KALMers, what come to your mind when you hear about sexual assault or sexual harassment? If you’ve ever received inappropriate touch or been forced to have sex without consent, that’s a form of sexual assault. On the other hand, catcalling is an example of a sexual harassment. All these actions should not be allowed because both are wrong and can have a negative impact on the emotional and psychological condition of the victim!
A person who has been sexually harassed is prone to experiencing several emotional problems such as denial, feeling guilty, anxiety, and even worse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. In addition, the stigma associated with sexual assault or harassment can also made them feel ashamed.
So, what can survivors of sexual assault do to reduce the negative impacts they might experience? Read this article to find out more!
“You Can Just Fight Or Scream!”
Have you ever heard comments like, “Why don’t you fight back or scream?” or “You should have run,” to victims of sexual assault? Remember that those comments are very unwise, KALMers!
Any form of sexual violence is a frightening and humiliating experience. According to Jessica Klein, a licensed clinical social worker at the University of Southern California, during a sexual assault, the part of the brain that responds to fear is in a hyperreactive mode. During trauma, the limbic system (the part of the brain that processes emotions and is responsible for resistance mechanisms) takes over the logical parts of the brain. As a result the response that occurs is to freeze out of fear. This biological response is often being taken advantage of by perpetrators.
It’s not that they don’t want to fight back, but they can’t.
What Can You Do If You Are Sexually Assaulted
Quoting from Verywell Health (2020), here are some things you can do immediately if you experience sexual assault or sexual harassment:
1. Find a Safe Place
The first and foremost thing is to make sure you feel safe. You can stay at home for a while. For some people, locking the door and lying in bed provides a sense of security. But if you don’t think that’s enough, you can also call friends or family you can trust to accompany you.
2. Find Support
The next step is to seek support. Feelings of shock from sexual violence are often accompanied by feelings of anxiety and dissociation. Dissociation is a self-defense mechanism by disconnecting your unpleasant memories or emotions with consciousness. The support needed so that this dissociation does not get worse. Find someone you can trust to hear your story. People who can listen attentively and offer emotional support. Not just try to delve into the details of the attack or blame you.
3. Seek Medical Help
You can receive medical help by going directly to a health facility such as a health center (Puskesmas) or a hospital. When you do this you can also receive forensic examination (if you have been raped) to collect DNA and other evidence against the perpetrator. You can also receive emotional support from a trained healthcare provider there.
4.Take Legal Action
One of the reasons why victims of sexual violence do not take legal action is because often the perpetrators are people whom they know. This makes them feel embarrassed and scared to report the incident. Not to mention finding evidence can be very difficult. Therefore that’s why seeking medical help is important to do.
When someone decides to take legal action against a perpetrator, especially rape, it is important to refrain from taking a shower, combing hair, changing clothes, or urinating before carrying out a forensic examination. This is so that evidence is not lost.
Note: We realized that this process can be long and very difficult and we applaud you if you decide to take this hard but important step. However, we also would like to let you know that we will not judge you if you decide not to take this route. Whatever is the choice you make, KALM just wants to make sure you will be alright.
5. Process Your Emotions
After experiencing sexual assault, a victim tends to want to forget the whole incident without processing their emotions. But actually it is important to deal with these emotions so that we can find healthy coping mechanisms to deal with the psychological impacts that may occur. Processing your emotion can be done through journaling about the incident, talking about it with others, or going through counseling. Counseling and therapy can help you reduce the negative psychological effects of a traumatic experience.
You can read about what counseling process is like in “What Really Happens in Counseling?“
Self-care is important to maintain your mental stability. If it done regularly, self-care will help you recover from the negative emotions commonly experienced by victims of sexual assault. You can start by doing basic self-care such as getting enough sleep, maintaining a balanced diet, starting a regular exercise program, and learning to use relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation.
Sexual Assault or Harassment is NOT the Fault of the Victim!
Those are some important things you can do if you experience sexual violence. If you experience it, you need to know that what happened was not your fault. So you don’t have to blame yourself.
You are not alone. KALM is here as a safe place for you to share your stories. If you are ready to share, KALM will always be here to listen to your story. Download KALM App here to start your counseling!
Written by: Rachma Fitria
Translated by: Rachma Fitria
Edited by: Lukas Limanjaya
Christiansen, S. (2020, May 19). What to do if you are sexually assaulted. Verywell Health. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-to-do-if-you-are-sexually-assaulted-4799104