evidence will be stored for up to two years to give victims time to consider reporting the crime. Consider this as an option, since evidence can only be collected within 96 hours after the assault. Doing this gives you the option of reporting later since your feelings and circumstances may change.
- The cost for collecting the evidence is paid by the state. Expenses incurred from the assault may be eligible for reimbursement from the state’s Crime Victims Compensation Fund if the assault is reported to law enforcement within 96 hours, CONTACT advocates can assist with that process.
- Many sex offenders use alcohol and drugs to lower their victims’ inhibitions and limit their ability to identify and respond to warning signs of sexual violence. Offenders also target individuals who are already using alcohol or drugs. West Virginia law clearly states that someone who is drunk cannot consent to sex.
- The risk for contracting HIV from a sexual assault is less than 3% (CDC, 2006). Research shows that the pregnancy risk is less than 5% (Holmes, 1996, Wilcox, 2001). Preventive medicines are available.
- Legal protection may be available. A protective order through magistrate court provides protection to victims when the offender is an acquaintance or stranger (through a Personal Safety Order) or when the offender is an intimate partner, family or household member (through a Domestic Violence Protective Order). CONTACT advocates can assist in filing for protective orders.
What you might experience after the assault:
Everyone reacts differently to a traumatic event. Each individual is unique, with different experiences, coping strategies, and support systems. Other survivors of sexual assault have reported experiencing some of the following reactions:
- Guilt, shame and self-blame
- Fear and lack of trust of people
- Lack of energy
- Feeling a loss of control
- Substance abuse
- Grief, sadness and depression
- Anger and irritability
- Shock, disorientation or difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss or flashbacks
- Problems with sleeping or eating
- Openly emotional or emotional numbness
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Healing from trauma takes time:
If you have been sexually assaulted, a CONTACT advocate can help you understand traumatic reactions caused by sexual violence. CONTACT Rape Crisis Center can connect you with counseling and other support, whether it is immediately following an assault or years later.
- Be kind to yourself and take care of you.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Exercise to relieve stress.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Take time for activities you enjoy.
- Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, contact your doctor.
- Get counseling for emotional trauma.
- Consider using journaling, art or movement to express your emotions.
- Surround yourself with positive, supportive people.
- Be patient. Healing from trauma takes time.
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