Developed by Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence
What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is any sexual act a person is coerced or forced into without consent. Sexual assault is a broad term referring to acts of violence that involve a sexual component. Perpetrators of sexual assault use sexual contact to inflict humiliation or exert power and control over a victim. Sexual assault includes several different types of acts, many of which are crimes. Sexual assault may include rape, child molestation or incest. Most often these acts are perpetrated by someone the victim already knows such as a friend, relative or intimate partner. Sex offenders use many methods to intimidate the victim. They might use trickery, manipulation, coercion, bribery, blackmail, or threats. Offenders often take advantage of people they perceive as vulnerable or less powerful.
Effects of Sexual Assault
The experience of sexual assault has different meanings for each person. No one knows precisely how an individual will react. There is no "right" way to act after an assault. Some victims are very emotional and some are numb initially following an assault. However, sexual assault advocates have found that many people experience sexual assaults as a severe emotional and physical violation. The effects of an assault can be seen in victims directly after an assault or many days later. Trauma can produce pronounced feelings of helplessness and powerlessness, as well as physical symptoms such as breathing problems, vomiting, nightmares, and the inability to remember events.
If You Are a Victim of Sexual Assault
• Your immediate safety is important. Go to a safe place such as a friend’s or family member’s home.
• Get support. Local sexual assault programs can provide individual and group support for you and your friends and family.
• Protect your health. Whether or not you report the assault to law enforcement, it is best to be treated for sexually transmitted diseases within the first 72 hours after being assaulted. Medical care is important. Consult your health care provider.
• Reporting the assault to law enforcement is your choice. Many factors may weigh into your decision to report or not to report the assault. There is no right way to handle the effects of a sexual assault. If you decide to report the assault, call 911.
If You Decide to Report
Reporting a sexual assault to law enforcement is a very individualized decision that victims will need to make for themselves. Remember, if you decide not to report, you are still fully entitled to support services and medical care. If you do decide to report, you will need to know what to expect from the criminal justice system. Below is a brief overview of what to expect. Your local sexual assault program advocate will be able to more fully help you understand the process in your area and to support you through it.
A sexual assault evidence kit, sometimes called a "rape kit," is performed by medical personnel to collect evidence at the request of law enforcement. Although medical personnel who collect the evidence are well-trained, the process may be uncomfortable for you. Support is important. The cost of collection of the evidence will be assessed to the county. However, there may be other costs incurred at the hospital for medical treatment that are not considered part of the evidence kit. If you have reported the assault to law enforcement, you may be eligible for Crime Victims’ Compensation benefits that can help you pay for financial losses such as medical expenses, lost wages, counseling/therapy and other costs related to the assault.
Law Enforcement Response
Law enforcement will need to ask you questions about the assault. Some questions may be very difficult to answer and may not make sense at the time they are asked, but there is a reason for them. It is not unusual for law enforcement to visit with the victim numerous times during the course of an investigation. Once law enforcement has investigated and has been able to identify the offender, they will send the information to the prosecutor.
The prosecutor determines if there is enough evidence to move forward with prosecution. The system sometimes moves slowly. It sometimes seems that just as you begin to feel OK, you are thrown back into the middle of the trauma because of a court hearing or trial. Sometimes victims find it very important to have information about the court case and proceedings. Most prosecutors have Victim Witness Coordinators who can help get this information. Victims have a legal right to certain information about the case.
Advocates from your local sexual assault program can be accessed whether or not you choose to report. Advocates can be an invaluable help to you during the process of reporting. Advocates are trained to be with you at the hospital, go with you to the law enforcement station, provide individual and group counseling, and provide you with specific information about sexual assault. Whether you decide to report or not, getting in touch with your local sexual assault program can be a very important and helpful step in your healing.
For support, contact one of the following:
Kansas Crisis Hotline
For support, call the domestic violence and/or sexual assault program nearest you
26. Wichita DV Catholic Charities Harbor House
27. Wichita Domestic Violence Stepping Stone
28. Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center
29. Wichita Domestic Violence YWCA Women's Crisis Center
the KANSAS CRISIS HOTLINE at: 1-888-END ABUSE (1-888-363-2287)
or the NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE at: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).