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Healing after a Sexual Assault

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Jennifer Sanford

on 10 May 2016

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Transcript of Healing after a Sexual Assault

Initial Steps (the practical stuff)
1. Safety: get to a safe location and reach out to safe person/s. If you need emergency assistance, call 9-1-1.
2. Get some initial support in just the way/s you need. For example, you can talk to (or simply be with) a family member or friend, call a crisis line (such as 800-656-HOPE or North Coast Rape Crisis at 707-445-2881), curl up with your cat, whatever. Find a way to center and comfort yourself as best you can.
3. Decide if you wish to report the assault to the police. If you wish to report the crime, you will call the jurisdiction in which the assault occurred.
HSU Police: (707) 826-5555
Arcata Police: (707) 822-2428
Eureka Police: (707) 441-4060
Humboldt Co. Sheriff:
(707) 839-3857 (McKinleyville)
(707) 725-7550 (Fortuna)
(707) 445-7251 (Eureka)
(If you are an HSU student, university police are often a good first step in helping you navigate the system even if the assault did not occur on campus).
Know your rights and resources
HSU Students: Aside from the option of contacting the police, you may wish to report the assault to the HSU Dean of Students, Randi Darnall Burke at 707-826-5694 or darnall@humboldt.edu. Randi will provide you with options for support and accommodations as well as possibilities for holding accountable the person who harmed you.
Process of Healing
You may not know how to feel or act following a sexual assault. We all handle crises in our own unique way. You may feel numb, angry, sad, embarrassed, fearful... you may question whether the assault really happened... you may have physiological symptoms (headaches, stomachaches, panic attacks)... you may feel like you are going crazy or may feel totally powerless. These are all normal reactions to a horrific event such as a sexual assault. You are not "going crazy" and you will regain a sense of control over your life. Negative feelings will lessen with time, but for some, trauma reactions (such as flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance, increased startle response, suspiciousness/mistrust, etc.) may linger and be disruptive in your life for a while. If these reactions are long lasting or significantly troubling/disruptive, you should seek therapy to assist you in the recovery process.

Talking about the assault, whether with a friend, family member or therapist, is a key part of the healing process.
Taking Care of Yourself...
Get support from people that will validate your feelings.
Talk about what happened and share your feelings-- but at your own pace. You choose what level of detail to share. Pay attention to your own feelings of safety.
Engage in healthy life style choices. Eat well, sleep well, get exercise... avoid alcohol, pot, sugar...
Engage in activities that feel good and that inspire your creativity. Start a new novel, finger paint, garden, journal, take up guitar...
Carve out "me time" when you need it-- time to be alone, reflect, relax
Seek physical affection from safe and trusted individuals. Let yourself be hugged, held... Did you know that hugging releases your body's natural pain-killers?
Find a way to process and release your difficult feelings (anger, sadness, anger, shame...). This could be through talking with a therapist or friend or by writing a letter to your attacker [that you may choose not to send] or through some artistic or ritualistic endeavor.
YouTube Stories
Healing from Sexual Assault
Additional Resources that you might find helpful
Sexual Assault Resource Agency (SARA), Voices of Hope and Healing: http://saracville.org/
Hotline: 434-977-7273 (available 24/7)

RAINN: Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network: https://rainn.org

Pandora's Project: Support and resources for survivors of rape and sexual abuse: http://pandys.org/

"It's Time to Change Our Approach to Sexual Assault"-- read this story and more in HuffPost: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rachelle-menn/the-problem-with-our-approach-to-sexual-assault-_b_6753386.html

It is not your fault.
You are not alone-- reach out / let others in.
It gets better--
Take the path of healing!
After a Sexual Assault:
a Pathway to Healing
Note: Most employees on campus are "mandated reporters" of sexualized violence and must notify Randi of what they have heard. In such cases, Randi will reach out and offer help. Some campus personnel (CSA's and medical staff in the SHC) are also required to contact UPD.
you get to choose what (and with whom) you wish to share.
For details of campus procedures, see: http://www2.humboldt.edu/stoprape/index.html.
If you plan to report: do not wash, comb, or clean any part of your body or change your clothes (if possible). Try to keep all evidence in tact and unaltered.
If you decide to file a police
report, a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) may be ordered-- this involves a medical exam and care which includes collection of evidence. A SART exam is more likely to be ordered if it falls within 72 hours of the assault. Most SART exams occur at St. Joseph Hospital (in Eureka).
The North Coast Rape Crisis Team will provide you with an advocate to help you through the process if you like. Call 707-445-2881 any time of day. Services are free of charge.
Sexual Assault:
any sexual contact that occurred without your knowing and willing consent.
If you are physically injured:
Seek Medical Care. Medical staff can treat injuries and offer emergency contraception and STI testing (if applicable). Be aware that medical professionals (MDs, RNs, FNPs...) are mandated reporters-- if they recognize your injuries as resulting from sexual assault they will contact law enforcement. It is your decision as to whether you wish to share information with health care personnel or law enforcement. You have the right to your privacy and can share or not share details of what happened as you wish.
Remember: It Is NOT your fault.
Also: Be aware that sexual assault falls under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Here is a link to the HSU Policies on Sexual Assault, Intimate Partner/Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking Policy: http://www2.humboldt.edu/policy/PEM-P14-03Sexual-Assault-Intimate-PartnerDomestic-Violence-Dating-Violence-and-Stalking-Policy

There are several entities on and off-campus that can provide CONFIDENTIAL support (i.e., are NOT mandated reporters of sexualized violence of an adult). These include:
Counseling & Psychological Services, HSU at 700-826-3236
North Coast Rape Crisis Team at 707-445-2881
Humboldt Domestic Violence Services at 1-866-668-6543
University Police Department at 707-826-5555
Health Education: Mira Friedman and Mary Sue Savage (both at 707-826-5234)
Remind yourself:
the assault is over
you are safe
you are a survivor
you will feel better
There IS life after sexual assault | Breaking my silence
a TED talk worth watching
Jackson Katz: Violence against women--it's a men's issue
This one is a bit academic, but will get you thinking...
Counseling is available to help.
CAPS: 826-3236
North Coast Rape Crisis: 445-2881
Many survivors of sexual assault or abuse find group therapy to be essential in their healing. In a group with other survivors, you realize that you are not alone.
Consider joining the CAPS survivor group: http://www2.humboldt.edu/counseling/groups_workshops.html
Of Note...
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