First of all, please know that what happened to you isn’t your fault. Anyone can be a victim of assault: whether you are a woman, man, transgender, intersex, or non-binary, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or straight, no one asks for or deserves to be sexually assaulted.
You may be feeling frightened, angry, confused and that’s okay. There isn’t a right or wrong way to feel after a rape. You may have questions for yourself or you may be looking for answers for a loved one. Below you’ll find information and support. If you wish to speak to someone immediately, please call the DOVES Program at 1-866-953-6837 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to speak to an advocate.
I was raped. What should I do next?
First, please make sure you are in a safe place. Whether you’re with a friend, neighbor, police officer, at home or at the hospital, we want to make sure that you are safe from further harm.
Once you're in a place of safety, you will need to make some decisions. It might be hard to think through your options after going through trauma. Below you'll find a list of things to consider:
Q. Do I need medical attention?
A. Even if you believe you haven’t been injured, consider going to the doctor or hospital to receive an examination. It’s important to be checked for injuries and tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. You might also be worried that a pregnancy may result from your assault. You can ask to have a pregnancy test done and request emergency contraceptives.
DOVES may be able to help with expenses related to your medical care. Please call to speak with an advocate.
Q. Do I have to report the rape to the police?
A. No. The decision to make a report is yours. You can decide not to talk with the police if that’s what you feel is best for you. It's important to know that the hospital is not obligated to report a sexual assault to the police (except when a minor or vulnerable adult is the victim); however, they are still required to report serious wounds or injuries which appear to have been received in connection with a crime.
Q. The hospital mentioned a rape exam. What is it and do I have to do it?
A. A forensic exam is conducted to collect evidence from your body. This exam is solely for evidence collection and is not a medical exam to treat you for injuries from your assault. The exam is conducted either by a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) or a nurse or doctor from the hospital. You are not required to have a forensic exam; however, if you decide later you wish to report your rape to law enforcement, the physical evidence of the rape on your body will not be available if you don’t consent to the exam.
If you aren’t sure you want to report the assault to the police, you can still have the evidence collected to have available in case you change your mind. Evidence can only be collected from your body within the first 5 days of your assault. And the longer you wait before asking for a forensic exam, the more likely evidence from the assault will be lost or destroyed.
Q. What does the exam entail?
A. There are a number of steps in the evidence collection process. You might not feel as if you have any control over the process but you do: you can decide if there are steps you do not want to take and you can say no to any part of the exam. Remember, the more evidence the nurse collects, the more evidence is available to prove your case.
Also, if there’s ever a moment when you need a break, ask for one. If you need to smoke or get a drink of water or soda, talk with the nurse about doing parts of the exam that need to collect evidence from your mouth first so that you can have your drink or smoke. If an advocate is with you, they could ask for a break on your behalf if you aren’t comfortable asking yourself.
If you are interested in seeing the step-by-step process for the sexual assault exam or reading more about the Nebraska Medical Sexual Assault Protocol, please click here.
It’s important for you to know that the evidence the nurse collects will be the property of the police and will no longer be your possession. Some victims find it hard to know that such personal and intimate parts of themselves are in someone else’s possession.
Law enforcement pays for the evidence kit. You are responsible for any other expenses not related to the collection of evidence, such as STI or pregnancy testing, or treatments for your injuries such as stitches, bandages, or pain relief.
Q. What will happen if I decide to report my assault to the police?
A. You have the right to have an advocate with you when you talk to the police. The advocate would be available to support you while you tell your story. You may feel embarrassed, scared, or worried. Having an advocate with you may help. The police will want to know all the details and it’s up to you to tell the police exactly what happened. If you were drinking or doing drugs at the time of the assault, don’t hide or lie about those facts when you talk with the police.
You may find that it’s hard for you to remember what happened. You may skip over details only to remember them later. The brain records memories differently during traumatic situations which makes it difficult to remember things clearly. Do your best and be easy on yourself. What you’ve gone through isn’t easy and recalling a traumatic event can be painful.
Q. Can I get a protection order?
A. Yes, you can. Nebraska now has three types of protection order: a Domestic Abuse Protection Order, a Harassment Order, and a Sexual Assault Protection Order. An advocate can assist you to figure out which type of order would be best for your situation.
A Sexual Assault Protection Order does not depend on relationships and is granted because someone subjected or attempted to subject you to sexual contact or sexual penetration without your consent.
Every person and situation is unique—how you are dealing with the assault might be completely different than how another person deals with their assault. We want you to know that how you are feeling, the emotions you are—or aren’t—experiencing, are normal for you. It may be helpful to have an idea of some common reactions to assault other victims have felt. Although no one can fully understand what you have gone through, there are people who are willing to listen and support you during your recovery. If you would like to speak with someone right now, please call the DOVES Program at 1-866-95 DOVES (36837). We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Not all effects of an assault are negative and not all survivors suffer the effects listed above. Some survivors feel more powerful after an assault because they were able to handle the crisis and survive. They may realize what great friends and family they have after everyone pulls together to support them through the trauma. They may feel confident in themselves and want to share their story with other victims. You may feel like a victim or a survivor or maybe a little of both. You may be depressed one day but confident and victorious the next. There isn’t any right or wrong way to feel. You deserve to allow yourself to feel how you need to feel. You deserve to take care of yourself.