Reactions After a Rape
Being raped or sexually assaulted is a very distressing experience with effects that can be long lasting. Women who have suffered sexual attacks describe feeling:
- lacking self confidence
Sometimes women have difficulty with eating or sleeping. They may lack concentration and find this makes academic work difficult. Every woman reacts differently and it is not unusual for feelings to change from day to day. In particular there can be a long gap between the assault and the emotional reaction.
It can be difficult to talk about the attack to friends or family yet it is important to have understanding and support. It can be helpful to talk to a trained person in confidence. See our referral information for sources.
What to do After a Rape or Assault
Women will react differently after sexual assault or rape. It is important to trust and validate your feelings and do what you need to do in order to recover. This may entail telling a friend, going to a place where you feel safe or crying.
In order to cope with the trauma of the event many women will just try to carry on as normal and not tell anyone for a long time. However, often distress can surface a considerable time after the event. No matter how much later, a woman can always seek help from counselors and other support services. Women do not have to cope on their own simply because they did not report the incident soon after it happened.
Many women who have been raped or sexually assaulted are concerned about their health. Women also may have bruising and other injuries that need immediate attention. All victims should seek medical care. It is best to seek this care as soon as possible after the assault and before a victim has showered or bathed. Victims in Chattanooga may be seen by a nurse practitioner who is trained to deal with sexual assault victims (Call 755-2710). Victims do not have to go to the hospital. Exams are free and confidential. The police will NOT be notified unless victims request this action. Victims also may be tested for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. A forensic exam by a trained examiner also will ensure that evidence is preserved so that victims who choose to report the rape will have this important material.
Reporting to the Police
Sexual violence is a criminal offense and victims can, if they wish report your crime to the police in order to pursue prosecution of your perpetrator. It is each victim's choice to make the decision that is best for her. Victims also can report the rape later, especially if they have secured medical evidence shortly after the assault. If victims report their rape, they can have someone accompany them, such as a friend or trained volunteer.
Reporting to University Officials
Victims may also report rapes to university officials who may take action against perpetrators based on the university disciplinary policy. Victims may choose to report only to university officials or they may report to both the police and university officials. A wide range of responses may be available based on university policy. For example, victims in university housing might be able to secure another housing placement if their rapist lives in the same housing unit. Perpetrators may be suspended and/or expelled from the university. For more information, contact Project staff and/or Jim Hicks, University Disciplinary Official (425-4246).