Sexual Assault/Abuse Survivors
RISE provides support and services for victims of sexual assault or sexual abuse, which includes rape, attempted rape, sexual battery, incest, molestation, spousal rape and statutory rape.
What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is a term used to refer to a wide range of assaults including rape, attempted rape, sexual battery, incest, molestation, spousal rape and statutory rape. It’s important to remember that sexual assault is NOT sex. It is a crime in which sex is used as a weapon. It is an act of hostility and aggression in order to control, dominate, humiliate, and degrade the victim. Sexual assault is an act of forced or coerced sexual contact or penetration when one person does not want to participate, even if there has been sexual contact in the past.
Is sexual assault my fault?
No one ever deserves to be sexually assaulted or abused. No matter where you were, what you were doing or who you were with, it is not your fault.
Is sexual assault sex?
Sex requires your consent. Sexual assault and sexual abuse are crimes used to exert power, to humiliate, and to control. Being forced to have unprotected sex or to engage in more sexual activity than you had wanted is also rape or sexual assault. Whether or not a weapon was used, you probably were very scared. You may have cooperated in order to get out alive. This does not mean you consented. Sometimes cooperation is necessary in order to survive.
Rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse are traumatic experiences. Following an attack, you may have physical pain, injuries, and strong emotional reactions.
You may experience many different feelings, such as self-blame, shame, anger, fear, guilt, or grief. You may find you are unable to concentrate or focus because you “can’t stop” thinking about the assault. You may also experience flashbacks that make you feel nervous, angry or afraid.
The first step to healing
If you have been injured due to a recent sexual assault, seeking health care may be the first step. Please see our resource page for local health care providers.
Should I report sexual assault?
The choice to make a police report after a sexual assault has occurred is intensely personal and often a difficult one. Some survivors find the process empowering. Other survivors may find the process of reporting too difficult.
Only you can decide if making a police report is the right thing for you. RISE staff and volunteers will support you whether or not you choose to make a report.
If you decide to make a police report, please keep in mind:
- It is important to contact the law enforcement agency in the town where the assault took place.
- If you can, contact the police as soon as possible after the assault. There is a greater chance for evidence collection if a report is made sooner rather than later.
- If possible, you should not bathe, brush your teeth, douche, wash, or change clothing. If you must change clothes, the clothes worn immediately before, during and/or after the assault should be placed in a brown paper bag. Law enforcement may request these items in order to collect evidence.
- You have a legal right, in accordance with California Penal Code 679.04, to request the presence of a RISE advocate during the interview during all law enforcement interviews.
- Law enforcement may be contacted by calling 911, by calling the law enforcement agency’s non-emergency phone number, or by physically going into the police station. If the immediate situation is unsafe or if the perpetrator is still present, call 911.
When you report sexual assault/abuse, you will usually be asked to tell a uniformed police officer what happened. The officer may arrive to the scene in a marked police car. This officer’s job is to determine if the situation is safe, what happened and if the event meets the legal definition of a crime. The officer will ask many questions in an effort to assess the situation.
If it is determined a sexual assault has occurred the initial officer will contact a detective/investigator. You will then be asked to participate in an interview with the detective. You may be asked to repeat portions of the entire event. The detective will make the determination whether or not a forensic/medical examination should be scheduled.
What to expect during a medical/forensic exam
If you make a police report, law enforcement may ask you to have a medical/forensic exam. A medical/forensic exam is called a SART Exam, which stands for Suspected Abuse Response Team Exam. Survivors may have RISE advocates present during this process.
If you decide to have a SART Exam, here’s what you can expect:
- The SART Exam is a medical exam, which includes a gynecological exam, performed by trained nurses and/or doctors who attend to the survivor’s medical needs and injuries as well as collect evidence that may be on the survivor’s body.
- The nurse may take saliva, hair, and blood samples as well as photographs of any injuries.
- The survivor may also receive testing for sexually transmitted infections and antibiotics if they choose. Emergency contraceptives are also available to survivors.
- The entire process may take several hours and all services are provided at no cost to the survivor.