According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), sexual violence affects millions of Americans. Every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. On average, there are 321,000 victims (age 12 and older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States. Individuals between the ages of 12 and 34 are at the highest risk of rape and sexual assault, with 69 percent of all reported cases coming from this age group. The overwhelming majority of rape victims is female while one out of every 10 rape victims is male. These numbers do not reflect sexual crimes to victims under the age of 12.
The long-term effects of sexual violence include:
- Moderate to several emotional distress
o 94 percent of survivors experience symptoms of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) in the weeks, months and years after the assault.
o 33 percent contemplate suicide.
o 38 percent experience significant work, school problems. This number increases to 84 percent when the perpetrator is an intimate partner and is at 79 percent when the perpetrator is another trusted family member or friend.
o 37 percent experience a lack of trust and inability to feel close to family and friends after the assault.
- Survivors are 10 times more likely to use drugs in the aftermath of sexual assault.
The only person responsible for sexual assault is the perpetrator. All of us can take a role in looking out for the safety and well-being of others. We can provide a safe ride home from a party, redirect a person engaging in concerning behavior towards another, explain to someone that a rape joke isn’t funny and more. As bystanders, we can make a difference. Your actions matter.
As friends and loved ones, we can support survivors by providing them a safe place to heal. We can listen without questions, be trustworthy, remind the survivor that they are not to blame, allow for decision-making that supports return of control over themselves, avoid teasing and avoid expressions of anger.
If you have experienced sexual aggression, there are things you can do to help yourself:
- For emergencies, call 911
- Get yourself to a safe place
- Remember, you are not to blame
- Seek medical attention
o If you have serious physical injuries, go to an emergency room
o There may be important evidence on your body
- Do not bathe right away
- Plan to bring clothes you were wearing to the forensic exam
o You can decide later about reporting to the police
o The forensic nursing exam with a SANE nurse will collect and save evidence, as well as provide treatment for potential STDs from the assault
- Call for someone to support you emotionally
- If the assault was long ago and you are still experiencing the emotional aftermath, call your local crisis center for support and resources
- Schedule an appointment with your women’s health provider for testing and treatment for STDs.
o If you had a SANE exam and treatment, a follow-up exam with your provider is recommended to verify prevention medications worked.
If you need to schedule an appointment with a Lovelace Medical Group provider, please call 505-727-2727. You may also call Labor of Love for access to community resources by calling 505-727-7677.
Submitted by Kym Halliday Clear, RN
Manager Community Programs, Lovelace Women’s Hospital & Lovelace Labor of Love