I’ve Been Assaulted. What Do I Do Now?

Adapted from my article on https://www.agoracosmopolitan.com/news/lifestyles/2019/06/16/13797-ive-been-assaulted-what-do-i-do-now.html

In three previous articles, Have I Been Raped or Not?, Tell Me Why? and Men Can Be Victims, Too, the topics of sexual assault and domestic violence were discussed. These crimes leave people physically and/or emotionally scarred and can change lives in an instant. Fear of retaliation or stigma, embarrassment, confusion, pain, and betrayal are just a few of the emotions associated with being violated. Feelings such as these can also contribute to not reporting attacks. 

If you have been assaulted, it is imperative that you seek medical care immediately, especially in cases of sexual assaults or where injuries need immediate medical attention. Medical personnel are bound by their profession to not disclose any information without the express consent of the patient, so be assured your privacy will be respected. It’s not uncommon for victims to be reluctant to press charges against attackers if they are known to the victim, so be aware that even if the police are notified, you do not have to press charges at that time. The evidence of the attack will be stored until, and if, such time occurs that you would like to proceed with charges. The exception to this rule is when a lethal weapon, such as a gun or knife, is used in the attack. This, by law, must be reported to law enforcement.

If you have been sexually assaulted, there are several things you should, and should not, do, prior to going to the hospital. DNA evidence is crucial to a case, and much can be destroyed after 48 hours. The best-case scenario would be for you to go immediately to an Emergency Room or call law officers to pick you up and take you there. First and foremost, however, is concern for your safety. Get to a safe place immediately where your attacker cannot harm you further. Call the police or have a trusted person take you to a hospital. In the meantime, and this is tough, do not use the bathroom, comb your hair, rinse your mouth with anything, brush your teeth, wash up, or shower. Keep your clothes on that you were wearing at the time of the attack. These are all very important to the preservation of DNA evidence. Have a friend or family member meet you at the hospital if you are alone.

The first thing they will do when you reach the hospital is to evaluate you for injuries or other urgent medical issues sustained as a result of the attack, preserving evidence as best as they can, but they will not let evidence collection interfere with giving you needed medical care. Once your medical stability has been established, the forensic exam will begin. Many hospitals have specially trained medical forensic examiners, such as SANES (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) to perform this evidence collection so the standards of care will be well-maintained. If you are a victim of physical assault only, they will obtain a detailed history of the incident and take pictures of any injuries. If you scratched your attacker, they may scrape underneath your fingernails for his or her skin. If your assailant spit on you, they will swab that for DNA. They may examine you for any type of foreign body such as hair, dirt, or cloth fibers and preserve them as evidence.

If you have been sexually assaulted, the exam will be more extensive, taking 3-4 hours or more, depending on the severity of the attack. They may draw blood, take pictures of your injuries, remove and keep your clothing, do a pelvic exam, collect hair samples, do swabs of your mouth and any other areas where evidence of DNA may be present on your body. If you are a woman, and vaginal penetration has occurred, they may offer to give you a hormone to prevent conception. This will be your option, and your views on contraception will be respected. They will give you antibiotics to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

They may call a rape crisis specialist to come in, stay with you during the exam, and help you navigate the legal and healthcare systems, including guiding you on follow-up counseling. Have someone bring you a change of clothing, as yours will remain in the custody of the police as evidence.

This process is long and arduous, but essential for creating the best possible setting for the conviction of perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence crimes. It is hard at the time, but try to look past the inconvenience to the future. You don’t have to press charges at that time, but you may feel differently in the coming days, and if you don’t submit to the evidence collection at the time of occurrence, you may very well regret it in the future. No one else will know what happened if you don’t want to tell them. By agreeing to be examined, you will be helping yourself, and possibly future victims. Let it happen and be a party to stopping the violence.

No More Bracelets

As many of you know, recently I have been writing awareness articles on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. For various reasons, I feel led to share the stories of survivors of Domestic Violence. I can either write individual stories, or, if I get enough people to respond, I would like to write a book detailing each experience, information on the issue, and how to find help to get out of unhealthy situations. The title will be explained in the book, but it has significant meaning for me from my years as a forensics nurse. Some cases you just don’t forget.

Domestic violence, or Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), as it is now known, can be in the form of sexual assault, physical assault, or psychological aggression. I want stories from anyone who has experienced any form of IPV: married or unmarried, woman or man, present or past. I would prefer knowing your real name for the purposes of communication and validity, but it will not be used in any publications or discussed with anyone else. If you want to choose your “name” for your story, please do. I’m not a fan of choosing names. I had a hard enough time doing that for my children’s books, but I will certainly do it for you if you don’t want to pick your own. Your story needs to be told. It may be just the thing you need: to talk about it; or it may be just the thing that someone else needs to hear.

As a nurse, and as a writer, too, I guess, I am obligated to protect information unless a person specifically allows me to share it, so nothing you send me will be shared in any way other than what you have approved. I will accept anything that sounds valid, so I do require that you not send anything that is not a true experience. I will not use profanity. If that’s a part of your story, which it may be, the words will be written as “(word deleted)” so the impact of your sentence will not be lost. As much as I may want to do so, I will not be able to report anyone to law enforcement, but if you are in a dangerous situation, my universal answer would be “Get out of there and call the police.” I will write your story with the details you give me, but if you would like to write your own, that’s fine with me, too. I may have to edit for length. This is new territory for me so I’m not quite sure how it will all unfold, but we’ll work together. Men are encouraged to write.

I also request that you share this post with everyone you know. I would somehow like to reach as many people as possible across the United States. That’s a daunting task, but the more representations I can get, the more helpful this project will be for people in different locations. Please send your stories to me at patricsch@itsallwrite.net. I have a questionnaire I will send you, once you express interest, to help make it easier for you. I think the more “academic” it is, the easier it may be for you to relive painful times.

Friends, I have no idea what I am getting into, but I believe I am being led to do it, and God knows better than I do. If I’m not interpreting His instructions properly, He’ll just use His big hand to squish this thing so it doesn’t happen. There will be no judgments, so let that part go. I hope to hear from you. 

Men Can Be Victims, Too.

This is the third article in my Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence series The first one can be found here and the second here.

Based on surveys, the facts are that most sexual offenses are committed by men against women.  I understand that is not acceptable to hear for some people, so to them I offer a challenge: Be a part of the solution. Help to fix those statistics. Don’t complain about a perceived injustice and then offer no solution. Facts are facts, but facts can be changed, and peer pressure works. Go for it.

Back to business now. What may not be quite as evident is that men are abused, too, both physically, emotionally, and sexually, by women. These disruptions of domestic harmony are referred to as Intimate Partner Violence, or IPV. As far as sexual assaults are concerned, statistically, 9.4 % of women in the United States have experienced a sexual assault, and of those, 51.1% were at the hands of an intimate partner. There are no statistics on how many men experience sexual coercion by an intimate female partner, due to their reluctance to admit the incident ever happened; but we know that it does. According to 2018 statistics, 85 % of domestic violence cases are women, and 15 % of cases are men. Looking at it in a different way, 35.6 % of all women and 28.5 % of all men report being abused, in some way, by an intimate partner.  I’m not a statistician but I am trying to be fair and report it from different angles. There are sets of statistics on incidence of events that have been broken down further into different categories and are quite interesting to review, so please check out the links. Whether it is a woman that is being abused or a man, everyone matters.

IPV, which can be in the form of physical or sexual violence, psychological aggression, or stalking, is a very real and concerning global problem. Society still dictates, openly or more subtly, that men must be the alpha presence in the house, and they should never be shown to be weaker than a woman. Men may be embarrassed; may worry that they will not be considered credible; or may worry that their female counterparts will tell a different story, expecting to be believed over the man, which does happen. Even in this burgeoning age of equality, some unwritten, antiquated standards persist, making men reluctant to report assaults by females.

Men are more likely to use physical force to maintain control over their partners, so injures to women are generally more severe than those that men sustain. Women are not exempt from using violence, but when they do resort to it, it usually consists of throwing things at their partners, kicking, biting or spitting. In extreme cases, a woman may attack a man with a lethal weapon in his sleep, sometimes after years of sustained abuse, so she does not have to face physical retaliation. 

More frequently, however, women use verbal and non-verbal methods to coerce. They can verbally abuse men at home, belittle them in front of friends, family, and colleagues or on social media. Mom may threaten to not let Daddy see his children if he leaves her or reports her to the police. If she controls the purse strings, she can damage their financial situation and run up credit cards. A woman could destroy her domestic partner’s belongings or threaten to harm their children or pets. She can be possessive, unreasonably jealous, suspicious, or spread rumors about him.

It is not doubted that both men and women can use manipulative behaviors or physical force to gain power and control over their domestic partners, but data shows that men are more violent, women more verbally manipulative. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule; these are not absolutes, but that knowledge is there.

The consequences of Intimate Partner Violence extend past the couple involved. Victims (survivors), of domestic violence are at risk for long term health issues such as depression, PTSD, residual effects from physical injuries, and anxiety. These effects have the potential to result in loss of productivity at home or at work, relationship problems with others, financial difficulties related to mental health care, lost wages from time off work, health care, and possible legal costs. If there are children involved, things can be scary and complicated for them, too.  

These can be frightening times, but no one needs to go through them alone. Man or woman, you are of value to your family, your friends, and yourself. Seek help at an Emergency Room if needed for treatment and/or documentation of the incident, call the Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233., and enter ongoing counseling to help you cope. But whatever you do, get out and get help. I have heard the complaint that there is no place for men to get help and that is not true. The hotline is for everyone. This link speaks to violence specifically against men. There is help for anyone who chooses to want it. Please want it.

Have I Been Raped or Not?

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

This is a repost of one I wrote for http://www.agoracosmopolitan.com/news/health/2019/05/13/13745-have-i-been-raped-or-not.html

This article will be the first in a series. Sexual assault is an intricate subject that deserves discussion at each level, not have information lost to the restrictions of one submission. The information comes from research and from my own experiences as a SANE. (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner).

She put on her sexiest outfit, got all dolled up and took an Uber to her favorite nightclub. Music, dancing, lights, drinks, and friends. What a perfect night. She ran into an old boyfriend who offered to buy her drinks. It was nice to see him again, so when he offered to drive her home, she accepted. She was a little tipsy but she wouldn’t have to pay for an Uber. Instead of taking her home, though, he stopped at his place. He said he had some coffee and wanted to sober her up before taking her home. While sipping her coffee on the couch, the advances began. She welcomed them, at first, but he kept going farther and farther, and she wasn’t ready for that level of involvement. She kept saying “No”, but he didn’t listen to her. She was still a little drunk, he was strong, and he forced himself on her. She never told anyone. It couldn’t have been rape, she thought, since she knew him; she went home with him willingly; and she was wearing provocative clothing. She had also reached orgasm, so she figured she had wanted it and had brought it all on herself.  Who would believe her, anyway, nice man that he was? She felt ashamed; she was worried about her health and pregnancy; her trust in him, and men in general, was shattered; and she kept it all inside.

The things she mentioned can be contributing factors in a sexual assault, but she was wrong on one major detail: She was raped. None of those other details matter: not the clothes; not the alcohol; not the fact that she knew him; not because she went home with him; and not even because she reached orgasm, which was very confusing to her. She said “NO”, and “NO means “NO”, every time.

Sexual assaults occur worldwide, and more so in developed, more prosperous nations. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 35% of women globally have experienced some type of sexual assault. Statistical results by country are probably not accurate because not all rapes are reported in the same way in each country; some countries have lax laws; some don’t keep statistics at all; and some only report rapes perpetrated by men on women, which is not always true. Statistics are not important, anyway; it’s the acts themselves that need to be considered.

A sexual assault has occurred when one person bestows unwanted behavior or sexual contact on another without explicit permission. “No”, or a variation of it, is the only word that needs remembering, even it is uttered during previously consensual activity. It’s understandable that some men may not want to stop in the heat of passion before completion, but, whether they like it or not, if they continue after she (or he) says any variation of that word “no”, and there has been penetration of any kind, it is considered rape in a court of law. The FBI defines rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” Outside of this, there are various levels of assault, ranging from inappropriate behavior or touching all the way up to rape, with different levels of punishment for each. The fact is that the level of assault makes no difference. “NO” means “NO”. Period.

Next: “The Psychology of Rape.”