Sexual assault is defined in several ways. Generally, sexual assault is any unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact against any individual by another.
It often includes acts involving manipulation, physical force or coercion. Sexual assault is never the victim's fault.
As a survivor of sexual assault, you may feel one or more of the following emotional reactions:
These feelings may change your behavior:
Each of us copes with crisis in our own unique way. The way you are reacting is the right way for you. It is okay to cry. It is also okay not to cry. Remember, you are having a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.
It is up to you to decide what is right for you. Whether you make a report or not, you are eligible to receive the free and confidential services of your local sexual assault program. If you are not sure about reporting the assault, the local program can give you more information about the reporting process to help you make that decision. If you do not want to make a report, you may tell the responding officer at that time and still receive the medical treatment you need and a froensic exam if requested.
After the sexual assault, you may be embarrassed or scared; feeling this way is completely normal. These feelings may prevent you from wanting to report the assault right away. However, there are benefits to reporting the assault as soon as you can, such as being eligible for Crime Victim's Compensation.
A law enforcement officer will take your statement and ask you questions about what happened. This starts the investigation process. The police will also refer you to a sexual assault program for assistance.
If a suspect can be identified, the police will submit your statement and a report of the offense to the District or County Attorney, who makes the determination if an arrest warrant will be issued. Once the suspect is arrested, the prosecutor's office will file formal charges as soon as possible. After the arrest, the suspect may be released from jail on bond. If the grand jury indicts the suspect, the case will be set for trial. For more information on the legal system in your area, contact the detective assigned to your case, the prosecutor's office, or your local sexual assault program. If you receive threats of further harm after the sexual assault, you may ask a judge for a protective order for yourself and other members of your family or household. The protective order may be in effect for two years or longer, and violation of the order is a Class A misdemeanor.
It is very important to seek immediate medical care following a sexual assault to get treatment for any injuries you may have. Not all injuries from the sexual assault will be instantly apparent. You can also ask the nurse or doctor about the possibility of pregnancy or contracting sexually transmitted diseases as a result of the sexual assault, and receive appropriate care.
A sexual assault examination is not medical treatment. A sexual assault exam is performed by medical personnel to collect and preserve evidence following a sexual assault. This is important because certain types of evidence that may be present immediately after the attack will disappear as time passes. Getting a sexual assault exam as soon as you can will increase the chances of collecting this evidence. Your immediate medical needs and referrals for follow-up care will also be addressed at the time of your visit to the hospital.
Healing from a sexual assault is personal and varies from survivor to survivor. Sometimes the first reactions are shock, disbelief and fear. You may respond with crying, shaking and agitation or with a calm and controlled outward appearance. You may not be able to continue your everyday activities, including eating and sleeping. You may feel the need to change your address, job or lifestyle in order to gain a sense of security.
Healing is not always a steady process. You may experience ups and downs after the sexual assault. You may start blaming yourself for sliding backward or for not getting over it as quickly as you or others think you should. Be patient with yourself. These feelings are normal. Everyone progresses through the process of healing at her or his own pace.
Your local sexual assault program can provide you with support and advocacy during the healing process. These programs provide free and confidential services to survivors of sexual assault all across Texas. Sexual assault programs can help by providing an advocate to go with you to the emergency room after the sexual assault and to any appointments related to the assault. These include appointments with law enforcement, the court system and medical facilities. Many sexual assault programs also offer counseling and support groups and run 24-hour crisis hotlines whose staff and volunteers are trained and prepared to listen and support you.
Family and friends in your immediate support system may also experience some of the same feelings you are having. It is important that they also participate in the healing process by talking about their feelings and fears with someone knowledgeable about sexual assault. They are also eligible to receive services from your local sexual assault program.
Call the Rape, Abuses and Incest National Network (RAINN) at (800) 656-HOPE (4673) to find the sexual assault program closest to you.
The Sexual Assault Prevention and Crisis Services Program is within the Crime Victims Services Division.
If you are a victim of sexual assault, you may be eligible for reimbursement of certain out-of-pocket expenses related to the crime. Please check our Web site or call for information and an application form.