Was what happened to me sexual violence?
Sexual violence occurs anytime someone is forced, manipulated, and/or coerced into any unwanted sexual advances or activity—any sexual acts imposed on a person without their consent. The range of sexual violence includes rape, child sexual abuse, incest, date and acquaintance rape, statutory rape, marital or partner rape, commercial sexual exploitation, human trafficking, voyeurism, and sexual harassment.
Many survivors of sexual violence are not sure what to call their experience. Because of the culture we live in, we were taught that rape usually meant a scary dark alley and a stranger. While that may happen, the majority of sexual assaults look very different.
Most victims know, love or trust their perpetrator.
Most perpetrators appear to be “nice” people. They are often well-respected by other people. This does not mean they are not capable of perpetrating sexual assault. Many perpetrators use “niceness” as a tool to gain their victim’s trust.
Whenever we talk about threatening situations, we often hear the words fight or flight. We forget to mention freeze. Freezing is an extremely common reaction to sexual assault. Many victims describe “feeling paralyzed” or experience “an inability to speak.” If you had this experience, please know you are not alone. And please know that freezing does not mean you consented.
There are a million right ways to survive sexual violence. There is no one way to do things or one right way to react. If you have questions about an experience you have had, you can talk to a trained sexual assault victim’s advocate anytime by calling our crisis line. (316) 263-3002.
What is consent?
Consent is a “Yes! I want to do this!” Consent happens with communication. Consent is clear. Consent is an agreement to do something. When sex is consensual, it means everyone involved has agreed to what they are doing. If sex is not consensual, it is sexual violence.
What are normal emotional reactions to sexual violence?
Emotional reactions to sexual violence and trauma are as different as our personalities. There is no right way to react and there is no wrong way to react. Surviving a sexual assault is complex issue that often has many lingering effects on our mind, body and relationship to the world around us. These reactions vary person to person and they vary throughout the healing process. Some common emotional effects that many survivors experience include:
- Isolation/withdrawal/distancing from friends or loved ones
- Changes in how we trust
- Feelings of helplessness
- Sense of vulnerability
- Loss of control
- Feeling that any of these longer term reactions are a sign of weakness
Please know that whatever you are feeling is normal. It may feel confusing, and we want you to always know that you are not alone. Friends and family members of the survivor can have similar reactions. If you or a loved one want to talk through some of these feelings, this is the reason our 24-hour hotline exists. Please call anytime. (316) 263-3002.
If I didn’t fight back, is it still sexual violence?
Our culture has engrained a stereotypical story of sexual violence in us. Most movies and popular culture portray a stranger attack on a victim who fights back and is both physically and sexually assaulted. While this does happen sometimes, this is not a realistic view of what most sexual assaults look like.
Whenever we talk about threatening situations, we often hear the words fight or flight. We forget to mention freeze. Freezing is an extremely common reaction to sexual assault. Many victims describe “feeling paralyzed” or experience “an inability to speak.” If you had this experience, please know you are not alone. And please know that freezing does not mean you consented. Sexual violence occurs anytime someone is forced, manipulated, and/or coerced into any unwanted sexual activity.
I don’t really remember what happened. What can I do?
If you are unsure of what happened to you, and might be concerned you were sexually assaulted, you have a couple of options you can explore.
- You can go to the hospital (either Wesley or St. Joe emergency departments) for a forensic examination. The exam can tell you if you have any physical affects that might be left from a sexual assault. NOTE: physical exams cannot tell you exactly what happened, they can only tell you if you have any physical evidence left on your body.
- You may want to talk with friends or family who might have more information about your activity during the time you are unsure of what might have happened to you.
- You may want to talk with an advocate at WASAC. Our free and confidential crisis line is always available. Call anytime day or night and we can explore your options with you. (316) 263-3002.
Do I have to call the police?
That choice is completely yours. You know what is best for your life and healing process. You do not have to do anything you don’t want to do. However, it should be noted that there are some circumstances that will trigger a mandatory report from certain professionals who are mandated to report. If you are under the age of 18 or if a gun or weapon was used during the assault, these things will prompt a mandatory report from some professionals. If you have questions about mandated reports, you can call our crisis line at (316) 263-3002.
Making a report can be beneficial in a number of ways. Making a police report can help with:
- The offender being held accountable for the crime they committed.
- Getting reimbursed for unexpected financial costs associated with the sexual assault – through the Crime Victims Compensation fund.
- Feeling like you are taking back control of your situation.
We know that reporting can be an intimidating process. If you would like someone to accompany you, our advocates are available. Oftentimes friends or family may not be able to sit in on police interviews with a victim because they may be additional witnesses in the case. That being said, survivors of sexual violence have the right to have an advocate with them through the entire criminal justice process. We can sit in on interviews with you so you do not have to do this alone. If you would like to talk with an advocate about going through the reporting process with you, please call (316) 263-0185 and ask to speak with an advocate about reporting.
Where should I go for medical attention?
In the Wichita Area, there are two hospitals that have SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) on staff. Via Christi St. Joe Forensic Nursing Services and Wesley Medical Center SANE/SART (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner/Sexual Assault Response Team) both provide medical care for victims of sexual assault, violence and abuse. If you would like to see a forensic nurse, you would check in at the Emergency Department and ask for a sexual assault nurse examiner.
Both Via Christi St. Joe and Wesley provide acute exams after a sexual assault has happened. An acute exam can be conducted within 96 hours of an incident. The sexual assault exam is designed to meet your healthcare needs and gather evidence of the sexual assault. Both hospitals call an advocate anytime a survivor goes in for an exam. A WASAC (Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center) advocate is there to assist survivors through the exam process, answer questions, and provide emotional support and safety planning.
For more information:
What is anonymous reporting?
One option you have is to make an anonymous report with your forensic medical exam. If you are over 18, a weapon was not used in the assault, and you didn’t suffer any major bodily harm, you can go to Wesley or St. Joe Emergency Departments and ask for an “Anonymous Sexual Assault Evidence Kit.” This means you can have forensic evidence collected and stored without making an immediate police report. This gives you time to think through your options, what is right for you, and get immediate medical care. If you change your mind later, you can report the assault and have the evidence from immediately after the crime occurred.
What if I knew the perpetrator?
Despite what we often see in the media, MOST people are sexually assaulted by someone they knew or trusted. In 8 out of 10 rape cases, the victim knew the person who assaulted them. Perpetrators might be family members, friends, intimate partners, or acquaintances. Regardless of your relationship with the perpetrator, we will believe you and support you.
What if I was drinking or using drugs when I was assaulted?
Alcohol and drugs do not cause sexual assault, although many times perpetrators will use them as a tool to make their victim more vulnerable. If you were victimized while you were under the influence, please know that it was not your fault. If you were using illegal drugs or drinking underage, please know that sexual violence is a much bigger crime. You deserve to be safe—always. We will believe you and support you every step of the way.