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What is Sexual Violence?

"Sexual violence is defined as a sexual act committed against someone without that person's freely given consent." (CDC) “Sexual violence includes the behaviors and ideas that create the environment that allows it to flourish, from sexual harassment to sexual assault." (CONNSACS)

Sexual Violence Includes:

Sexual Harassment
Sexual Exploitation
Sexual Contact
Rape
Incest
Statutory Rape
Child Sexual Abuse/Assault
Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault
Date Rape
Marital Rape
Partner Rape
Gang Rape
     

Normal Reactions

Sexual violence is considered a traumatic event in a person’s life. Understanding trauma can help victims, their loved ones and friends, professionals and the broader community make sense of why survivors may act in certain ways. When a person experiences trauma it often shakes their sense of reality and involves feelings of fear, horror, and imminent threat to safety or well-being (CONNSACS). The pain that a person feels after this event can be long-lasting.

While trauma affects each person differently, effects can include:

Feelings of:

  • Shock and disbelief
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Self-blame, shame and guilt
  • Despair
  • Distrust
  • Worthlessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Terror

Sensations and body memories:

  • Feeling as though the assault/abuse is happening again
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
 

It is normal to feel as though these reactions will last forever but The Center's counselor/advocates are here to help guide you through your healing process. We believe that healing is possible!

There are different paths to finding the help you need…

If the assault happened recently...

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You have the choice of reporting the crime to the authorities and the right to obtain medical attention. You also have the right to have the support of a sexual assault crisis advocate. The Center is available 24/7 to support you at the hospital or the police station, in a confidential free of charge manner. Call our hotline for more information or click here for information on reporting options.

If the assault happened a long time ago...

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It is never too late to speak about it. Even if you have received support for the abuse or assault in the past, you are always welcome to call The Center if it is something that you are struggling with now. The Center has counselors available to help you process your feelings and support you in many other ways. No matter what happened or when it happened. The Centers door is always open for you. If you are interested in understanding your reporting options, we can support you in calling the police to see if it is something they will be able to investigate.

If the assault happened to a minor...

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Child sexual abuse and sexual assault cases are extremely difficult to understand and manage emotionally, for both the child and the people close her/him. At The Center we are able to provide support for the family through counseling and advocacy. If you are concerned with the well being of a child you know, and suspect that any type of abuse might have happened, we encourage you to report to the authorities. See reporting options for a detailed explanation of the process.

If you are a professional who regularly works with children, you are a mandated by law to report suspicion of abuse or neglect. Click here to find what a “mandated reporter” needs to know.

If you are in doubt and want to understand what could happen, please call our hotline. We are here to support you through the process both logistically and emotionally.
 

Reporting Options

Making the decision to report a sexual assault can be difficult. The Center's counselor/advocates are here to answer your questions and to help you make an informed decision about what to do. The Center's counselor/advocates can also go with you to make the report.

How do I report sexual assault?

For Adults...

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You have several options for reporting sexual assault: Call 911. If you are in immediate danger, dial 911. Help will come to you, wherever you are. Contact your local police department. Call the direct line of the local police station where the assault happened or visit the station in person. If you are on a college campus you may also be able to contact campus security/law enforcement. On some campuses reporting to campus security/law enforcement is not the same as making a report to the police – remember to ask about this. If you have issues with transportation contact your local police department and talk with them about your options. Visit your local hospital. If you are being treated for injuries resulting from sexual assault, you have the option of reporting or not reporting to the police. Additionally, you always have the right to receive medical treatment. Make sure to inform a medical professional of what has happened to you so that the can ensure to provide you with the right kind of care. You can also choose to have a sexual assault forensic exam (SAFE kit), if the sexual assault was in the last 120 hours. The cost of the forensic examination is covered by the Office of Victims Service, so that you do not have to worry about medical bills related to the incident. If you make the decision to have a sexual assault forensic exam, the hospital will call the police, but you do not have to talk to the police at that time. They will need to be there to pick up the kit. Click here to learn more about the medical exam. Call The Center for support. We can accompany you throughout the process in an understanding, free and confidential manner.

For Minors...

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For children and teens, making the decision to tell an adult about child sexual abuse and sexual assault can be difficult. If you are a mandated reporter The Center strongly advocates that you let the child know you are. If you are an adult who has received a disclosure of child sexual abuse please visit this link to learn more about your responsibilities: If you believe a child under the age of 18 is or has been sexually abused. Professionals who work with children are mandated to report suspicion of abuse or neglect immediately and no later than 12 hours after learning of the abuse. Click here to find what a “mandated reporter” needs to know. If you are not required by law to make a report please consider contacting the local authorities (Department of Children and Families Hotline 1-800-842-2288, or the local police station where the abuse happened). After a child/teen makes a disclosure of child sexual abuse and it is reported to Department of Children and Families, the child/teen may be scheduled for a forensic interview. The Center’s crisis counselors/advocates are part of the two teams in Lower Fairfield County that investigate disclosures of child sexual abuse and support non-offending caregivers throughout the process – from disclosure, to investigation and court proceedings. Minors and the Adults who they have disclosed to can also: Call 911. If you are in immediate danger, dial 911. Help will come to you, wherever you are. Contact Department of Children and Families and/or the police where the assault happened. Visit your local hospital: Depending on how long ago the assault/abuse occurred the hospital will be able to tell you what the options are for evidence collection. The hospital will also be able to examine the child to ensure the child’s medical needs are met Call The Center for support. We can accompany you throughout the process in a understanding, free and confidential manner
 

Medical Attention / Evidence Collection

Making the decisions to report a sexual assault can be difficult.

What to do and what to expect...

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If the assault/abuse occurred within the last 120 hours we advise you to go to the closest hospital to receive medical attention. Do not shower, change your clothes or get rid of any articles that might have been compromised during the assault (i.e. sheets, perpetrator’s belongings, weapons). They can become important evidence should you decide to report. At the hospital you will have the option as to whether you would like to have a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (sometimes called a “rape kit”) completed. An exam can take place up to 120 hours after an assault an the cost is covered by the Connecticut Office of Victim Services.

If you do not want to have evidence collected and/or it is outside of the 120 hours, we would recommend seeking medical attention to ensure that your body is ok.

The Center’s counselor/advocates are here to answer your questions and to help you make an informed decision about what to do. The Center’s counselor/advocates can also accompany you throughout the process.

If you are under the age of 18, your local hospital is required by law to report the disclosure of child sexual abuse and sexual assault – they may also need to notify your parents or legal guardian. If the person who assaulted you is your parent or legal guardian, make sure to let the hospital know. They will notify the appropriate authorities about this and take steps to ensure your safety. Your local hospital will be able to tell you what your options are for having a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam completed.

A forensic medical exam may be performed at a hospital or other healthcare facility, by a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE), sexual assault forensic examiner (SAFE) or another medical professional. This exam is complex and on average, takes 3-4 hours. While this may seem lengthy, medical and forensic exams are comprehensive because the victim deserves and needs special attention to ensure that they are medically safe and protected. In addition, it is important to collect evidence so that if the victim chooses to report the crime to the police, they can access the stored evidence.

1. To start, the medical professional will write down the victim’s detailed history.

  • This sets a clear picture of existing health status, including medications being taken and preexisting conditions unrelated to the assault.


2. Next there is a head-to-toe, detailed examination and assessment of the entire body (including an internal examination).

  • This may include collection of blood, urine, hair and other body secretion samples, photo documentation of injuries (such as bruises, cuts and scraped skin), collection of clothing (especially undergarments).


3. Finally, the medical professional will speak about treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that may have been exposed during the assault.

  • Depending on the hospital and state, the victim may receive prophylaxis (also referred to as “Plan B”) as well as referrals for follow-up counseling, community resources and medical care.


NOTE: The victim has the right to accept or decline any or all parts of the exam. However, it is important to remember that critical evidence may be missed if not collected or analyzed.

After the forensic medical exam is performed and the evidence is collected and stored in the kit, the victim will be able to take a shower, brush their teeth, etc. — all while knowing that the evidence has been preserved to aid in a criminal prosecution if so desired.