#MeToo | What to Do If You’ve Been Sexually Assaulted or Harassed

Author: Coco Marett
10.18 / Lifestyle

It’s a shame that it has come to this. That we’re still having to explain why we don’t want our bodies and our personal space violated. That none of us are really surprised to see how many women have swept their own experiences with sexual harassment and sexual assault under the rug.

Sparked by the barrage of actresses and models who recently came forward about Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo movement could be compared to pouring water into an ant hole where hundreds of thousands have emerged, fighting and desperate.

I don’t mean desperate in a bad way, I mean desperate for change. Desperate to escape the dark prison of shame and humiliation that they’ve kept themselves in. Desperate to put an end to the belief many women have that somehow, we’re to blame. Did I lead him on? Maybe I shouldn’t have had that last drink. Maybe what I’m wearing is too slutty. Maybe he really was just complimenting me.

As Rihanna once said, “Never underestimate a man’s ability to make you feel guilty for his mistakes.”

Countless women have kept quiet for fear of being scrutinized, shamed or disbelieved, not to mention coming forward means wearing the trauma of one of the ugliest things to happen to you on your sleeve. And then, of course, there’s the fear that coming forward will come across as though you’re just “seeking attention." But the stories these women are telling DO deserve attention because this issue has gone ignored for long enough.

To all of the women out there who are putting themselves on the front line, risking embarrassment, ridicule, and judgment--we hear you, we salute you, and we support you.

So now that we’ve addressed what’s happening, how do we heal? Where do we go? Below is a list of what you can do if you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted or abused.

Reach Out
Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help and don’t ever feel like this is something you have to go through alone. Reach out to a friend or family member that you trust. If you’re feeling hesitant or unsure--think about if things were the other way around. Would you turn a friend or sister away if they asked for help? No, and they won’t do the same to you.

Hotlines
There are many hotlines, most of which are anonymous, that you can reach out to for support, guidance, and resources. A quick search on Google can help you find the right ones in your region. In the United States, RAINN is a great resource with plenty of advice on what to do if you’ve been a victim of sexual assault.

Hospitals
It isn’t an easy thing to do, but for your own sake, it’s best to head to the emergency room as soon as you can if you’ve been sexually assaulted or raped. Internal and external injuries can be assessed, evidence can be collected (from semen and/or from residue under your fingernails or on your clothes) if you wish to report the crime, and sexually transmitted diseases can be treated ASAP. Don’t worry about feeling embarrassed--you are not in the wrong, and you need to put yourself and your body first. The doctors and nurses are there to help you.

At Work
It’s staggering how common sexual harassment is in the workplace. Whether it’s a highly inappropriate comment or an ass grab, it’s not right and you don’t have to tolerate it--and you’ll be glad to know that most workplaces don’t either. If things are getting unsavory with a colleague, you have the right to file a complaint with your superior or with your company’s HR department.

Police
Most areas have officers who specialize in sexual assault, but even if they don’t, you have every right to file charges against your attacker. Reporting, especially against someone you know, can be overwhelming, so make sure you gather as much information and specific details as possible before filing a report. If you have an officer who isn’t taking you seriously, ask to speak to their supervisor.

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