How to Help Victims of Sexual Assault

You may remember an earlier post I did on SAVE, Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton, that made headlines around the world for its Don't Be That Guy Campaign, a public awareness initiative that shifts blame from the victim of sexual assault to the perpetrator. Although there has been some change in approach to reduce the incidence of sexual assault in a few cities in North America, changing attitudes is a much longer process. Look no further than this year's Sundance Film Festival audience award winner, "The Invisible War," which examines the rape culture in the US military. In the June 14 issue of the Guardian, author Naomi Wolf dug a little deeper into the US military's dirty little secret and reported that there were over 19,000 incidents of sexual assault in 2010 alone. Given the high incidence of sexual assault, it is important to educate members of the public about what they can do to help sexual assault victims.

The following post was written by my first guest blogger, Carmen Rivera, a freelance writer who is passionate about building safe communities.

Nursing a Victim Back to Health
by Carmen Rivera 

Every year, an enormous percentage of female college students are raped and 85% of the victims know their attacker. Arming young women with knowledge about the most common conditions for rape can help to avoid this terrifying possibility; however, if a child is sexually assaulted, it is important for loved ones to know what to do after directing them to someone who has been through a forensic science degree program. After the police, therapists, and other health professionals do what they can to help the victim, these women often resort to the comfortable, moral support of those who love them.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, ‘date rape’ accounts for 13% of college rapes, as well as 35% of attempted rapes. In addition, the National Center for Victims of Crime reports that 77% of rapes committed in the U.S. involve a woman being assaulted by someone she knows; this is known as 'acquaintance rape.'

In recent years, police nationwide have reported a spike in ‘drug-facilitated sexual assault.' In these instances, the female victim ingests a chemical that often renders her unconscious; typically, the attacker sneaks the substance into food or drink consumed by the victim. reports that three drugs are most commonly used to commit date rape. Rohypnol, or ‘roofies’, are small pills that dissolve in the drink, often turning it cloudy and dark. GHB can come in liquid, powder or pill form, and often has no odor. And ketamine, or Special K, can be either a liquid or a white powder. However, alcohol is considered the most effective date rape drug; roughly 75% of college rape victims are under the influence of alcohol when the crime takes place.

According to the Rape Treatment Center in Santa Monica, Calif., victims should follow a series of steps after the attack has occurred. First, she should go to a safe place (not necessarily her own dwelling) and immediately notify the police. After the crime has been reported, the victim should contact at least one trusted relative or friend, who can go to her at once and provide moral support. In order to help the authorities prosecute the attacker, the victim is cautioned to preserve all physical evidence of the crime until help arrives. Unfortunately, this means the victim should not shower, bathe, eat, drink, wash her hands or brush her teeth until her medical examination has concluded.

The victim should immediately visit an emergency room or specialized forensic clinic. Doctors can provide treatment for any injuries, as well as counsel the victim about exposure to sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Treatment for date-rape drugs can be administered, if necessary; Rohypnol and GHB can induce death, especially when mixed with alcohol. This second medical exam will also serve as evidence of the crime in the official police report.
In the days and weeks following a rape, the victim will need to rely on loved ones for support. Parents and/or parental figures typically serve as the backbone of this system. They can provide, without judgment, a loving environment within which the victim can recover. In addition, many rape-counseling programs allow and suggest family members take active roles in recovery, particularly through participation in group settings.

Rape victims often suffer from feelings of loss, contamination and despair, but with consistent and loving support, full recovery is possible. Once the initial medical exams are finished and the matter is given over to the police, many victims rely on the unconditional support provided by immediate family. When one feels dehumanized, nothing is more comforting than time spent with mom and dad.

If you have any questions about the above article you can contact Carmen Rivera here.

Other posts on the subject of sexual assault



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