A Proactive Response After Sexual Assault
I am daily moved by the courage and tenacity of those who choose to heal from their pain through therapy as I listen to stories from a huge variety of people. I am honored and humbled to do so. The belief of many who oppose mental health is that therapy is for the faint of heart, but nothing could be further from the truth. My clients are remarkable and resilient beings. I have yet to work with one client who hasn’t moved me in some way. Our company was named The Forging Place drawing from many symbolic meanings, but primarily on the belief that the therapist is not an all-knowing, sophisticated, superior role. Rather we work together, iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17), collaborating for healing and growth. At times, I have mourned that I am sitting in a one student classroom as I have learned so much from the wisdom, wit, and strength shown from my clients.
One of these lessons I am becoming more aware of is the actions to take after a sexual assault. There is a moment of heaviness I often sit through with people. It’s laced with regret, frustration, and grief that washes over them and they say “no one told me...” This can range from no one told me how easily assault can happen, that being careful is not being paranoid, or warning signs. There are lessons in each of these thoughts, but thankfully there are many programs that work hard to raise awareness and women especially of all ages are often quite educated and empowered.
However, when I hear a person grieve that ‘no one told them”, it is almost always in reference to the frustration of being ill equipped to handle the immediate steps when they themselves, their children, their friends are actually sexually assaulted. We focus on prevention, which is extremely wise and undoubtedly kept many from harm, but let us not forget about the education of steps to take after an assault. Unfortunately, there is a difficult and realistic truth that the risk of assault will never go away. Please read the steps below and be aware so that if you or anyone your love comes to you, you will be able to react confidently and wisely.
1. Do not take a shower and save your clothes. Taking a shower is the first thing you might want to do, but should refrain. It is somewhat comforting to change clothes. When you do, bag them in a plastic or paper bag and take them with you when you go to the hospital or crisis center.
2. Depending on the situation, the help you call might be different, but each of these sources will take care of you and get you to helpful, safe, responsible hands. Call the police, 911, or if you are female and live in the River Valley, call the Fort Smith Women’s Crisis Intervention Center (18003590056). We are lucky to have a place like the Crisis Intervention Center, they have a wealth of information, knowledge, and resources. They have a Sexual Assault Response Center, where survivors of sexual assault can receive an immediate free-of-charge forensic rape exam, as well as advocacy and case management services from a response team. The response team consists of Nurses trained by the International Association of Forensic Nurse Examiners, Local Law Enforcement officers and Certified Advocates.
3. Take steps to healing. For many, sexual assault can feel like a death. This is understandable, but there is life after assault. It is important to build a support system as the grief and healing unfolds.
Working with a therapist is proven to be healing after a traumatic event, especially sexual assault (Cowen, Ashai, & Gentile, 2020). Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitizing and Reprocessing (EMDR) are the two leading evidence-based treatments for sexual abuse (Cowen et. Al 2020). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7239557/
Take time to remember for yourself or a loved one these steps. If you would like to work through unresolved trauma our team is well equipped. Jennifer Henry, LPC, LMFT and Theresa Bell, LPC are gifted clinicians and are TF-CBT trained. Katrina Abshere, LSCW is a very experienced clinician and trained in EMDR. All provide a safe place for healing. Call us today at 479.310.9096. We accept most insurances and have non-insurance payment options.