What happened to you is not your fault. Sexual violence refers to any unwanted sexual activity where consent and/or permission is not freely given. After an incident of sexual violence, it is common to feel a range of emotions such as shame, fear, loss, grief, anxiety, confusion, depression, guilt, and more.
If you are in immediate danger reach out to emergency services or mobile crisis support (#911 or #988).
A common misconception around sexual violence is that the act only occurs between a person and a stranger. The truth is, sexual violence can happen in a committed relationship, in a platonic relationship, or in a familial relationship. Sexual violence committed by an intimate partner is unfortunately a common experience. Continue reading to better understand what constitutes healthy and unhealthy romantic relationships.
There is a range of coping strategies that survivors of sexual violence may find helpful. The tools that work for you now can shift over time or change in the future, and that’s okay.
Reach out for support
- Find a mental health professional
- Try a support group to connect with other survivors
- Contact a helpline for support services
o National Sexual Assault Hotline: https://www.rainn.org
o National Domestic Violence/Child Abuse/ Sexual Abuse (800) 799-7233
o Abuse Victim Hotline (866) 662-4535
Try various coping strategies
- Reflect through journaling, letter-writing, or meditating
- Create a routine to prioritize your mental and physical health, through exercise, sleep, nutrition, and space/time to process.
- Make time for enjoyable self-care activities
- Try grounding tools such as a body scan, breathing exercises, meditation, and mindfulness
*For some survivors, activities that bring awareness to your body can be a difficult experience. These tools aren’t for everyone. They may be more helpful further along in your healing process and/or with the support of a mental health professional.
Get involved with community supports
- Spend time in environments and spaces where you feel comfortable and safe – a friends house place of worship, community center, etc.
- Reach out to a community organization or volunteer and advocate for other survivors when you’re ready.
Reporting sexual violence
There are many avenues to report sexual violence. Some survivors choose to disclose their story to a mental health professional. Others choose to report the incident formally to law enforcement. There is no obligation, and the choice is entirely up to you.
Community organizations often offer support for survivors of sexual assault and sexual violence. Some offer services including legal and advocacy support, which could accompany you to the hospital, police station, or to court appointments.
- Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline: (888) 293-2080
- Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault: (217) 753-4117
- Resilience: (312) 443-9603
- YWCA Metropolitan Chicago: (312) 372-6600
- Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center (24-hour support line): (847) 872-7799
Taking care of yourself
There are things you can do to help you feel safe and find a sense of peace during this difficult time.
- Familiarize yourself with available supports and how to access them
- Invite a friend to join you if you’re traveling or attending/seeking services
- Be mindful about your social media or online presence
- Keep a list of contacts close by so that you can reach out if you feel worried or unsafe
- Make a plan for situations that feel unsafe – that way if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe in a situation you can act on it right away