HELP FOR VICTIMS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE
Sexual violence can be a severe physical, emotional and sometimes life threatening trauma. It is not unusual to have a wide range of feelings afterwards, including anger, anxiety, depression and distrust. If you were a victim of a sexual assault, you might feel numb. You may have flashbacks, fear for your personal safety and experience changes in eating and sleeping. You may also experience memory problems and be unable to remember some, or all, of the assault. You may be unable to concentrate or you may feel irritable. It may be difficult to complete routine chores. You might not trust people as you once did, even those closest to you.
It is important to remember that these reactions are common responses to your trauma. For most victims, these symptoms decrease over time. Eventually, you will be able to get back into a more normal routine, although you may occasionally have setbacks. For example, your anxiety level may rise around sensory triggers or as the time of court appearances approach.
IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT
Sexual assault survivors often feel as if they are to blame or think they could or should have been able to prevent the assault. But sex assault is a crime, and the perpetrator is the one responsible. Help is available. The most important thing you can do is get support. You cna confide in a friend, partner, family member or anyone you trust. Reach out to those who can help you – a sexual violence advocate, a victim/witness advocate, a crisis hotline, or a counseling agency. They can have someone accompany you to the hospital, the police, prosecutor’s office or to court.
It is also important to seek medical assistance. you may have sustained serious physical injuries you are not aware of in the assault. You may be at risk for sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy.
LOVED ONES NEED HELP TOO
The support you receive from your loved ones, acquaintances and the community will be important in helping you recover. People close to you may be having difficulty too. They may need to voice their feelings. They also need to gain a better understanding of ways they can help you. the same resources available to you are available to them.
TALK TO SOMEONE YOU TRUST
There are some people who blame the victim and may not be understanding, especially when the suspect is someone you know. This can make you feel isolated or confused. You may blame yourself or feel ashamed. If the person you choose to tell is not supportive, a sexual violence care agency or hotline will be. They offer free counseling by phone or in person. Talking about your feelings is never easy, but it is the key to healing, no matter how long ago the assault happened. Most victims find they feel better if they have the opportunity to discuss freely and confidentially any problems or emotions they are experiencing.
The choice to speak with others about the crime, including law enforcement authorities, is up to the victim. If you do not want to speak to medical or law enforcement personnel you are not required to do so. Sometimes it’s hard to decide whether or not you want to talk about the assault. A sexual violence counselor, whose services are confidential, can help you weigh your options in making this decision. Your needs and desires are important. With your cooperation, authorities may be able to apprehend and prosecute the perpetrator.
A victim of sexual violence can request a Sex Offense Restraining Order (SORO) pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:14-12, N.J.S.A. 2C44-8, also known as Nicole’s Law. Under this law, defendants charged or convicted of sexual offenses can be prohibited from having any contact with the victim. Contact the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit, Child Abuse Unit or Victim Witness Unit for more information.
Resources for sex assault victims
Camden County Prosecutor’s Office Victim Witness Unit – (856) 225-8440
Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, SANE Coordinator – (856) 365-3111
Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, Major Crimes Unit – (856) 225-8659