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saving yourself

how to avoid bad situations:

*if you are going to a party where you aren't going to be familiar with anyone, bring a friend. arrive together, leave together. always make sure you will be with at least one trusted person when you are going to parties.
*don't use drugs or alcohol with people you don't know very well.
*trust your instincts. if you feel uncomfortable about anything, do your best to get out of the situation as soon as possible.
*if you're going out, tell someone (friend, parent, roommate, lover...) exactly where you are going and what time you'll be back. if you are going to be walking or biking for a long distance, let them know what route you'll be taking.
*always keep an eye on your drink at parties and on dates. don't leave your glass unattended; carry your drink with you. reports of perpetrators using "the date rape drug" are becoming more and more frequent.

what to do if you are already in a bad situation:

*communicate clearly and assertively.
*create space. do anything you can to break the intensity of the situation.
*use the x.y.z. approach. tell them exactly what's bothering you (x): "you're going too fast." then tell them how you feel about it (y): "i'm really uncomfortable with this." and tell them what you want done about it (z): "i want you to stop right now."
*if the above suggestions don't work, resist physically if possible. when striking back, aim for the eyes, throat, knees, and groin. yell loudly, and try to run away. do not attempt physical resistance if the assailant is carrying a weapon of any kind.

what to do if you are raped or sexually assaulted:

*go to a safe place as quickly as possible.
*avoid your own natural emotional reactions to bathe, douche, change clothes, brush hair, wash hands, etc., as doing so may destroy important physical evidence.
*visit a hospital or clinic immediately to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. physicians will treat your injuries.
*if you have been seriously injured in the attack, contact an ambulance or have a trusted individual transport you to the emergency room immediately.
*get in touch with a rape counselor, who will provide you with information on legal counsel, and help you decide whether or not to press charges.
*if you have been or are being raped by someone you know well or live with (a family member, roommate, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc.) contact a local rape crisis center (from a pay phone or a friend's house, if necessary) and they can help advise you in how to act.

what to do if you have been raped or sexually assaulted in the past:

*talk to someone you trust about your emotions and experiences. tell a friend, family member, lover, teacher, etc. tell them as much as you want to tell them, no more and no less, and talk about your feelings if that is a kind of support you are seeking. be aware of the person you choose to talk to. you may not want to choose someone who will react with anger or fear, as extreme emotional reactions may only serve to hinder your healing process.
*call a local rape crisis center or r.a.i.n.n. at
1-800-656-HOPE. they can help you find counseling services, give you advice on how to deal with long-lasting psychological symptoms of sexual violation, or just let you know you're not alone in this.
*if you are unsure about whether or not you have been a victim of sexual violation, try to stay calm and put together what memories and facts you have of your experience. keep an open mind. if your gut feeling is you've been violated, you're probably right and should call a crisis center or talk to someone you trust.

reactions to sexual assault may include:
*inability to express emotion
*changes in appetite (appetite loss or overeating)
*feelings of grief and despair
*sexual dysfunction
*social withdrawal
*suicidal thoughts
*nightmares and/or sleeplessness
*shame and guilt
*drug/alcohol abuse
*lack of concentration
*loss of self-confidence
*problems with authority figures
*unexplained mood swings
*self-abusive tendencies
*lack of interest in activities

these are just a few of the symptoms victims may experience. others include developing obsessive compulsive tendencies involving locking doors, turning lights on or off, washing hands, face or hair, etc. victims also may develop phobias against certain types of people, certain areas, darkness, and so on. sense memory is also frequently present, and many victims will have sudden flashbacks if they smell, hear, or see something which reminds them of their attack. it may be cigarette smoke, a certain song, a particular color of clothing.

it is important to remember that these are all normal and acceptable feelings and reactions to the trauma of sexual violation. the emotional pain of a sexual assault can be overwhelming when the feelings first surface, but victims and survivors do regain their sense of control with time and support. one of the most important things to do is find a way to release your emotions. don't bottle them up. if you aren't feeling much, that's okay, but you should anticipate the possibility of emotions coming up later. if you feel like you need someone to talk to, do it. if you aren't comfortable talking about your experiences and emotions yet, there are many other ways of expressing yourself alone, or through abstract metaphor; painting, poetry, dance, ceramics, performance art, prose, song, gardening, sculpture, sketching, the list goes on and on. if you do decide to talk to someone, make sure the person is someone who will give you the love, support, and trustworthiness you need. if you do want to talk to someone but there is no one in your life who you think can give you what you need, or if you just feel like you would be uncomfortable talking with them about it, call r.a.i.n.n. at 1-800-656-HOPE, and they will refer you to the nearest rape crisis center, most of which will offer free anonymous counseling at times when you need it.