What can I do if I am sexually assaulted?
If you have been assaulted by someone – no matter who – it was not your fault.
There is no universal reaction to being assaulted. Everyone’s experience is unique and their response is correct. What you do afterward is your choice. Here are some options:
- Go to a safe place as soon as you are able
- Seek help for necessary medical needs
- Connect with a trusted person – family, friend, advocate, counselor
- Report the assault to UWM Police (414-229-9911) and/or Milwaukee Police (911)
- Get connected with a UWM confidential victim advocate to help you understand and navigate your options (414-229-4582)
Resources and Support
- UWM Victim/Survivor Advocate: 414-229-4582 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- UWM Counseling Services: NWQ Building, 5th floor
- Business hours: 414-229-4716
- After hours non-emergency: 414-229-4627
- Norris Health Center: 414-229-4716
- Medical services including STI and pregnancy testing
Aurora Healing and Advocacy Services (formerly Sexual Assault Treatment Center) (414) 219-5555 – 24 hours/day
- Victim/survivor advocacy services
- 24-hour crisis phone line
- Medical Evidentiary Exam Advocacy
- Counseling and Therapeutic Services
The National Sexual Assault Hotline
(800) 656-HOPE – 24 hours /day
Medical Information & Services for Sexual Assault Victim/Survivors
A Medical Forensic Exam is a process in which a trained nurse gathers physical evidence from a victim/survivor following an assault. This can include collecting DNA, documenting injuries, recording the victim/survivors account of the assault, and providing any needed testing or medications.
- Evidence can be collected up to 120 hours following an assault (120 hours)
- Victim/survivors that choose to receive a medical forensic exam are NOT required to report to police. Evidence can be recorded and stored anonymously.
- All medical forensic exams are performed by a trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner
- The victim/survivor chooses which parts of the exam they would like performed. They can stop the exam at any time
- Aurora-Sinai Medical Center
945 N 12th St.
Milwaukee, WI 53233
- Aurora West Allis Medical Center
8901 W Lincoln Ave.
West Allis, WI 53227
- If able, bring the clothes (including underwear) that were worn during the assault as well as clean clothes to change into
- Try not to bathe, brush teeth, or use mouthwash before the exam
- Wait to urinate until the nurse can collect a sample (especially if it is the first urination after the assault). Or bring a sample to the exam.
- Bring any feminine products (tampon or maxi pad) worn during the assault
- The examination can include DNA collection, photos of any bodily injury, STI assessment/prevention, and pregnancy testing
- Request an advocate to accompany you during the exam process through Aurora’s Sexual Assault Treatment Center: 414-219-5555
- Norris Health Center: 3351 N Downer Ave., 414-229-4716
- Testing for STIs
- Pregnancy testing and information
- Confidential discussion of other related health concerns
- Norris Health Center does NOT provide Medical Forensic Exams, but they can refer you to Aurora hospital
Sexual Assault Overview
Any type of sexual contact or behavior which is unwanted by the recipient and takes place without explicit and freely given consent and understanding. Sexual assault can include manipulation, physical force, or coercion. Sexual assault about power, control, and entitlement, it is not about sex, attraction, rejection, jealousy, etc. Some examples of this behavior includes:
- Penetration, or attempted penetration, or another’s body
- Unwanted sexual touching with hands or other body parts
- Unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favors that, if rejected, would have direct consequences on your work, school, and/or social status
- Forcing someone else to perform sexual acts of any kind
Common is Sexual Assault?
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience sexual assault in their lifetime (1 in 5 college women are sexually assaulted during their time as a student) (NSVRC, 2015)
- About 80% of women will experience their first assault before the age of 25 (NSVRC, 2010)
- 28% of male rape victims were first assaulted at the age of 10 or younger (NSVRC, 2015)
- Among individuals with an intellectual disability, as many as 80% of women and 30% of men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime (Sorenson, 2000)
- 64% of transgender individuals experience sexual assault (FORGE, 2005)
Most sexual assault victim/survivors know the person who assaulted them
- About 80 – 85% of perpetrators know the person they assaulted
- Victims of child sexual assault know their perpetrator 90% of the time
Sexual assault can be committed by an intimate partner or spouse
- 51% of all sexual assaults are perpetrated by the victim/survivor’s current or former partner
It is normal for a victim to freeze during a sexual assault
- As many as 50% of sexual assault victim/survivors experience tonic mobility (temporary bodily paralysis) during their assault (National Institute of Justice, 2012)
Sexual assault is a crime that is planned and premeditated
- Sexual assault does not occur “by accident” – perpetrators premeditate their attacks by creating trust, isolating the victim, providing drugs or alcohol, or otherwise creating vulnerability (CCASA, 2012)
Most sexual assaults are not reported to the police
- Only about 33% of victim/survivors report their assault to police – it is the most underreported violent crime (National Crime Victimization Survey, 2008-2012)
Most perpetrators are not punished through the criminal justice system
- Approximately 2% of all reported sexual assault perpetrators will spend any time in prison (FBI Crime Reports, 2006-2010)
False rape accusations are uncommon
- Similar to other crimes, about 2 – 5% of sexual assault allegations are proven to be false (NSVRC, 2012)
Sexual Assault and Alcohol or Other Drugs
**Approximately half of all sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption on the part of the victim, the perpetrator, or both (NIAAA)
Perpetrators can use alcohol or other drugs to compromise an individual’s ability to consent to sexual activity. Using these substances makes it easier for a perpetrator to commit sexual assault.
- Reduces an individual’s ability to physically or verbally resist
- Affects memory – victim/survivors may not remember the assault or only remember pieces. Memories can resurface after time.
- Alcohol and other drugs are tools a perpetrator uses to commit sexual assault. They do not cause someone to be assaulted. The perpetrator is responsible.
- The victim/survivor is not responsible, even if they willingly consumed alcohol or other drugs.
- Prescription drugs like sleep aids, anxiety medication, muscle relaxers, and tranquilizers are common
- GHB, rohypnol (roofie), ecstasy/MDMA (molly), ketamine can be added to drinks without changing their color or flavor
- Some drugs can take effect very quickly, while others take more time. Be aware of sudden, unexpected changes to your body or mental state. Physiological effects can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling very drunk when you have consumed little or no alcohol
- Sudden body temperature change, signaled by sweating or chattering teeth
- Sudden dizziness, disorientation, blurred vision
- Waking up with no memory, or spotty memory
- Most drugs leave the body very quickly, within 12 – 72 hours. If you are choosing to have a medical forensic exam, wait to urinate until at the hospital (if possible) or bring in a urine sample with you.
Understanding the Impact of Sexual Assault
There is no one way to react to a sexual assault. No matter your response, you did what was best for you in the moment. The following are some of the emotional and physical responses victim/survivors have after being assaulted.
Shock, disbelief, numbness, denial
- Trying to make sense of what happened or find a rational explanation
- Feeling numb is often the body’s automatic response to a traumatic experience. It is one way the body tries to protect itself from the impact of trauma.
- Numbness is caused by the release of certain hormones in the body to stop the individual from going into complete panic
- Sexual assault is not a “normal” life experience. No one ever expects that they will experience assault. Disbelief is normal and understandable.
- Victim/survivors may tell themselves the assault was all in their head, no big deal, or completely imagined.
- Similar to feeling numb, dissociation is feeling completely outside one’s body.
- Some survivors describe the sensation as though they are watching themselves from the outside
- Dissociation is very common for trauma survivors and is also the body in self-protection mode
- Our society regularly blames victim/survivors for what has happened to them. Messages such as “why were you doing ____?” or “why would you be alone with that person?” promote the idea that survivors could have avoided their victimization.
- In general, we do not talk about sex. We do not talk about healthy sex or sexual assault. We have no scripts or guides for how to have these discussions so feelings of embarrassment and shame can result.
- Most victim/survivors know their perpetrator. It is often easier to blame oneself than to believe that someone you know and trusted is capable of sexual assault.
Anger, frustration, out of control
- Sexual assault is about power and control. Perpetrators take control away from the people they assault. It is common for victim/survivors to continue to feel this loss of control over their body and their life
- It is common for victim/survivors to feel that they are no longer in control of their body. Some victim/survivors will engage in activities that either enhance a mind/body connection (conscious breathing, yoga, meditation, therapy), or further divide the two (alcohol/drug use, frequent relationships, self-harm, disordered eating). Both reactions are normal and understandable.
- It is common for victim/survivors to have flashbacks (or literally re-live) parts or all of the assault
- Flashbacks can be triggered by a number of things – sounds, smells, words, colors or images, certain people, gestures, bodily sensations, etc. This is normal and common after experiencing trauma
- It is common to be preoccupied with thoughts about the assault or feel powerless to stop thinking about it
Anxious, on-edge, jumpy
- Many victim/survivors experience “hyper-arousal” or feeling constantly on-edge as though something could happen at any moment
- Difficulty calming down, racing heartbeat, difficulty sleeping, inability to sit still
- Although almost 1 out of 4 women will experience sexual assault, it remains a very isolating experience.
- Feeling that no one understands, no one can help, you will never feel better
- Some victim/survivors feel that they just want the pain to end, and may consider suicide. If you are thinking about suicide please reach out to someone. You are not alone. It will not always feel like this.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
- It is common for victim/survivors to feel nauseous, experience gastrointestinal problems, continued colds or flu, muscle aches, headaches
- Loss of interest in physical intimacy – whether touching other people, or being touched
- Changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating.