To talk to a crisis counselor 24/7, call our support line!
There is no one way to react to sexual violence. There is no “right” or “correct” response. Sexual violence impacts every individual differently based on the vast array of identities and circumstances unique to them. It is common for sexual violence to interfere with a survivor’s physical and emotional health as well as their ability to participate fully in their lives from social interactions and relationships to work or school. The economic impact can also be far reaching, from possible medical or hospital bills to lost wages.
In the immediate aftermath, it is common for survivors to experience shock and disbelief. Other symptoms in both the short and long-term can include hypervigilance, sleep disturbance, depression & anxiety, increased/decreased appetite, numbness, anger, and difficulties with trust.
There are as many “normal” reactions as there are individual survivors.
The most important thing to remember is that someone who has experienced sexual violence has survived what likely was a life-changing trauma. There are short and long term effects, and recovery is typically not linear. No matter where you are, or where your loved one is in their process, we are here to help.
Filing a Report
Sexual assault and rape are crimes. If a person who has experienced these forms of violence chooses to do so, they may file a police report to pursue a criminal justice case. The report should be filed in the county in which the assault or rape occurred. Law enforcement will determine whether the violence reported meets the elements to charge the perpetrator with a crime and determine what evidence has or can be collected to prove the case in a court of law. In Kentucky, felony offenses have no statute of limitations. This means that if the offense could be charged as a felony, a victim/survivor may report at any time, even many years after the violence occurred.
We trust that survivors of sexual violence know best what is safe for them and what poses a threat to their safety. Survivors may have to explore questions like whether to report to police, who to disclose their experiences to, or how to feel safe if they fear encountering the perpetrator after the assault.
If you or someone you know needs to safety plan, the document below is a good starting place. Our crisis counselors can help survivors plan for their safety based on what they know or feel poses a threat to them or those they love. Please call our support hotline for further assistance.
The medical-forensic exam performed at an emergency room may take several hours to complete. It should be conducted based on the account you give to the medical professional, who will determine which areas of the body may hold potential forensic evidence. The purpose of this exam is twofold; to attend to the medical needs of the survivor, and to collect forensic evidence which can be used in a criminal prosecution of the offender. The exam may include a blood test, speculum exam, vaginal, anal, and oral swabs along with swabs taken on other parts of the body correlating to the victim’s account. The examiner may pluck head or pubic hairs. Specialized equipment such as a black light may be used to identify body fluids on the victim’s body. A colposcope and/or high definition digital camera can help visualize or capture images of microscopic physical injury to the genitals or other parts of the body.
Though this exam can be lengthy and detailed, it can collect critical evidence to help in prosecution of the perpetrator if this is something the victim wants or may want. A victim can have evidence collected and get their medical needs met without making a decision whether to report to police immediately. State law (KRS 216B.400 (10)(c)(3)) dictates that the evidence collected should be held for one year after the exam is performed to allow the victim time to decide whether to pursue criminal charges.
The medical-forensic exam should be paid for by the Crime Victims’ Compensation Board. However, victims may be billed for portions of the medical care they receive, such as x-rays, physician fees, or an ambulance fee if they are transported by ambulance. For additional information about cost, please see our Crime Victims Compensation Board section linked below, or visit http://cvcb.ky.gov/Pages/default.aspx.
Crime Victims' Compensation
Crime Victims Compensation Board (CVCB) provides funding to help offset the expenses survivors of crimes experience as a result of their victimization. If a sexual assault survivor chooses to get a medical-forensic exam at a Kentucky emergency room, the cost of a sexual assault forensic exam (also called a SAFE or sexual assault exam kit, SAEK) should be covered by CVCB. This is true whether or not a survivor chooses to report to police at the time. The survivor can also access prophylactic medications to prevent pregnancy and common sexually transmitted infections free of charge. They may also qualify to receive prophylaxis to prevent HIV, a portion of which may also be paid for by CVCB. These expenses are paid by the CVCB sexual assault fund.
Survivors can also choose to apply for reimbursement of expenses they have incurred as a result of their victimization. For example, they may have had to replace eyeglasses, have x-rays, or lost wages from missed days at work. If the survivor reported to police, they can apply for reimbursement of any expenses they have paid. These expenses may be paid through CVCB’s general fund for crime victims.
Coping with the aftermath of sexual violence can be incredibly difficult. Self-care is part of the foundation for a successful recovery. Self-care is an ongoing practice that is important not only when a trauma has recently occurred but at all times. Self-care refers to activities and practices that we can engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and maintain and enhance our short- and longer-term health and well-being (University of Buffalo School of Social Work).
We know that sexual violence disproportionately impacts people in marginalized communities. Because sexual violence is about power and control, we know that perpetrators look for and take advantage of perceived or real vulnerabilities. Those vulnerabilities can be diverse and include:
Physical, psychological or intellectual disabilities
Limited English proficiency
Undocumented immigration status
Being a member of a community that is distrustful of or targeted by law enforcement
Being a person of color
Differences in age or authority
The most important thing to remember is that being targeted is NEVER the victim’s fault. We will do our best to meet survivors where they are, see them as whole people whose identities and lived experiences impact how they experience trauma and what choices are available to them afterwards, and to understand that each survivor’s needs are different based on their unique experiences and identities. We will also work to prevent sexual violence in ways that account for the interlocking systems of oppression that uphold sexual violence in our communities.
To talk to a crisis counselor 24/7, call our support line!