The Aftermath of Sexual Assault & How DOVE Can Help

by | Mar 27, 2023 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Experiencing a sexual assault is traumatic and overwhelming. You may not know how to process what’s happened or know how to seek appropriate care. 

If you have experienced sexual assault, please know that you don’t have to go through the process of healing alone. Below are some frequently asked questions about DOVE Center’s sexual violence services that may help point you in a direction where you feel safe and heard.

“What should I do after being sexually assaulted?”

Your brain is in overdrive and continues to secrete stress hormones after experiencing something traumatic. The brain wants to protect you from the traumatic event, and essentially, will shut down some brain functions in the process.

It’s OK if you aren’t thinking about “next steps.”

Do what makes you feel safe in the moments after the assault. That may look like lying in bed with a warm blanket, calling someone you trust, snuggling up with your fur baby, going for a drive or blasting your favorite music. 

Once you feel safe, we encourage you to seek medical care as soon as possible to assess immediate injuries and receive preventive treatment for sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy. 

There is a five day window of time after an assault in which evidence of the crime can be collected. This is called a forensic exam or a sexual assault kit exam. The evidence can be collected and stored until you are ready to decide if you want it sent to the Crime Lab for analysis. 

You have plenty of time to decide whether or not you want to report the crime. But you only have this short five-day window for the evidence to be collected. A DOVE advocate will respond to the hospital for emotional support during the forensic exam.

Most importantly, know that what happened is not your fault. Nothing you said or did forced someone else to commit a crime against you. Be kind to yourself. 

DOVE advocates are here to help you through your healing process when you’re ready. There is no timeline to healing, and there are many paths to healing.

We offer advocacy, trauma-informed counseling, support groups and more that are free of charge and confidential. With the right resources, support and time — you can improve on your natural coping skills and recognize the strength of resilience within you.

“What is DOVE’s Hospital Advocacy Response Team?”

Our Hospital Advocacy Response Team consists of trained advocates who provide one-on-one support to survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence. We have a trained advocate on call 24/7 to respond to the hospital.

DOVE advocates can provide emotional support, help explain the forensic exam process, and provide information and resources. We also provide supportive resources to friends and family of a survivor, so they understand how to best support you after an assault.

“What if my assault took place outside of Utah or Washington County?”

You can still access DOVE’s services and get a forensic exam at St. George Regional Hospital if the assault occurred outside of Utah. However, Utah Office for Victims of Crime reparations may not be available to pay for HIV prevention medications. 

If you live outside of Washington or Kane County, DOVE advocates will refer you to service providers closer to your home.

“What if I think I’ve been sexually assaulted, but I’m not quite sure?”

If you’re not sure if something that you experienced was sexual assault, you can call DOVE’s 24-Hour Helpline to talk with an advocate about what you experienced.

There is no harm or shame in asking questions. Our advocates are here to provide judgment-free support and can help you understand what you experienced. 

“Do I have to report my assault to law enforcement?”

Whether or not you report to law enforcement is completely up to you, with the exception of being a minor. 

Make sure to let your advocate and forensic nurse know if you don’t want to report to law enforcement. If you are a minor, they are mandated by law to report your assault.

One of our advocates can help discuss what that process might look like with you if you do choose to report. 

“What if I’m under 21, and I was drinking?”

You won’t get in trouble for drinking. 

Our advocates, forensic nurses and law enforcement are more worried about what happened to you and getting you the care you need.

It’s also important to note that people intoxicated with drugs or alcohol cannot give consent. 

“My friend told me about their assault. How can I help them?”

The most important thing you can do for someone who has been sexually assaulted is to believe them. Your loved one is more likely to report their assault or seek help if you provide them with support and believe them.

Don’t pressure your friend to do something they’re not ready for. Let them know that you are there for them and can help them find resources.

“I experienced sexual abuse as a child but never told anyone. Is it too late to share my story?”

Whether the abuse you experienced happened two years ago or 50 years ago, you can still access trauma-informed services at DOVE.

Everyone shares their story at their own pace. There is no timeline on when you are expected to share your story.

“I’m married and was forced to have sex with my partner. Is this a normal part of a relationship?”

Being forced to engage in sexual acts is never OK, regardless of how you know someone or how long you’ve known them.

Feeling safe in an intimate relationship is just as important as feeling safe anywhere else. 

DOVE is here to help

These questions don’t begin to cover all of the concerns regarding sexual assault. Our advocates are trauma-informed and can help you navigate the uncertainty of what you’ve experienced. We want to help empower you with the tools to find safety, enhance coping skills and regain control over your life. 

If you would like to speak to one of our advocates or have additional questions about our services, you can call our 24-Hour Helpline at 435-629-0458 or email [email protected].