Sexual assault is any sexual activity experienced by an individual that is against her or his will. The perpetrator may be a stranger, a friend, an acquaintance, a lover or partner, a family member, or other person.
Sometimes survivors of sexual assault will minimize their experience, particularly if they know the person involved, or if the incident is not perceived to be as severe as some they know about.
In all cases, regardless of these factors, sexual assault can be profoundly disturbing to the survivor. It is common to feel that not only the body but also the self has been violated. Survivors may feel ashamed, self-blaming and angry at themselves, dirty or disgusting, depressed, and anxious. It is usual to feel a profound loss of control.
Sometimes a person may experience flashbacks of the assault or have nightmares about it. The person may be afraid to be home alone or to go out alone, to return to the place where the assault took place, or to be anywhere the perpetrator may be seen.
It is very important that the survivor focuses on regaining feelings of control in their life. Toward this end, the survivor should be the person to decide what actions to take. These may include telling others, reporting the incident to security, the police, or a member of Residential Education, and finding help through counseling. It can be cathartic to talk to others about the experience, though certainly very painful at first. It also may be helpful to read about others’ experiences or to read about sexual assault, in general, to gain more understanding of the process of personal healing.
Two rape support agencies—the Nord Center and the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center—offer a range of sexual assault services, support, and resources. To contact the Nord Center, dial 1-800-888-6161 from any campus telephone, or 1-440-204-4359 from your cell phone. Ask for a rape crisis advocate. It’s free, anonymous, and available 24/7.