After a sexual assault, it is important to remember that you have choices about how to take care of yourself. There is no one right way to ensure your self-care.
Remember, there are many paths to healing, and only you know what you need.
Common Feelings After A Sexual Assault
Sexual assault is a traumatic event, and we all handle traumatic events in different ways. Though each person and situation is unique, the following list summarizes the possible range of reactions to sexual assault. This list may help you know what’s normal to expect.
- Emotional shock: I feel so numb. Why am I so calm? Why can’t I cry?
- Disbelief or denial: Did it really happen? Why me? Maybe I imagined it. It wasn’t really a sexual assault.
- Embarrassment: What will people think? I can’t tell my family or friends.
- Shame: I feel so dirty, like there is something wrong with me. I want to wash my hands or shower all the time. I feel like I have brought shame to my family.
- Guilt: I feel as if it’s my fault, or I did something to make this happen. If only I had done something different.
- Depression: How am I going to get through this semester? I’m so tired. I feel so helpless.
- Suicidal thoughts: Maybe I’d be better off dead.
- Powerlessness: Will I ever feel in control again?
- Disorientation: I don’t even know what day it is, or what class I’m supposed to be in. I can’t remember my appointments. I keep forgetting things.
- Triggers and flashbacks: I’m still re-living it. I keep seeing that face all the time.
- Fear: I’m scared of everything. What if I’m pregnant? Could I get a sexually transmitted infection (STI), or even HIV? How can I ever feel safe again? Do people realize there’s anything wrong? I can’t sleep because I know I’ll have nightmares. I’m afraid I’m going crazy. I’m afraid to go outside. I’m afraid to be alone.
- Anxiety: I’m having panic attacks. I can’t breathe! I just can’t stop shaking. I can’t sit still in class anymore. I feel overwhelmed.
- Anger: I want to kill the person who attacked me!
- Physical stress: My stomach (or head or back) aches all the time. I feel jittery and don’t feel like eating.
Remember, you are not to blame, even if…
- The perpetrator was an acquaintance, date, friend, or spouse.
- You have been sexually intimate with the perpetrator or with others before.
- You were drinking or using drugs.
- You froze and did not or could not say “no,” or were unable to fight back physically.
- You were wearing clothes that others could perceive as seductive.
Regardless of the circumstances, sexual assault is not your fault.
Confidential Victim Advocate
The confidential victim advocate serves all students, faculty, and staff who have experienced any form of interpersonal violence (sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, and stalking) whether it has occurred recently or in the past. They can offer you the resources that best meet your needs in a safe, confidential, and non-judgmental way. Because the advocate is a confidential resource, everything that is shared with them remains private- the advocate will not share your information with the university, the police, or anyone else without your permission. You are in the driver’s seat and get to make all of the decisions.
You can meet privately with the advocate in their office located at the University of Nevada, Reno in the Continuing Education building Room 204, another public location that is safe and comfortable to you, or simply talk on the phone.
What an Advocate Can Offer:
- Immediate crisis intervention
- Scheduling a sexual assault exam
- Advocacy and support
- Accompaniment to the hospital, court, or police interview, if desired
- Safety planning
- Additional community resources – assistance with employers, landlords, professors, etc.
- Counseling referrals
- Assistance with victim compensation applications
- Information on university and criminal justice procedures
- Information and referrals
Contact the advocate:
- 775-771-8724 Monday-Friday 8am-5pm
- 775-221-7600 24/7 Crisis Line
- Office Location- Continuing Education Building Room 204 University of Nevada, Reno
Sexual Assault Exam
A FREE sexual assault exam can be given up to 7 days after a sexual assault has occurred. Anyone who is 18 years or older can get an exam without reporting to police or the university.
If the assault occurred more than 7 days ago you can still contact a victim advocate, the police, or the Title IX office to make a report or learn about resources. You can also seek medical care at the Student Health Center (link to http://www.unr.edu/shc/)
Sexual assault exams are not conducted at the hospital. If you are in need of a sexual assault exam see the resources below to set up an exam.
Get more information on what the sexual assault exam is, what an exam consists of, and how to prepare for it.
The following are resources that can assist in setting up a sexual assault exam:
THE CONFIDENTIAL VICTIM ADVOCATE
775-771-8724 Monday-Friday 8am-5pm
775-221-7600 24/7 Crisis Line
Office Location- Continuing Education Building Room 204 University of Nevada, Reno
SEXUAL ASSAULT SUPPORT SERVICES/THE CRISIS CALL CENTER
THE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY WHERE THE SEXUAL ASSAULT OCCURRED
Listed below are several options, offering you suggestions on how to meet your physical safety and emotional needs, how to obtain medical attention, and options for filing a report to begin an investigation at the university level and within the legal system.
Remember that you get to control what you would like to see happen. Justice will look different for everyone and that is okay. Some might want to report to police while others may wish to find someone to speak with confidentially like a counselor. There is no “right” way to heal or to proceed. These are just some options that you have.
TALKING TO AN ADVOCATE:
The university victim advocate (link to advocate link on webpage) is a confidential resource that is available for you to ask questions and learn more about resources that are available. The campus victim advocate can also assist you in setting up a free sexual assault exam (link to sexual assault exam link on webpage) and provide more information on medical care after a sexual assault. Along with medical care resources the advocate can provide resources for counseling, safety planning, and provide a safe place to share your experience without judgment and in a confidential manner.
There are also advocates available at all of the various law enforcement agencies in the area that are also available to answer questions and can assist in filing a police report if you are interested. Below are the ways to contact the advocates:
Reno Police Department
Victim Services Unit
422 East 2nd St, Reno
Washoe County Sheriff’s Office
911 Parr Blvd. Reno
Sparks Police Department
1701 East Prater Way, Sparks
Temporary Protection Order (TPO) Office
Second Judicial District Court- Family Division 1 South Sierra St. 3rd Floor, Reno NV
FINDING A COUNSELOR:
At the University of Nevada, Reno there are several options for counseling. It is important to find the counselor that fits well with you so it is okay to be extra picky to make sure have the best experience. Below are options available on campus:
University Counseling Services
Pennington Student Achievement Center Suite 420
Victims of Crime Treatment Center
Edmund J. Cain Hall #206
To find more counseling resources, contact a victim advocate to learn about services within the community.
REPORTING TO POLICE:
Reports can be filed with the law enforcement agency in which the incident occurred or University Police Services will take a courtesy report regardless of where the incident occurred. To file a report or to simply ask questions about what reporting looks like you can contact University Police Services at: (775) 784-4013. Asking questions about reporting does not mean you will be required to make a formal report. You get to decide how much you share with the police and you get to make the decision on how the investigation proceeds. The Police can also assist with setting up a sexual assault exam (link to sexual assault exam link on webpage)
It is important to note that University Police are considered “Responsible Employees” of the university and if a report is made to them they will be required to inform the Title IX office at the university about the incident. If you report at another law enforcement agency, such as the Reno Police Department, they are not required to inform the Title IX office about the report, but if you would like for them to work with the university they will do that with your permission.
REPORTING TO THE UNIVERSITY:
The Equal Opportunity and Title IX office is available for you to make a report so that the university can conduct an investigation. You can also receive assistance and resources from the Title IX office that can provide support in many ways, such as:
- Providing an effective escort to ensure that the complainant can move safely between classes and activities;
- Ensuring the complainant and respondent do not share classes or extracurricular activities;
- Moving the respondent or complainant (if the complainant requests to be moved) to a different residence hall;
- Providing information on medical, counseling and academic support services, such as tutoring;
- Working with instructors to allow extra time for assignments without an academic or financial penalty;
- Restricting the respondent to online classes
Reporting to the Title IX office does not include reporting to police unless you would like it to.
You can make an online report here. You can call the Title IX office at: (775) 784-1547 or the Sexual Assault Hotline: (775) 784-1030
- Get support from friends, family, and community members. Try to identify people you trust who will validate your feelings and affirm your strengths.
- Talk about the assault and express feelings. Choose when, where, and with whom to talk about the assault, and only disclose information that feels safe for you to reveal.
- Use stress-reduction techniques. Exercise by jogging, doing aerobics, walking and practice relaxation techniques such as doing yoga, listening to music, and meditating.
- Maintain a balanced diet and a normal sleep cycle as much as possible and avoid overusing stimulants like caffeine, sugar, nicotine, or alcohol or other drugs.
- Discover your playful and creative self. Playing and creativity are important for healing from hurt.
- Take “time outs.” Give yourself permission to take quiet moments to reflect, relax, and rejuvenate, especially during times you feel stressed or unsafe.
- Try reading. Reading can be a relaxing and healing activity.
- Consider writing or journaling as a way of expressing your thoughts and feelings.
- Consider counseling. The University of Nevada, Reno Counseling Services can provide you with counseling and support.