1. Find a safe location away from the perpetrator.
2. Know that what happened was not your fault.
3. Consider preserving all evidence of the attack.
4. Seek out a friend or other support person. You may feel confused and not sure what to do. Call someone you trust who will offer you emotional support and help you understand your options. You can also call the Hopeworks Helpline. Trained helpline staff is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer questions or just listen. Your call is free and always confidential. Helpline staff can offer options and help identify what is best for you.
5. Seek medical care as soon as possible. Even if you do not have any visible physical injuries, getting medical attention is very important. In Howard County, you can go to the Emergency Department of Howard County General Hospital, where 24 hours a day, 7 days a week a Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) can be completed. A free exam can be completed even if you choose not to involve the police. Try not to shower, clean yourself, or urinate after an attack, but even if you have, don’t let that stop you from getting to the hospital as soon as possible. Consider remaining in the clothing worn during the assault or putting the clothing in a paper bag (not plastic) so that it can be entered into evidence.
At the hospital, you can ask that an advocate from HopeWorks be with you. Your advocate is there to support you and answer any questions you may have. You can also ask to have your advocate with you during the exam. During the exam, the nurse will treat any injuries you may have and also look for things that might identify the attacker, such as hairs, fibers and body fluids. The exam may include oral swabbing and photographs of visible injuries. An internal exam may be conducted on adolescent and adult women. You may be asked to give hair and blood samples.
NOTE: You have the right to accept or decline any or all parts of the exam. However, it is important to remember that critical evidence may be missed if not collected or analyzed.You may be given preventative treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You may also be offered emergency contraception (EC) if there is a risk of pregnancy from the assault. EC contains hormones like those in birth control pills. They can prevent pregnancy when taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse. EC is safe and effective in reducing the chance of pregnancy.
6. Consider reporting the assault to the police. A support person can go with you to file a report in the county where you were assaulted. A police officer may also meet you at the hospital when you go for a SAFE exam. For investigative purposes, the sooner you report the sexual assault the better. The police will ask you questions, some of which may be difficult to answer, but it is important that you answer them fully and honestly. Telling the police about your sexual assault is difficult but many survivors say that bringing their attacker to justice helped them to heal.
7. Recognize that healing from a sexual assault takes time. Give yourself the time you need and know that it is never too late to get help.