Sexual abuse or assault can be traumatizing to the victim, and in most cases, they tend to keep quiet about it. This is out of fear of ridicule, victimization, or blame from others who might not understand what you are going through or are ignorant of your situation. Speaking out as a victim may be challenging, especially if you decide to sue someone for sex abuse and hold them accountable for their actions.
The steps you should take after a sexual assault incident help you start your healing journey instead of inaction. There are two types of lawsuits that you can file in the event of sexual assault: a civil suit where depending on the evidence, should be compensated for the incident, or a criminal suit where you present the case and leave it to be decided upon by a judge and the jury.
Steps to Take After a Sexual Assault
1. Get to Safety
Immediately following the incident, the priority is to get to a safe location to minimize further risk. You might want to be in a familiar place, hear, or see familiar faces for you to calm down. Ensure you get as far away from your abuser if you can to lower your stress levels.
2. Reach Out to Others
It might be challenging because the immediate emotion after sexual assault is usually guilt and shame. In a culture that is built to doubt and justify why things happen, getting the right person to talk to may be complicated. Some people have a strong support system that they can contact, while others prefer talking to strangers and might reach out to the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
There are sexual assault organizations in all states to help you cope during this traumatic time. You might feel like you are responsible for what happened, but that isn’t true no matter the situation. Hearing that from someone else might make you feel better and give you the strength to go through the healing and processes that come next.
3. Seek Medical Attention
Going to the hospital is the healthiest option because medical practitioners will help you prevent things like pregnancy or STIs. They will also administer a rape kit, useful when you eventually decide to file a police report and take legal action against your attacker.
4. Get Psychological Help
You might feel better physically and have the most supportive family and friends, but you will have to deal with the mental effects of the incident even if you think you are okay. Consider talking to a therapist who will help you unpack the experience so that you can cope and eventually heal.
The feeling of shame, guilt, and fear might worsen if you don’t take time to deal with the psychological effects of the trauma, which might affect other aspects of your life. Let therapy give you the tools you need to get better instead of trying to power through on your own. The process will help you to learn to love yourself and your body again.
5. Start Legal Action
Sexual assault victims are often confused about whether to take legal action or not, especially if their attacker is close to them. Ultimately, the choice is yours but if you are strong enough to start the legal process, consider looking for a good lawyer who will see your case through to the end.
Statute of Limitations on Sexual Abuse
Despite the unfairness of this law, there is a time frame for which you must file a civil-based lawsuit seeking damages from the attacker. This means that the time from an attack to the filing of a lawsuit varies from state to state, and one should consult a lawyer in your area to advise you on how to go about the situation. Some exceptional cases have “lookback windows” where perpetrators can still pay for what they did a long time ago.