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Tools For Survivors


DCRCC is here to support you! We believe that healing is possible for every survivor, no matter how recent or long ago the trauma occurred.

Please call 202.470.1188 to schedule an intake with our intake coordinator and find out more about our free individual and group therapy.

If you have just been assaulted, you have options and there are resources to support you.  The MOST important thing is to take care of yourself. There is no right or wrong way to feel after being assaulted.

The aftermath of a sexual assault can be confusing and overwhelming, causing one to experience anxiety or further crisis. DCRCC believes that you know better than anyone what you need and how you wish to be supported. There are many decisions available, below are just a few options that are open to you. 

  1. Find a safe place
    1. Call someone you trust
    2. Call our 24 hour hotline at 202.333.7273
  2. If you want to report or think you MIGHT want to report, preserve evidence:
    1. Do not shower, brush your teeth or move anything the offender may have touched.
    2. Put the clothes you were wearing at the time of the assault in a paper bag
    3. Save your first urine in a clean container if you feel you may have been drugged.
  3. Seek medical attention
    1. If you want a forensic medical exam, call the DC Call Center to speak with an NVRDC advocate at (800) 641-4028. The advocate will provide a free, safe ride to Washington Hospital Center to receive medical care and a forensic exam.
    2. The DCFNE (DC Forensic Nurse Examiner) program is where you can receive free, confidential treatment for any needs related to the assault
  4. Finding resources
    1. Call 202.333.7273 to find out what your resources are including referrals to legal services, crime victims’ compensation, and housing.
  5. You have the right to decide whether you want to report to the police (MPD Sexual Assault Unit 202.727.3700) and there are advocates and resources to support you in making this decision.

For all survivors, please access our “NO STRAIGHT PATH” to view additional resources to facilitate empowerment, safety, and healing.


What are normal reactions for a survivor of sexual assault?

Survivors of sexual violence may experience different reactions and emotional changes after an assault, some of which can be very intrusive and disruptive. It is very important to understand that there is no right or wrong way for survivors to respond to sexual violence.  These responses include, but are not limited to:

  • Guilt or self-blame

No one deserves to be raped and it is never your fault – no matter what!

  • Fear
  • Loss of control
  • Avoidance

You may want to avoid anything that reminds you of the assault. Don’t let avoidance prevent you from getting help.

  • Re-experiencing (flashbacks)

Nightmares, flashbacks, or constantly thinking about what happened can disturb your concentration, your sleep, even your appetite.

  • Mood swings

Feelings from a sexual assault can be intense and overwhelming. Most survivors experience a lot of ups and downs in their healing process.

  • Depression
  • Numbness
  • Anxiety
  • Anger

You might feel angry – at the person who hurt you, the world, yourself, and even people you love.  Anger can be an important part of healing.

Any one might experience all or none of the reactions mentioned above. Remember that a lack of visible reactions or physical injuries does not reflect the level of trauma a survivor may be experiencing.

What can therapy do for me?
Sexual assault can change your feelings about yourself and those around you. You may not feel the way you did before the assault—physically, emotionally, socially, or sexually. Counseling can help you work through the normal traumatic responses following an assault and can be an important part in a person’s healing process.
The Rape Crisis Center counselors are trained to work with survivors of sexual violence. They provide a safe and compassionate environment where a survivor and their loved ones can find unique ways to heal from the assault.

Is there any situation where the survivor is to blame?
You are not to blame for what happened. There are many different kinds of sexual violence from flashing and voyeurism to sexual assault and rape. Sexual violence is what happens when someone does not consent to a sexual act. Sexual violence can happen to anyone; no one ever deserves or asks for it to happen.

Why did I just freeze when I was assaulted?
What happened is not your fault. People often assume ‘if it happened to me I would fight for my life’. Sometimes these assumptions are unrealistic and unhelpful. Some survivors are able to fight, others try to run and others freeze. These are all natural reactions when you are in situations out of your control. You can’t choose how your body will react when you are in danger. There are also times when the fear or threat of further violence makes it less safe to fight and resist. Being unable to fight someone off does not mean you agreed or make you in any way complicit with what happened.

I don’t know how to cope with what happened. What can I do?
There is no right or wrong way of coping with sexual violence. Everyone has their own way of dealing with it. People often expect that after a rape or sexual assault that a survivor will be ‘hysterical’ but many remain very calm or even numb. How people cope in the long-term varies.  This can depend on how long the sexual violence lasted for, how safe they feel in your everyday life, whether they are able to talk to people you trust or if they have had other support, for example from the DC Rape Crisis Center (202.333.7273)
The very fact that you are reading this indicates that you are taking positive steps to find ways of coping.

I keep having nightmares and remembering what happened, sometimes it’s as if it’s happening again and again. Am I going crazy?
No you are not going crazy. This is a natural reaction to having survived a trauma such as sexual violence. When people survive such a dangerous event or have lived with sexual violence it is natural for the brain to replay what happened. Sometimes this is called ‘flashbacks’ – these can be memories in your mind, nightmares in your dreams, sensations on your body or even smells. The way you experience these will be individual to you and what has happened. They do not mean that you are going mad, but are a way of your mind trying to make sense of what happened. It is very distressing to relive it in this way. But by remembering, your mind is trying to find ways of moving on. It won’t feel like it, but these memories or flashbacks are part of the healing process.

Is healing possible for me?
Yes! Healing from sexual trauma is a series of journeys, leading to the ultimate destination of wholeness. Although we cannot change the past or erase memories, we can release the shame, anger, fear, and reconnect with trust and life.  Healing is difficult but possible and you don’t have to go through it alone. DCRCC is here to guide you through your journey. We are committed to providing accessible and diverse forms of support to survivors and their loved ones. One of those resources can be accessed online, and it is called “No Straight Path”.

What is trauma?
An incident perceived to be life-threatening, that startles, stuns and /or overwhelms us, leaving us altered or disconnected from our bodies
A incident that ruptures the body’s stimulus barrier, an individual’s range of tolerance
It is defined not by the event, but by the impact the event has on the individual.
Sexual trauma is a general term on a continuum for any act of unwanted, non-consensual activity or contact with another that has an element of sexual gratification.

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