Trigger Warning: this article contains information regarding sexual violence and assault that some readers may find alarming. If you require any support, please do not hesitate to get in touch with either your tutor or the Showcase main office.
Sexual violence and assault are deeply distressing. These acts not only inflict physical and emotional harm on survivors but also perpetuate a culture of fear and silence. It is crucial for us all to discuss these topics openly and provide guidance to survivors on seeking help and healing. In this blog post, we will delve into the definitions of sexual violence and assault, their consequences, and most importantly, what to do if you are a victim.
Understanding Sexual Violence and Assault
Sexual Violence: Sexual violence encompasses a range of behaviours that violate a person’s autonomy over their body. This includes, but is not limited to, rape, molestation, sexual harassment, and coercion. These actions involve non-consensual sexual acts forced upon an individual, often causing physical and emotional trauma.
Sexual Assault: Sexual assault refers to any unwanted sexual contact or activity without the victim’s consent. This can involve touching, groping, or penetration without permission. Sexual assault can occur in various settings, including within relationships, at work, or even by strangers.
Consequences of Sexual Violence and Assault
The effects of sexual violence and assault can be profound and long-lasting:
- Physical Impact: Survivors may experience physical injuries, sexually transmitted infections, and unwanted pregnancies as a result of sexual violence.
- Emotional and Psychological Trauma: Survivors commonly face emotional distress, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and a range of other psychological challenges.
- Social Isolation: Many survivors may withdraw from social interactions, fearing judgment or misunderstanding from others.
- Impact on Relationships: Survivors often struggle with forming and maintaining healthy relationships, as trust and intimacy can be severely compromised.
What to Do If You Are a Victim
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence or assault, it’s important to take the following steps:
1. Prioritise Safety: If you are in immediate danger, dial 999 or find a safe place.
2. Seek Medical Attention: It’s crucial to get medical care, even if there are no visible injuries. A medical professional can check for injuries, provide treatment, and collect evidence that may be used in legal proceedings.
3. Preserve Evidence: If you feel comfortable, preserve any evidence, such as clothing or messages, that could help support your case.
4. Reach Out for Support: Connect with friends, family, or a counsellor who can provide emotional support during this difficult time.
5. Report the Incident: You have the option to report the incident to the police. This can be an intimidating step, but reporting can help prevent further harm to you or others.
6. Access Resources: There are numerous organisations, hotlines, and support groups dedicated to helping survivors of sexual violence. They can provide information, counseling, and guidance. More details on support available is listed in the section below.
7. Therapeutic Support: Seeking therapy or counseling can aid in processing the trauma and developing coping mechanisms for the emotional aftermath.
8. Legal Action: If you choose to pursue legal action, consult with law enforcement or a legal professional to understand the options available to you.
9. Self-Care: Engage in self-care activities that promote healing, such as meditation, exercise, journaling, and spending time with supportive individuals.
Key Support Contacts
Sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) offer medical, practical and emotional support to anyone who has been raped sexually assaulted or abused. SARCs have specially trained doctors, nurses and support workers to care for you. You can get help from a SARC by booking an appointment with your nearest one which can be found on the NHS website here: https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/other-health-services/rape-and-sexual-assault-referral-centres
Alternatively, you may wish to seek help from the following alternative places:
- Your GP or a practice nurse
- A voluntary organisation, such as Rape Crisis, Women’s Aid, Victim Support, The Survivors Trust, or Male Survivors Partnership
- The 24-hour freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, on 0808 2000 247
- The rape and sexual abuse support line run by Rape Crisis England and Wales – you can call the helpline on 0808 500 2222 or use the online chat (both are free and are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year)
- A hospital accident and emergency (A&E) department
- A genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexual health clinic
- A contraceptive clinic
- A young people’s service
- Call NHS 111 or get help from 111 online
- The NHS website
- The police, or dial 101, though in an emergency, dial 999
Speaking out about sexual violence and assault is an essential step in breaking the cycle. By sharing your story, you can contribute to raising awareness, dismantling stigmas, and encouraging others to seek help. Sexual violence and assault are harrowing experiences that demand our collective attention and action. As a society, we must create an environment where survivors are supported, believed, and empowered to seek justice and healing. If you are a survivor, remember that you are not alone, and there is a network of resources and caring individuals ready to stand by you on your journey towards recovery.