What to Do if You or Someone You Know Has Been Sexually Assaulted

Sep 28, 2018 at 4:41 p.m. ET
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testifying with her right hand raised
Image: Pool/Getty Images. Design: Ashley Britton/SheKnows.

For such a long time, if a person experienced a sexual assault that didn't involve penetrative rape, it went largely ignored. As a society, we had been conditioned to accept things like nonconsensual touching or sexual advances while people have been drinking as just another part of our culture. Now, thanks to more and more people speaking out about their own experiences — most recently, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford during her powerful testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — others are coming to terms with the fact that at one point in their life, they may have been sexually assaulted as well.

Fortunately, we're starting to move past the "it only counts if it's rape" and "it doesn't count if alcohol was involved" mentalities and starting to accept that sexual violence is far, far more all-encompassing and, unfortunately, pervasive in our culture than most people realized. 

In fact, when Ford testified on Thursday, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, one of the leading organizations providing support for people who have experienced sexual assault, saw a 201 percent increase in phone calls according to a tweet from the organization. Not only did the nonstop national coverage of Ford's testimony give people the courage to speak up, but it may have also helped people understand that a horrible incident that they experienced decades ago and still haunts them was — and can still be — traumatic. And no, it's never too late to talk about it.

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More: How Accusing Someone of Sexual Assault Affects Your Mental Health

While RAINN does amazing work, there are other groups and resources out there for people who have experienced sexual violence and those who are trying to support them. Here are a few:

Planned Parenthood

Everyone's favorite provider of health care and all things sexual health and education comes through again with a video walking you through how to respond if someone shares that they've experienced sexual assault. It's only a minute long and can help you find the words to be supportive and let them know you believe them.

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More: Our Narrow View of Sexual Assault Is Letting People Get Away With It

RAINN

There's a reason RAINN has been inundated with calls lately: They provide extensive information for survivors and their supporters as well as an actual person to talk to when you need it (though wait times might be longer than usual at the moment). 

There's an section of the website called "After Sexual Assault" where you can find information on everything from how to report the crime to law enforcement to how to recover to safety planning. There's also a section with information for people supporting people who have experienced sexual violence, including what to say, how to help and self-care tips for friends and family. And of course, there's the RAINN hotline: 800-656-HOPE (4673). 

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Safe Horizon

Though technically Safe Horizon is an organization that serves the five boroughs of New York City, they also have a very helpful website that anyone can access. This includes a recovery guide for survivors of sexual assault and information on the crime itself as well as where to find legal assistance and resources. 

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Victim Rights Law Center

Again, this is a semi-local organization — providing legal assistance to those in Massachusetts and Oregon — but it also provides general resources anyone can access online to get more information about sexual assault. 

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Anti-Violence Project

Though not specific to sexual violence, the Anti-Violence Project offers free bilingual (English/Spanish), 24-hour, 365-day-a-year crisis intervention and support to LGBTQ and HIV-affected survivors of any type of violence as well as to those who love and support them. The number is 212-714-1141 and their website provides information on how to get counseling, legal support and other types of assistance. 

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It's never easy to speak up about sexual violence, but when you're ready to talk about it, it's nice to know there are organizations out there that can help. 

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