I've just become a victim of rape. I desperately need help and don't know where to find it – what should I do now? So far, I haven't told anyone. I'm ashamed to admit this to friends and family, and I'm afraid I'll only make a bad situation worse if I go to the police. Meanwhile, I feel so dirty, guilty, worthless, desperate, and scared that I can hardly think or make a move.
We understand your feelings. We want you to know that our hearts go out to you in the midst of your pain and confusion. To a certain extent, emotions such as shame, guilt, and fear are to be expected in a case like this. They're normal human reactions to an act of aggressive and invasive violence. Rape is something more than the violation of a woman's body. It's also an insult to her sense of personal identity. It's no wonder this incident has left you feeling stunned and paralyzed.
But while we can sympathize with your emotions, we also think it's crucial that you find a way to push past your fears and hesitations. Somehow, you have to find the courage to take appropriate action. What you need more than anything else at this point is the comfort and reassurance that come from a strong support system. With that in mind, we'd like to urge you – gently but firmly – to tell somebody what has happened: a friend, a family member, a pastor, a church elder, or a personal mentor. Whoever it is, contact this person immediately and go with them to some safe place if you are still in danger. Together, arrange for an individual to stay with you and walk beside you through this dark valley. It would also be a good idea to make an appointment with a professional counselor. It would be best if this counselor were a trained and licensed Christian therapist who specializes in trauma care.
Once you're under the care and guidance of your support network, it will be easier to find someone who can help you make the necessary calls to the legal authorities. If appropriate, you should also arrange to be taken to a physician or a local Emergency Room. There you can receive any medical attention you may require. If the assault has just taken place, and if you haven't already done so, we'd urge you to refrain from bathing or showering until after you've seen a doctor. If you can, save the clothes you were wearing at the time. Do what you can to preserve as much physical evidence of the crime as possible.
A medical evaluation should probably also be carried out. This is important even if you don't believe you've been injured. A thorough examination is necessary to assess your physical condition. It's also a way to collect evidence and provide counseling regarding the possibility of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. As with the police report, parts of the examination will be difficult and uncomfortable. This is especially true if you haven't had a pelvic exam before. But the long-term benefits of proper medical care are worth the temporary discomfort.
In the long run, it's in your own best interests to report this incident to the police and the Department of Social Services without delay. Among other things, this can be an important first step in the direction of taking back control of your own life. It's also a way to rid yourself of an unhealthy "victim" mentality. If you don't make the report, the authorities may want to know why later on. If you find that you absolutely cannot do this, your friends or family members can make the call for you. For additional guidance, we suggest you contact the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) 24-hour crisis hotline at 1-800-879-6682.
Rape is defined as any sexual activity attempted or completed by force, threat of force, or coercion against a person's will. If you know in your heart that you have been the unwilling victim of sexual aggression, then you must recognize that this incident was not your fault. If the aggressor was a stranger, it's obvious that you cannot be blamed for his behavior. If he was an acquaintance or friend – for example, if you were the victim of "date rape" – you should realize that even those who are closest to us can sometimes force us to do things against our will. If he was a person in a position of authority or trust, then his actions are doubly blameworthy. They should be brought to light before he has an opportunity to harm you again or anybody else.
Bottom line: as a victim of sexual assault you have been wrongfully violated. You have every right to seek reparation for the crime that's been perpetrated against you. You need to know that God is not condemning you. He does not blame you for what has happened. He loves you, He's on your side, and He has promised never to leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), even in the midst of something as horrendous as rape and sexual assault. He wants to help you throw off your self-imposed burden of guilt and shame.
If, as a first step in this direction, you think it might be helpful to speak with a member of our staff, don't hesitate to give Focus on the Family's Counseling department a call. We can provide you with a list of professionals practicing in your area, and our trained Christian counselors would be more than happy to discuss your situation with you over the phone.
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No Place to Cry: The Hurt and Healing of Sexual Abuse