“This Just Happened, What do I Do?” How to Report Sexual Abuse and Begin the Healing Process

By Miss Ruth Williams

No one in the world deserves to be a victim of sexual abuse. If it has happened to you, please know this: it was not your fault. Be assured that you did nothing to cause it to happen. But now that you’ve experienced this trauma, it’s a lot to process and you might be in shock. It may not be clear what you should do now.

First and foremost, get to safety. If you have been injured, get medical treatment. If you feel it is appropriate, call the police. When you are in a safe place, reach out to someone you trust, and focus on taking care of yourself now as you begin the healing process. 

This is an experience that might best be navigated with an advocate walking beside you. The NFB has partnered with RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, and, by calling their National Sexual Assault Hotline, you will receive confidential, compassionate support from a trained staff member. 

The number for RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline is 800-656-HOPE (4673), and when you call, you will be guided through the process of getting help. If you do decide to report the incident to the police or seek medical treatment, RAINN can help you find the appropriate resources.

Medical treatment might be advisable in order to prevent pregnancy and to begin prophylactic treatment for Sexually-Transmitted Diseases (STDs.) If you do decide to seek medical treatment, it would be optimal not to bathe or shower until such time as your healthcare provider can collect forensic evidence. This will facilitate an investigation by law enforcement, if you deem it necessary. Writing down any details you can remember about the event will help in this regard as well. 

That being said, in the midst of the physical, emotional, and psychological upheaval you’ve experienced, whether to report the assault, pursue legal action, or seek treatment is your decision and yours alone. 

Please note that if this incident took place in connection with the NFB, you should consider reporting as outlined in the NFB’s Code of Conduct. This will start an inquiry into the events that occurred, and the Violations and Complaint Procedure will be implemented.

You’ve been through a traumatizing experience, and whatever anyone else might suggest to you, only you know what steps will help you to heal. You have the right to share your story, but not the obligation. It is yours to tell to others, and you may choose to keep silent about it as well. 

Self-care is the priority now, and, although it may not yet feel like it, the healing process is already underway. Remember that you are not what happened to you. You are still yourself, and you are worthy. No one can take that away from you. As harrowing as sexual abuse can be, it is not the point at which your life stopped; it was a moment in time, and you are no longer anyone’s victim. You are a survivor. And you are not alone.