I have talked ad nauseam about my experience from a whole bunch of different angles. But I don’t have any posts yet for giving concrete step-by-step advice on what to do when you’re assaulted.
Tomorrow, I’ll do a post on what to do in the immediate aftermath from an assault, but today, I’m writing about how you get help after the first day or two.
First off, this is based on my experience. Yours very well might be different. If you went to the hospital (which I think is a smart thing to do), they may already give you resources.
But the number one piece of advice for someone I can give to anyone dealing with the after effects of sexual assault is to keep fighting until you get what you need.
That is an exceptionally hard thing both to hear and to do. If you were affected like I was, it is hard to do anything. It’s like, “I can barely get out of bed, and you want me to be my own best advocate? What the heck is this? I don’t know anything about this world.”
When I first was dealing with everything afterward, I called RAINN’s hotline on more than one occasion. (That was my first step.) Their number is 800-656-4673. If you can’t speak with someone, they also have an internet chat option.
If you are trying to get away from an abuser who pays for your phone or has the ability to check up on who you’re calling or what website’s you’re visiting, do your best to cover that up. Call from a friend’s phone, or your work phone, or anything like that.
When you call into RAINN’s line, they will route you somewhere local. So, you can give your zip code and magically be routed to help.
At the time (well, and to some extent even now), I was still living part-time in New York, and part-time in California.
Weirdly enough, it was the California line that actually helped me to get long-term help.
The New York line just offered to give me the info for a place in upstate that would’ve meant hours-long commutes to therapy. (It wouldn’t have been totally impossible for me. I certainly thought about it, and would’ve been willing to try. But it would’ve been really hard – especially when therapy is on weekdays, and you do have to work…)
It was getting connected to a California phone line (specifically a line run by Peace Over Violence) that gave me what I needed. The woman on the phone (I remember her name :-), but am keeping her anonymous for her privacy’s sake) – she was well-versed in where I could go for California help. She wasn’t as well-versed in New York (why would she be?). And she asked if she could have my number and do some research and called me back.
And she did.
I don’t know where she did her research, but she found an incredible place right by my apartment that had all the services I could ever need or ask for. It’s not on the RAINN map when you put in my zip code. Whatever New York hotline number I was connected with didn’t have the info. A person in California gave me more help than she’ll probably ever know just by taking the time out of her day to do the research for me, and remembering to call me back and tell me.
Not only did she call me back and leave the information. She called again about a week later to check in! I was not strong enough to help myself at that point. So, thank goodness for her helpfulness.
And the last tiniest hurdle was that the place that ultimately helped me did not call me back right away. They are wonderful and responsive and great. But somehow my message got lost in a shuffle, or I thought I was leaving a voicemail when somehow I wasn’t or something. They didn’t call me back. And it would’ve been easy to give up on the idea of getting help.
But eventually, I called one more time. They answered. And the rest is history.
I tell that story to illustrate that to me, the number one piece of advice I can give is do not stop seeking help until you get it. Someway, somehow, by somebody. It might not be the help you originally thought you would get. It might happen in a roundabout way. It might be an uphill climb to get there. But then when you do get there, you have someone to help you. There is always an option, an answer somewhere. You may have disappointments along the way (which I’ll talk about two days from now). But even in the midst of disappointments, there is help. Somewhere. And I wish you the best of luck in finding it.
As a reminder, I personally think the RAINN hotline is the best/easiest way to start:
If you live in Los Angeles, I think Peace Over Violence is an exceptional resource.
And if you live in New York, the Crime Victims Treatment Center is – to me, beyond words to describe it’s full-scale helpfulness in every way.
I’m sure there are more – both in those cities, and around the world. And if you need a different resources, I believe as hard as it can be, there is a way to find them. And as exhausting as it can be, please do not stop fighting for yourself.