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If You or Someone You Know Has Been Sexually Assaulted, Here’s How to Get Support

We’ve come a long way as a society when it comes to understanding the complexities of sexual violence. Now, thanks to more and more people speaking out about their own experiences — and as these high-profile cases gain attention, others are coming to terms with the fact that at one point in their life, they may have been sexually assaulted, and many survivors and victims are beginning to come forward in some capacity to talk about their experiences. And we are starting to accept that sexual violence is far, far more all-encompassing and, unfortunately, pervasive in our culture than most people realized.

Yet, we still have a long way to go.

After all, we still see a number of victims and survivors of assault go unsupported while navigating a traumatic experience and the statistics on individuals who perpetrate sexual assault actually seeing some form of longterm accountability are abysmal. Per, the Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN), “only 310 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police” and more than two out of three assaults go unreported. Meanwhile, just 25 out of every 1,000 perpetrators of assault will see jail time — not including individuals who aren’t convicted or, like Bill Cosby, see their convictions vacated. Regardless of how you feel about the criminal justice system’s approach to assault, the priority in these horrible situations is to ensure victims and survivors have access to support and community and resources to help them in the aftermath.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

A version of this story was published September 2018.

Before you go, check out our favorite mental health apps that are useful and affordable:

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