Sexual assault is a horrendous act that happens in every community and impacts people of all genders, ages and race. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, people ages 12-34 are at the highest risk for sexual assault.
What qualifies as sexual assault?
Sexual assault is any type of unwanted sexual contact or behavior. This includes attempted rape, fondling or unwanted sexual touching, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts and more.
What are my options for support?
If you experience sexual assault, know that you are not alone and there are options and support systems in place for you to rely on. The choice is up to you for which option is the best choice for your recovery. Every person copes with assault differently. Your needs for support may change over time depending on your comfortability level and recovery process. Here are some resources for you to explore to help determine which is the right support for you.
Dealing with sexual assault can be traumatic, and it doesn’t have to be done alone. The Central MN Sexual Assault Center offers multiple support groups for anyone impacted by sexual assault. Their options include virtual support groups and in-person (COVID-19 allowing) anonymous options with a variety of meeting frequencies and dates. Survivors and allies of all ages, genders, race and backgrounds are welcome.
It’s okay if you don’t know know the best way to cope after a sexual assault. If you don’t think group settings are the right option for you, you can try individual therapy or hotlines. The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24 hours, seven days a week. This hotline is a safe, confidential service with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. When you call the hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673), you get access to a range of free services including confidential support, referrals for long term support in your area, basic information about medical concerns, someone to help you talk through what happened and more. You also have the option to chat online with a trained staff member.
The Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault provides more resources and support options that are specific to Minnesotans that have been victims of sexual assault.
Reporting the Assault
When an assault happens, you have the option to report it to the authorities. This choice is completely up to you or the survivor. If you decide that making a report is the right choice, you have options in how you do it.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911 to get help to wherever you are. If the danger is not immediate, you can still call 911 or visit the local police department to file a report. You can also visit a medical center and tell a healthcare provider you want to file a police report. They can give you the medical attention you need, assist you with completing the report and perform a forensic exam/rape kit. You can choose to bring trusted individuals with you for support for any of these options.
Knowing Your Rights and Options
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center provides a list of laws that might appy to you if you have experienced sexual assault and choose to report it. The following laws can vary depending on your state:
- Availability of a forensic exam (rape kit) at no cost to you
- Confidential access to victim advocates
- Time limits (statute of limitations) on certain legal actions
- Mandated reporting of the assault if you are a vulnerable person (child or elder)
- Confidential communication with service providers
- Testing or storage or evidence kits
- Possible financial compensation for you as a crime victim
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, provides readily available information for state laws. Visit their site if you are looking for laws pertaining to Minnesota.
What is Consent?
Consent must be freely given and informed. A person can change their mind at any time and revoke their consent. It is more than a one-time “yes” or “no.” RAINN shares more on what consent is and how it works.
It is NOT Your Fault
As said by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “Choosing to violate another person is not about ‘drinking too much’, ‘trying to have a good time’, or ‘getting carried away,’ nor is it about the clothes someone was wearing, how they were acting, or what type of relationship they have with the person who abused them. Violating another person is a choice.”
When someone commits the act of sexual assault against you, it is never your fault. If you experience sexual assault, you are not alone. Help is always available to you for free by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.4673 or online.