As a survivor of sexual assault, you may be experiencing a range of reactions and emotions, all of which are unique to you. As a female survivor, there are specific issues and realities you may be dealing with. First, it is important to remember that no matter the circumstances of the assault, it is not your fault. The person who committed the act is responsible for their actions.
Societal factors lead many women to believe that this fact is false, causing the phenomenon of victim blaming. Additionally, it is an inescapable fact that the majority of assaults are committed by men against women. These are symptoms of the sexist society we inhabit. These symptoms may cause added pressures and difficulties to the healing process for female survivors.
One of these pressures is the overwhelming experience of guilt and self-blame. After an assault, many women experience a great deal of guilt. They may question their decisions and behavior before, during, and after the assault. These reactions, however, are part of a pattern that is supported by our society and used by perpetrators to justify sexual violence. Despite the fact that they have been victimized, many women may feel that they are somehow responsible for what occurred. If you are experiencing similar emotions, it is important for you to remember that you are not to blame for the assault.
As a group, women are inadvertently linked by their shared experiences. Based on these experiences, you may feel more comfortable reaching out to women rather than men. Should you seek medical attention or counseling, it is okay to request that a woman assist you—in some cases, depending on availability of staff, this request may be fulfilled. You may also feel more comfortable reaching out to men, and this is okay, too. You may feel more comfortable talking with a female friend or family member over a male, or surround yourself with other women for comfort and support. Or you may not feel these needs at all. However you choose to heal, remember that you are not to blame for what has happened. It is often helpful to seek help from those close to you, but again, the person or place you seek—as well as when, if, and how you seek them—is up to you and only you.
As a survivor, your priority is you. Are you in a safe place? Do you have the support you need (a friend, family member, or a counselor)? Are you aware of the options available to you concerning medical attention, reporting, and counseling? Our How to Help Myself page can provide you with options and resources on Western Michigan University's campus and in Kalamazoo.
You should do whatever you feel is right to care for yourself and recover from your experience of assault. Everyone deals with sexual assault differently, and no one can know what is right for you but you.
Finally, please remember you are not alone.