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Helpful Resources for Sexual Assault Victims and Their Allies

In the 1980s, activists began to use October for domestic violence awareness month, but they also wanted something that gave a voice to the issues of Sexual Assault and raised awareness for it. Thus, activists devoted April to Sexual Assault Awareness Month. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, RAINN, every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. People ages 12 to 34 years old are at the highest risk for sexual assault and rape. One in every six American women has been victims of either an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. College students who are women ages 18 to 24 years old are three times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence, whereas females of the same age who are not enrolled in college are four times more likely to experience sexual violence. These are just some of the average statistics on sexual assault in America. Here is what you can do if you or someone you know has ever been a victim of any form sexual assault or rape:

1. Talk to Someone

Many survivors of sexual assault do not like to tell someone about their experience because they are scared. This can be a very bad thing most of the time though due to the loss of evidence against the person(s) who committed the act.

2. Seek Help

RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline for those in need of its services, they can be reached online and by phone; 800.656.HOPE. You can also contact your local or school police department which will help you reach the resources that you need. As soon as possible, you or your friend need to seek medical attention, even if there are no outward injuries, as it is still recommended to speak with a medical professional. Forensic exams are done by specially trained nurses in the emergency room and are free for victims of sexual assault. Exams may preserve crucial evidence should you choose to report, though reporting to police is not necessary in order to have an exam completed. You can further preserve evidence by not bathing, washing your hands, eating or smoking until the forensic exam has been completed.

Here is a list of free resources for sexual assault victims:

Anti-Violence Project 212-714-1141

Darkness to Light 1-866-FOR-LIGHT (866-367-5444)

Loveisrespect 1-866-331-9474

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233

RAINN 1-800-656-HOPE

Safe Horizon 1-800-621-HOPE (4673)

3. Seek Support

There are many different types of recovery including therapy and self-care. If you or a loved one wants to seek help from therapist but are not sure where to look for one, you can look at Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Referral Helpline at 1.800.662.HELP (4357) or search for a local treatment center using their locator tool. You can also visit centers.rainn.org to find a local sexual assault service provider that can connect you with resources in your area who are prepared to help survivors of sexual assault.

Sexual assault can happen through physical force or threats of force or if the attacker gave the victim drugs or alcohol as part of the assault. It is never too late to get help. Getting support after a sexual assault can help ease the pain. You are not alone. Reach out to friends or family, talk to a counselor or advocate or join a support group in person or online. Since April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, take this opportunity to become an ally, not a bystander.

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Autumn is a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University studying Forensic Science with a concentration in Biology and minors in Anthropology, Biology, and Chemistry. She has an addiction to Starbucks and Panera Mac and Cheese and can usually be found with her nose in a book during her free time. She is also an active member of VCU's Rowdy Rams and the Forensic Science Student Club. In her free time, she loves to watch movies and hang out with her friends and family; including her beloved dog, Jake.
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