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During the time immediately after an assault, you may feel lost, isolated, and unsure of what to do. You may not be aware of any available local resources, and reaching out to find help may feel overwhelming.
The good news is that there are plenty of resources, programs, and facilities available to help you through this time, and they’re just a phone call away. Taking that initiative to ask for help requires strength, but it’s also the first step in recovering from this trauma.
Assault occurs in many different forms, and in some cases, you may be unsure if what you’ve experienced qualifies as assault. Under the broadest definition, assault is a violent attack or “a threat or an attempt to inflict physical contact or bodily harm on a person.”
You can experience assault in many different settings, including in the workplace. Workplace violence and assault is a widespread issue, though it is especially prevalent in key fields like nursing and social work. It costs an estimated $4.3 billion in staff turnover, workers’ compensation claims, and other expenses every year.
Workplace violence can take on many forms, including bullying from a supervisor, assault from a customer, and even violence between co-workers. It can lead to a lack of employee trust and victims may fear repercussions from supervisors or their employers if they speak out.
If you experience workplace violence, it’s important to report it to your human resources department. You may also want to have a consultation with a lawyer to learn about your rights, especially if you’re worried about a supervisor or co-worker retaliating against you for reporting the issue.
Victims of sexual assault are also often hesitant to report the attack or to reach out for help. Many victims are unsure if what’s taken place is actually considered an assault. If you have questions about whether you were assaulted or raped, understanding consent can help. Even if you’ve given consent, you can change your mind and reverse that decision at any time. To give consent, you need to be conscious and of legal age. You cannot be coerced into “agreeing” to have sex, as this behavior displays a clear lack of enthusiastic consent.
As difficult as it may be, it’s important to reach out for help after any type of assault. The trauma of an attack can result in physical and mental health issues that may need treatment. The person who assaulted you could go on to do the same to others if you don’t report the issue. Getting help is difficult, but it’s an important step in your recovery.
Hotlines for Immediate Help
You may feel alone immediately after an attack, but there are many 24-hour hotlines that are always available to help you. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network operates an always-available hotline in both English and in Spanish. Call 1-800-656-HOPE to receive guidance during a crisis. This hotline can help to connect you with local support groups, counselors, legal aid, emergency shelter, and other resources.
The National Center for Victims of Crime hosts a VictimConnect Resource Center for victims of any crime. This hotline can help you to find legal aid, treatment, and other local resources to help during this time. Call 1-855-4VICTIM to speak with a counselor who can help.
LGBTQ+ individuals and HIV-affected violence survivors can call the Anti-Violence Project’s hotline. This hotline offers support to violence survivors in both English and Spanish, and may even be able to accompany victims as they go to the police or to court.
Local Resources and Therapies
The above hotlines may help connect you with some local resources, though you may also need to reach out for local help as well. If you have been raped or are injured, it’s important to get proper healthcare right away. You may want to start by calling the police and then proceeding to your local hospital. The hospital can help to document your injuries, which is an important step if you’re considering pressing charges.
You may need to fight for your health, including your mental and physical health, during this time. Unfortunately, mental health treatment options are somewhat limited in our country, so you may need to advocate for yourself and work to find an appropriate therapist or treatment center. Your primary care doctor may be able to refer you to some local resources, including trauma recovery groups and counselors who specialize in trauma counseling and PTSD.
The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare offers a comprehensive list of resources that can aid in the recovery from trauma. You can use these resources to identify local facilities and programs that can help you.
Ways You Can Prioritize Your Recovery
While the above resources can help you after you experience an assault, don’t forget the resources you’re already connected with — your family and friends. Reach out to a trusted family member or friend who can support you during this difficult time. Simply knowing that someone else in your circle knows about what happened and loves you can make it easier to cope with the aftermath of a trauma.
Having an ally in your recovery can help in other ways too. A friend or family member can support you as you establish habits to return to mental health, such as taking some time to do an activity that you enjoy each day. Other activities, like gardening, allow others to participate in these new habits with you, giving you social support and reassurance.
Finally, many survivors of sexual assault find catharsis in advocating for greater efforts toward educating people about sexual violence and helping communities collaborate to find true solutions. One example is the Take Back the Night Foundation, a volunteer organization dedicated to ending sexual violence. Participating in such organizations can be an affirming experience during your own personal recovery.
It can take years before you begin to feel like yourself again after an attack, but reaching out to the resources available to you is your first step in recovering. Be patient with yourself and, as hard as it may be, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.