You have experienced a very traumatic event. You may be experiencing shock and disbelief and feel horribly violated and betrayed. Because most sexual assaults are perpetrated by individuals who are known to a victim, this contributes to the deep sense of betrayal and confusion - because people known to us are not supposed to be the people who hurt us.
It is important to remember that, although reactions like anger, numbness and sadness are common, not all people experience the same emotions. If a person feels numb, doesn't express any emotion or can't remember what happened, it does not mean that their experience of sexual assault was not legitimate or "bad" enough. If anyone tells you that they "know someone who has gone through this and they are fine", know that YOU are not that person. Your own personal experiences before the assault (experiences such as prior assaults and childhood experiences with parenting, racism, substance use, support) can play a part in how you respond to and cope with a sexual assault.
It is normal to feel overwhelmed and confused. Your brain needs time to process the event and you will need a few sleeps before things become clearer. You may blame yourself for what happened, wonder what you could have done to prevent it or that you deserved it. This is because sexual violence is one of the few crimes where the responsibility for safety and prevention is often on the victim - it's not okay. Regardless of what you did, how much you drank or who you were with, the person who made the decision to assault you is the person responsible. You might not feel like that right now, but we're here to tell you it's the truth. Sexual assault is a crime of power (not lust) and doesn't happen unless someone chooses to do it.
If you are someone who experienced childhood sexual abuse, you may blame yourself for not knowing it was wrong, or for not telling someone or you may feel that you somehow asked for it. A child deserves to be respected, protected and loved. Abuse by an adult is NEVER a child's fault and not speaking up is simply part of the complexity of the relationship between the child and abuser. It is normal for children to feel "special" because of the attention, or to feel scared because the abuser has threatened them or their family. Children are deeply reliant on adults, have much to learn about how the world works and are taught what is normal, good and/or necessary. If a person of trust abuses a child, that abuse can feel "normal" until they learn otherwise. It is never their fault but they MUST be heard and believed when they first disclose.
If you have been recently sexually assaulted (within the last 7 days), you are over 18 years and you are thinking about reporting to police, you can go to a hospital and ask to have a forensic kit done. In Regina, our hospitals have specially trained nurses who will complete the kit and also provide you with medical care for injuries and medications for infections and possible pregnancy. You will always have a choice about what is done. If you can, try not to bathe or eat and bring the clothes you were wearing in case they are needed for evidence.
If you are not sure about reporting, you can still go to the hospital to get medical care by a nurse and talk about the pros and cons of going through a kit. The nurses will give you as much information as you need to make a decision.
You may report to police while at the hospital or (if the assault happened more than 7 days ago and/or you don't want a kit done) or you can go to the front desk of the police service to report. They will put you into a private room and you can have someone with you if that feels more comfortable. Sometimes it's better having someone other than a parent with you, if you think the information will upset them or if you need to talk about things that may feel uncomfortable if they're there. Try not to bring someone who may also be considered a witness to the assault (at the same party, exchanged text messages with you, etc). The Regina Sexual Assault Centre can provide accompaniment to both police and hospital if you want. Call the 24-hour crisis line at 306-352-0434 for more information.
You may cycle through feelings of anger, sadness, denial, depression and guilt. You may also experience physical pain and fatigue. These are all signs you have experienced trauma and your brain and body are trying to cope and make sense of what happened - this can last for days, weeks, months or years. Consider seeking counselling, support from an elder or alternative therapies that you have found helpful in the past.
The Regina and Area Sexual Assault Centre provides free counselling by qualified and experienced counsellors who specialize in sexual violence trauma. Counselling is available in and around the Regina and Moose Jaw areas. We have two counsellors who have special training to provide counselling to children ages 5 years and up. We can offer counselling for free thanks to funding from the Government of Saskatchewan/Ministry of Justice and community donations.
Counselling is a collaborative process and is done by the client informing the counsellor what they need. No one will make you talk about your assault until you are ready. Counsellors can help you understand how your brain's "survival response" to trauma is protective but also the reason you are having trouble sleeping, are on edge, have difficulties with memory and wanting to isolate. Counselling is about healing the brain (and body) so the trauma no longer has a large presence and impact on people's lives. Although it's not possible to "undo" the experience, counselling can help you heal and move on.
We are proud to offer EMDR therapy with all our staff counsellors, which is considered one of the best treatments for trauma. If you are interested in learning more about counselling, you can call our Centre during the week at 306-522-2777 to talk to someone about our counselling and group education sessions.
You are not alone. Others have had these experiences. There are people who care. We believe you.
The responsibility lies with the person who chose to ignore hesitation or the word NO, or who drugged, coerced, threatened or groomed the person who has experienced the violence. It is TIME to put the blame where it belongs.