Part 2: What resources exist for survivors of sexual abuse?

by SAFE San Juans Staff

This is a 3 part series for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Sexual abuse/assault frequently causes immediate physical and psychological effects on those who experience it, including physical injury, emotional scarring, and fear of another assault. Tackling these issues may initially be the top priority, but sexual abuse can impact the whole person over time. Because the impact of sexual abuse can be so global without a magical expiration date, dealing with the whole person without setting deadlines gives the survivor the best opportunity to heal.

Sexual assault is a crime. It is always illegal to use force or when a person does not give consent. If you’ve been sexually assaulted, reporting it to the SJC Sheriff’s Office or the District Attorney’s Office is a logical place to start. If you are assaulted or fear an assault is imminent, call 911, as law enforcement can be instrumental in stopping and preventing violence. However, some sexual assault survivors choose not to report to law enforcement due to relationship complexities between them and their attacker. Contrary to the common perception that sexual assault is a violent act perpetrated by a stranger, most sex crimes are perpetrated by someone the victim knows – often a family member, friend or acquaintance. In these cases, the survivor may want to avoid engaging law enforcement right away while dealing with the abuse so that it stops and its effects can be dealt with. If you’re trying to figure out what to do, a community agency like SAFE San Juans can be very helpful.

When you call or visit SAFE San Juans, our staff will help you discover and consider options. We are not here to seek fault or choose sides. We’re here to listen to you as you process what’s going on in your life, and we’ll keep the conversation private. We will believe you and not blame you. We’ll help you create a personalized security plan. We’ll help you identify and find the resources you need. These resources may include emergency shelter, food, clothing, housing, work, and other necessities you fear losing when talking or fleeing. We can either provide them or put you in touch with other agencies who can provide them.

Sometimes help from the legal or medical community is needed to deal with the effects of the abuse. We can help you file a legal protection order, prepare for court appearances, connect with a lawyer, and we can offer you assistance during the trial. Caring for wounds and documenting injuries can be emotionally and physically difficult – we can help you in hospital or during medical appointments if you ask us. Because sexual abuse is such a common form of violence, SAFE offers free protective measures, including condoms, pregnancy tests and emergency plan B.

For those trying to navigate the reality of ongoing abuse, or for those struggling with the longer term effects of past abuse, SAFE offers support groups as well as individual counselling/therapy. Our state-licensed professional counselors can provide mental health therapy on a case-by-case basis to people dealing with the trauma of domestic or sexual violence.

SAFE San Juans (SAFE) is a non-profit agency serving survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse/assault. SAFE has offices in Friday Harbor, Eastsound and Lopez Village. All SAFE services are confidential, free and available to anyone who needs them. To speak with someone from SAFE San Juans, call 360-378-8680 or visit us online at www.safesj.org. SAFE’s 24/7 Crisis Line is still staffed and can be reached at 360-378-2345. If you are in immediate danger, please dial 911.

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