If you need to get out of an uncomfortable or scary situation here are some things that you can try:
- Remember that being in this situation is not your fault. You did not do anything wrong, it is the person who is making you uncomfortable that is to blame.
- Be true to yourself. Don’t feel obligated to do anything you don’t want to do. “I don’t want to” is always a good enough reason. Do what feels right to you and what you are comfortable with.
- Have a code word with your friends or family so that if you don’t feel comfortable you can call them and communicate your discomfort without the person you are with knowing. Your friends or family can then come to get you or make up an excuse for you to leave.
- Lie. If you don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings it is better to lie and make up a reason to leave than to stay and be uncomfortable, scared, or worse. Some excuses you could use are: needing to take care of a friend or family member, not feeling well, having somewhere else that you need to be, etc.
- Try to think of an escape route. How would you try to get out of the room? Where are the doors? Windows? Are there people around who might be able to help you? Is there an emergency phone nearby?
- If you and/or the other person have been drinking, you can say that you would rather wait until you both have your full judgment before doing anything you may regret later.
What should I do if I am sexually assaulted?
After a Sexual Assault
It’s hard to know what to do, how to feel, or what your options are after a sexual assault. Please know that you’re not alone. Below are some things to keep in mind. If you are in immediate danger or seriously injured, call 911.
- Your safety is important. Are you in a safe place? If you’re not feeling safe, consider reaching out to someone you trust for support. You don’t have to go through this alone.
- What happened was not your fault. Something happened to you that you didn’t want to happen—and that’s not OK.
- Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673).You’ll be connected to a trained staff member from a local sexual assault service provider in your area. They will direct you to the appropriate local health facility that can care for survivors of sexual assault. Some service providers may be able to send a trained advocate to accompany you.
When you call the National Sexual Assault Hotline, a staff member will walk you through the process of getting help at your own pace. You can also visitonline.rainn.org to chat anonymously. Hotline staffers can also provide information on topics you might have questions about, including:
Sexual assault is a crime of motive and opportunity. Ultimately, there is no surefire way to prevent an attack. If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotlines at 1-800.656.HOPE, and online at rainn.org
For many people who have been affected by sexual assault, current and long-term safety can be an ongoing concern. Safety planning is about brainstorming ways to stay safe that may also help reduce the risk of future harm. It can include planning for a future crisis, considering your options, and making decisions about your next steps. Finding ways to stay and feel safer can be an important step towards healing, and these plans and actions should not increase the risk of being hurt.
Safety planning when someone is hurting you:
- Lean on a support network. Having someone you can reach out to for support can be an important part of staying safe and recovering. Find someone you trust who could respond to a crisis if you needed their help.
- Become familiar with safe places. Learn more about safe places near you such as a local domestic violence shelter or a family member’s house. Learn the routes and commit them to memory. Find out more about sexual assault service providers in your area that can offer support.
- Stay safe at home. If the person hurting you is in your home, you can take steps to feel safer. Try hanging bells or a noise maker on your door to scare the person hurting you away, or sleep in public spaces like the living room. If possible, keep the doors inside your house locked or put something heavy in front of them. If you’re protecting yourself from someone who does not live with you, keep all the doors locked when you’re not using them, and install an outside lighting system with motion detectors. Change the locks if possible.
- Keep computer safety in mind. If you think someone might be monitoring your computer use, consider regularly clearing your cache, history, and cookies. You could also use a different computer at a friend’s house or a public library.
- Create a code word. It might be a code between you and your children that means “get out,” or with your support network that means “I need help.”
- Prepare an excuse. Create several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times or for existing situation that might become dangerous. Have these on hand in case you need to get away quickly.
Safety planning when someone is stalking you:
- Tell someone you trust. Stalking shouldn’t be kept a secret. Tell your parents, loved ones, a trusted adult, or the local police to determine if a report can be made.
- Be prepared to reach out. If possible, keep your cell phone charged and have emergency contact numbers programmed ahead of time. You may want to save these contacts under a different name. Memorize a few numbers in case you don’t have cell phone access in the future.
- Change your routine. Be aware of your daily routine and begin to alter it overtime. Switch up the way you commute more often, taking different routes or different modes of transportation.
Visit the Stalking Resource Center for more ways to stay safe.
Safety planning when leaving the person hurting you:
- Make an escape bag. Pack a bag that includes all important papers and documents, such as your birth certificate, license, passport, social security card, bills, prescription drugs, and medical records. Include cash, keys, and credit cards. Hide the bag well. If it’s discovered, call it a “hurricane bag” or “fire bag.” If you are escaping with children, include their identifying information as well.
- Prepare your support network. Keep your support network in the loop. Let them know how to respond if the perpetrator contacts them.
- Plan a destination. If you’re not going to stay with someone you know, locate the nearest domestic violence shelter or homeless shelter.
- Plan a route. Then plan a backup route. If you are driving, have a tank of gas filled at all times. If you rely on public transportation, know the routes departure times. Many public transportation systems have mobile apps that update their schedules and arrival times.
- Important Safety Note: If the dangerous situation involves a partner, go to the police or a shelter first.
If you are in a domestic violence situation and need help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.SAFE(7233). You can also visit their website to learn more about safety planning.
You have a crucial role to play in keeping your friends safe. No matter what the setting, if you see something that doesn’t feel quite right or see someone who might be in trouble, there are some simple things you can do to help out a friend.
Distract. If you see a friend in a situation that doesn’t feel quite right, create a distraction
to get your friend to safety. This can be as simple as joining or redirecting the conversation: suggest to your friend that you leave the party, or ask them to walk you home. Try asking questions like: “Do you want to head to the bathroom with me?” or “Do you want to head to another party – or grab pizza?”
Step in. If you see someone who looks uncomfortable or is at risk, step in. If you feel
safe, find a way to de-escalate the situation and separate all parties involved. Don’t be shy
about directly asking the person if they need help or if they feel uncomfortable.
Enlist others. You don’t have to go it alone. Call in friends or other people in the area
as reinforcements to help defuse a dangerous situation and get the at-risk person home safely. There is safety in numbers.
Keep an eye out. Use your eyes and ears to observe your surroundings. If you
see someone who has had too much to drink or could be vulnerable, try to get them to a safe place. Enlist friends to help you. Even if you weren’t around when the assault occurred, you can still support a friend in the aftermath.
How to Respond to a Survivor
When someone you care about tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted or abused, it can be a lot to handle. A supportive reaction can make all the difference, but that doesn’t mean it comes easy. Encouraging words and phrases avoid judgment and show support for the survivor. Consider these phrases:
- “I’m sorry this happened.” Acknowledge that the experience has affected their life. Phrases like “This must be really tough for you,” and, “I’m so glad you are sharing this with me,” help to communicate empathy.
- “It’s not your fault.” Survivors may blame themselves, especially if they know the perpetrator personally. Remind the survivor, maybe even more than once, that they are not to blame.
- “I believe you.” It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and share their story. They may feel ashamed, concerned that they won’t be believed, or worried they’ll be blamed. Leave any “why” questions or investigations to the experts—your job is to support this person. Be careful not to interpret calmness as a sign that the event did not occur—everyone responds differently. The best thing you can do is to believe them.
- “You are not alone.” Remind the survivor that you are there for them and willing to listen to their story. Remind them there are other people in their life who care and that there are service providers who will be able to support them as they recover from the experience.
- “Are you open to seeking medical attention?” The survivor might need medical attention, even if the event happened a while ago. You can support the survivor by offering to accompany them or find more information. It’s ok to ask directly, “Are you open to seeking medical care?”
- “You can trust me.” If a survivor opens up to you, it means they trust you. Reassure them that you can be trusted and will respect their privacy. Always ask the survivor before you share their story with others. If a minor discloses a situation of sexual abuse, you are required in most situations to report the crime. Let the minor know that you have to tell another adult, and ask them if they’d like to be involved.
- “This doesn’t change how I think of you.” Some survivors are concerned that sharing what happened will change the way other people see them, especially a partner. Reassure the survivor that surviving sexual violence doesn’t change the way you think or feel about them.
There’s no timetable when it comes to recovering from sexual violence. If someone trusted you enough to disclose the event, consider the following ways to show your continued support.
- Check in periodically. The event may have happened a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean the pain is gone. Check in with the survivor to remind them you still care about their well-being and believe their story.
- Avoid judgment. It can be difficult to watch a survivor struggle with the effects of sexual assault for an extended period of time. Avoid phrases that suggest they’re taking too long to recover such as, “You’ve been acting like this for a while now,” or “How much longer will you feel this way?”
- Remember that the healing process is fluid. Everyone has bad days. Don’t interpret flashbacks, bad days, or silent spells as “setbacks.” It’s all part of the process.
- Know your resources You’re a strong supporter, but that doesn’t mean you’re equipped to manage someone else’s health. Become familiar with resources you can recommend to a survivor, like the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673) and online.rainn.org.
Parents are surrounded by messages about child sexual abuse. Talk shows and TV news warn parents about dangers at school, in the home and on the Internet. Despite all the media coverage, parents don’t get much advice about how to talk to their children about sexual abuse and how to prevent it.
Talk to your children about sexuality and sexual abuse in age-appropriate terms.
- Talking openly and directly about sexuality teaches children that it is okay to talk to you when they have questions.
- Teach children the names of their body parts so that they have the language to ask questions and express concerns about those body parts.
- Teach children that some parts of their body are private.
- Let children know that other people should not be touching or looking at their private parts unless they need to touch them to provide care. If someone does need to touch them in those private areas, a parent of trusted caregiver should be there, too.
- Tell children that if someone tries to touch those private areas or wants to look at them, OR if someone tries to show the child their own private parts, they should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
- All children should be told that it’s okay to say “no” to touches that make them uncomfortable or if someone is touching them in ways that make them uncomfortable and that they should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
- This can lead to some slightly embarrassing situations, such as a child who then says they don’t want give a relative a hug or kiss! Work with your child to find ways to greet people that don’t involve uncomfortable kinds of touch.
- Talking openly about sexuality and sexual abuse also teaches children that these things don’t need to be “secret.” Abusers will sometimes tell a child that the abuse is a secret. Let your children know that if someone is touching them or talking to them in ways that make them uncomfortable that it shouldn’t stay a secret.
- Make sure to tell your child that that they will not get into trouble if they tell you this kind of secret.
- Don’t try to put all this information into one big “talk” about sex.
- Talking about sexuality and sexual abuse should be routine conversations.
Be involved in your child’s life.
- Be interested in your child’s activities.
- Ask your child about the people they go to school with or play with.
- If your child is involved in sports, go to games and practices. Get to know the other parents and coaches.
- If your child is involved in afterschool activities or daycare, ask them what they did during the day.
- Talk about the media.
- If your child watches a lot of television or plays video games, watch or play with them.
- Many TV shows (for example, CSI or Law and Order) show sexual violence of different kinds.
Some video games (for example, Grand Theft Auto) allow the user to engage in sexual violence.
- Use examples from TV or games that you have watched or played together to start up conversations about sexuality and sexual abuse.
- Know the other adults that your child might talk to.
- Children sometimes feel that they cannot talk to their parents.
- Know the other trusted adults in your child’s life.
- Make time to spend with your child.
- Let your child know that they can come to you if they have questions or if someone is talking to them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Be sure to follow up on this! If your child comes to you with concerns or questions, make time to talk to them.
When you empower your child to say “no” to unwanted touch and teach them that they can come to you with questions and concerns, you take critical steps to preventing child sexual abuse.
To learn more about child sexual abuse and talk to someone who can help, contact
1-800-656-HOPE or visit: online.rainn.org