If so, know that you’re not alone, you aren’t at fault, you can access support and you can heal. People who are sexually assaulted may have a variety of responses - there is no right or wrong way to feel or react. However, there are some general commonalities, which can be anticipated and are completely ‘normal’, given what you have experienced. The most important thing to do is to seek help and support. There are a variety of avenues to explore, depending on your wants and needs. 


Here are a few resources to consider:

  • Seek medical attention. Often, this will be located at an emergency room where you can also receive medical care. There, you will be provided with treatment options, including:


  • STI/STD treatment


  • HIV prophylaxis


  • Pregnancy testing and Plan B/emergency contraception


  • Treatment of any injuries


  • SAFE (sexual assault forensic examination), whereby any evidence may be collected, should you chose to pursue criminal charges (getting a SAFE does not require you to report to the police).


  • Drug facilitated testing


  • The option to report the crime to SVU (special victims unit of the police)


  • Referrals for ongoing care (medical, counseling, legal)


  • Information about Crime Victim Compensation (CVB) depending on your location, which may cover costs incurred (including the SAFE), as a result of the assault.  


You have a right to receive any, all, or none of these services. 


If you are an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, or any sexual assault which occurred in the past (or prior to the time when many of the interventions listed above would not apply), you can still receive support and access information about your options.


 When someone discloses a history of sexual abuse/assault, it might be difficult to know how to respond. Your response can be crucial in helping that person feel empowered to seek support and move towards healing. Supportive responses can also drastically impact a survivor’s risk for developing post traumatic stress.  Here are a few guidelines, to assist you in this process:

  • Listen to and believe the person.


  • Reassure them that they are not alone, that they are not at fault and that there are supportive services in place to help them move towards healing.


  • Normalize their reaction to what happened: there is no right or wrong way to respond to trauma. Often survivor’s feel that their reactions are not okay. Having your validation and support can go a long way in helping them feel safe asking for support.


  • Express genuine sympathy and avoid any judgment or questions that assert that somehow the survivor’s actions are to blame for what happened to them (i.e. what were you wearing? How much did you have to drink? Why did you take that route home?).


  • Be supportive and available.


  • Research resources for both yourself and the survivor.


Written by Chauntel R. Gerdes, LMSW and Merritt Stewart 

Victim Services Program/Project Envision, Mount Sinai-Beth Israel Hospital