You may be experiencing feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment, self-blame, fear, anger, numbness, mistrust, loss of control, and/or other feelings as a result of your attack. This is normal, though you should not let it stop you from getting help. It can be scary and difficult to reach out for help, but once you do, you will likely feel better for it.
You are not alone.
Here are some common questions to consider after a sexual assault or experiencing sexual abuse.
Fear is a natural reaction, which in turn leads to confusion and distrust. You may struggle with:
- Fear of police, going to court - what will they do with the information I give them?
- Fear that people will find out including family, partner, etc.
- Fear of being judged
- Fear of retribution
- Fears of the unknown - what will happen next? Will people believe me?
Although fear is normal and natural, it is not healthy for you if it stops you from getting help. Some people feel comfortable calling a close friend or family member. Others prefer to speak anonymously to a professional through a crisis hotline. In the vast majority of cases, those who push through the fear, embarrassment, and other emotions are glad they did.
You do not need to call the police if you do not want to. Some victims feel that by law, they need to call the police or that others such as the hospital Emergency Department are legally obligated to call the police on their behalf. Nobody helping you will call the police without your consent except in specific circumstances (for example, assaults on minors).
You do not have to call the police immediately. However, you should be aware that the chances of arrest and prosecution go down the longer you wait. If you choose to wait, write down or record an account of the events while the details are still fresh in your mind.
If you do decide to make a report to the police, you will talk to police about the incident giving as much detail as possible. It is okay to bring a friend. Sexual Abuse Centre Thunder Bay can also provide you with a client advocate. Although we cannot give legal advice, we can support you by helping you understand the criminal justice process, be with you as you give your statement to the police, prepare for court dates if necessary, and be with you at those court dates.
Forensic examinations are conducted at the Emergency Department by nurses trained in helping sexual assault and sexual abuse victims. The goal of the exam is to collect DNA and other evidence from the attacker after an assault. Often, photographs are taken and your clothes are collected (bring a change of clothes and shoes, if possible).
Some women choose to have an examination even if they are unsure whether or not to file a police report. The kit can be kept and frozen so that if they decide to press charges, the evidence is preserved.
If you are considering a forensic examination, DO NOT wash, shower, douche, or change, wash/brush off your clothes as this will destroy evidence. Evidence can be collected up to 48-72 hours after the assault, though normally the earlier the examination, the more evidence will be collected.
It's important to note that getting a forensic examination does not mean you have to contact the police - that's still (and always) your decision.
The Emergency Department at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit can provide you with options including medications to reduce the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Hepatitis B, and HIV.
You may also choose to take emergency contraception to reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy.
Sexual assault and sexual abuse are traumatic events that can affect you mentally and emotionally long after the assault. It is normal to experience any number of negative consequences including sleeplessness, loss of appetite, loss of sexual drive, distrust of friends and family, guilt, isolation, and concern over how others in your life at home, work, and in the community may feel about the assault.
You are not alone.