Sexual assault affects every survivor differently, and each person's response may be impacted by the nature of the assault, your individual and family history, or other life circumstances. There is no right way to react after a sexual assault, and you know best what choices are right for you. As you decide want you want to do next, remember that what happened to you is not your fault. The perpetrator alone is responsible for their actions.
A community sexual assault program can help you navigate the emotions, choices, and systems that you may encounter following a sexual assault. Advocates are available to discuss your concerns and connect you to resources. Specifically, they can answer questions about your options and rights, provide support and coping strategies, accompany you to medical or legal appointments, and help you navigate systems and situations related to your experience of sexual assault. You are not alone.
If you are over the age of 18, it is your decision whether or not you want to make a report to your local law enforcement agency and participate in the criminal justice system. If you are under the age of 18, mandated reporters, such as medical professionals, counselors, and teachers, are required to report the assault to child protective services or law enforcement. Making a report does not guarantee that the person who assaulted you will be arrested, prosecuted, or convicted. There are many variables that come into play at different stages of the criminal justice process. Your experience is valid whether your case leads to a conviction or it is never reported at all.
You may have medical concerns following an assault, even if it was a long time ago. Some immediate concerns commonly include pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. A medical provider can address most immediate health concerns following a sexual assault.
Medical Forensic Exam
These forensic exams are only done by a trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. The documentation and samples collected during a sexual assault forensic exam may be helpful evidence if you choose to report the assault to law enforcement. If this is a consideration for you, it is best to have the exam within 120 hours of the assault and that you try not to wash any part of your body or your clothes until after the exam. You are still encouraged to seek medical attention even if you are past this time frame or already taken a shower.
You have the right to have a support person (family, friend, advocate) present with you. The costs of the initial sexual assault forensic exam are covered by Washington State's Crime Victim Compensation program whether or not your choose to report to law enforcement.
As part of an exam, you should be offered emergency contraception and antibiotic prophylaxis that can prevent certain sexually transmitted infections.
There are civil options that are separate from the criminal justice system that you might find helpful. For example, you may want to seek a sexual assault or domestic violence protection order in civil court that can prohibit the person who assaulted you from contacting you or coming within a certain distance of you, your home, and your workplace.