Rape happens to many people. Most believe that by walking in groups, carrying pepper spray, and being alert to ominous strangers they can prevent rape. Often people let their guard down with the people closest to them; in their minds, those closest are the safest. What if you knew that the most common type of rape is committed by people who know each other? That is a scary thought, but it’s reality. In 2010, the FBI’s UCR (Uniform Crime Reporting) statistics stated 76% of perpetrators of rape were intimate partners (either current or former). That begs the question, what happens if your partner rapes you? What do you do? There are a couple of options that one can take if they were raped, especially by a partner. First, check the laws in your state, some states treat marital rape differently.
Option one: Reporting
If you choose that you want to report a rape or sexual assault that happened to you there are some things that can help the process along. After being raped or sexually assaulted, most are in shock and denial. If you’ve made the decision you want to report, do not shower or wash your clothes. If the rape was violent, take pictures of the wounds and do not wash them. A rape kit can be done within 96 hours of the rape or assault, so it’s important to not shower and wash away evidence. Along with taking those steps, writing out a statement while the rape or assault is fresh in your mind is a good idea and date the statement. If there is someone you trust and have told them, if you feel comfortable asking them to go to the station with you, that might help with the anxiety of reporting.
Getting to the station, having your statement written will save you time. The cops will still ask for you to recount the event, but if you have a written statement they can take it to a copy machine and give you a copy and keep the original as evidence. If you go to the station within 24 hours of the assault you have a better chance at being believed by the cops. Sadly, some cops are not always equipped with psychological knowledge of trauma, and erroneously make errors of judgement in a victim’s authenticity based on the time that has passed since the assault occurred (to learn further on police procedures and beliefs, check the resources at the end- “Rape: One of the Most Challenging Crimes to Prosecute”). If you do report the incident right after it happened, and you haven’t had a rape kit done, the police will usually get you to a hospital to get one done to collect evidence. A rape kit can take hours and can be invasive, but it’s important to collect evidence so you have the best chance at getting your rapist.
Cops will ask you many questions like “what you were wearing, was alcohol or drugs involved, did you say no or resist in any way.” These questions can feel like they are blaming the victim, and often victims of rape aren’t aware that they can have a victim’s advocate with them while they are giving their statement. Victim advocates are there to help you understand the legal process and also are witnesses to how the cops questioned you. Other questions might be, “how long did it go on for, what time was it, do you know your rapist,” etc.
Reporting to the police is the best option for victims instead of reporting to colleges. Colleges are often looking out for the reputation of the college (check out “The Hunting Ground” on Netflix), and trials are composed of students and teachers who are not equipped with the legal knowledge or criminal proceedings. Rapists often get away with maybe writing an apology letter, but the fact they raped someone is confidential and that rapist can then go on to rape again after college. Reporting to police ensures that there is a report on the individual and if that individual assaults another who reports, there will be a trend that is shown.
Option two: Not Reporting
If you choose to not report, that is your right. After being raped or sexually assaulted some individuals suffer from Acute Stress Disorder, which happens after trauma. Symptoms can include being hypervigilant, dissociation, and an intense sense of fear, and flashbacks to the incident. If symptoms persist for more than a month, then you may be experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Often victims can reach out to their Rape Crisis Center and get immediate free and anonymous counseling to help in the immediate aftermath. Long-term care would include finding a therapist who specializes in trauma and can help you process the incident and help you integrate back into life. Also surrounding yourself with people you know are safe and positive is good. A support system is very beneficial in healing and reintegrating.
If you have been raped, here are some sources to help you move forward and be more informed on the process of reporting:
Rape is a very sensitive topic, and most people do not report their rape. Rape victims often are scared that they won’t be believed and instead blamed, especially if raped by an individual they know. Victim blaming often comes from the belief in the “just world hypothesis,” which is when people believe good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Essentially, they believe people get what they deserve. It’s a psychological defense mechanism to make that individual feel safer because they believe they are a good person, so they can’t get raped if they believe that. It’s a fallacy that gives them a sense of safety when in reality the only way they would be safe was if there weren’t any rapists. If you’ve been victim blamed, know that it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the person who blamed you. The only person that caused the rape or sexual assault to happen is the rapist.