[This piece was written by Lindsey Crusan-Muse, director of the Sexual Assault and Crime Victims Assistance Program.]
One in three women and one in six men in the United States report they have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s National Intimate Partners and Sexual Violence Survey. There is little doubt sexual violence is a staggering problem in our communities and support services for those victims/survivors are critical.
Studies show sexual assault survivors often experience negative health outcomes, both short- and long-term, at a higher rate than those who have not been victimized. The CDC notes survivors of sexual assault are more likely to experience:
- Behavioral health outcomes such as post traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorders, and anxiety.
- Physical health outcomes including asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, frequent headaches, chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, and limitations in their activities.
Many people ask how to respond if a loved one discloses to them that he or she has been sexually assaulted. The most important sentiment you can express to a survivor is: “I believe you.” Ask the survivor what he or she needs and listen.
Keep in mind, there is no “right” way to react to being assaulted. Many people expect an individual who has been assaulted to cry and show extreme emotion. The fact is, everyone responds to trauma differently. It is important to not make assumptions the event was not traumatic because a survivor is not reacting in a way we would act or expect someone to act.
If you or someone you care about is a survivor of sexual assault, the good news is there are free, specialized services available to help support the survivor’s healing journey.
At the Sexual Assault and Crime Victims Assistance Program (SACVAP) with St. Peter’s Health Partners, specially trained staff offer supportive services to victims of sexual violence. Services include counseling, therapy, support groups, medical and legal accompaniment and advocacy, and assistance with applying for crime victim’s compensation with the NYS Office of Victim Services.
All of these services are available, free of charge, to survivors of all ages and their loved ones. SACVAP provides these services regardless of when the sexual assault occurred and regardless of whether there was a report filed with law enforcement.
We believe that every survivor deserves to be believed and supported. Contact our intake coordinator for more information at 518-271-3410.
If you need to speak with someone outside of business hours, you can contact our 24-hour sexual assault hotline at 518-271-3257.