Moving to End Sexual Assault supports survivors in a variety of ways at each step throughout the healing process – with immediate crisis intervention support, case management, and groups las like our trauma-informed yoga group.
Crisis Intervention Services
Counselors will provide information about medical options and will meet with survivors at the hospital to offer support.
Support through the Criminal Justice System
We will support you in making a fully informed decision about your legal rights and what is best for you. While we will support your decision to report the sexual assault to law enforcement, we will not pressure you to report. We can provide referrals for you to obtain legal advice and information.
We focus as much on your long-term care and healing as we do on the short term. We understand that over time, different emotions and challenges may occur. So, whether you recently experienced a sexual assault or are addressing an assault from you past, we are here to talk to you about your feelings. We can also provide referrals and counseling to survivors, family members, friends, and partners.
If you are seeking information about therapy services, please visit Mental Health Partners.
Supporting Survivors – How Families and Friends Can Help
Sexual assault affects not only the victim, but also family and friends. Family members and friends often struggle to help their loved one deal with the effects of the assault because of their own struggle with what has happened.
When someone you care about has been sexually assaulted, it can be difficult to know what to do or say. You may have feelings of fear, anger, sadness and disbelief. The most important thing that you can do from the beginning is to believe them. One of the most significant factors in a survivor’s recovery is how the first people responded when the survivor told them what happened.
Remember, nothing a person does, or the decisions they make causes them to be sexually assaulted. Your loved one needs your love and support no matter the circumstances of the assault.
It is critical for victims that the people they talk to about the assault show that they believe them. Provide comfort and support. Listen without judging; try not to interrupt or ask a lot of questions. Let them make the decisions, and be supportive of those decisions. Without the victim’s permission, do not tell anyone else what happened. Remind them that it was not their fault.
Let them know that whatever they did to prevent further harm was the right thing to do. Encourage them to talk about the assault (s) with an advocate, mental health professional or someone they trust. Remember that healing takes time; be patient and supportive for as long as it takes.
- Listen to what they have to say about what happened, but in their own time.
- Be supportive – ask what you can do to help. Do not assume you know what is best.
- Encourage them to contact the MESA office at 303.443.0400
- Encourage them to get medical help. MESA can support them through a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) if that is what they decide to do.
- Offer them a safe place to stay, or stay with them in their home.
- Recognize your own anger. It is not the survivor’s responsibility to address your anger.
- Remind them it was not their fault.
- Be patient – and remind them to be patient with themself.
- Accompany them to their appointments (doctors, police, lawyers, courts). MESA can also accompany them if you are unable to do so or if you want more support.
- Encourage them to engage in self-soothing activities as a way to cope.
- Remind them that the assault is something that happened to them; it doesn’t define them as a person.
- Avoid taking control of the situation. Allow your loved one to have control over their own decisions.
- Not taking care of your needs. Your loved one is not in a position to take care of you.
- Avoiding the topic. Sometimes it is helpful to repeat the story several times.
- Treating the survivor like they’re broken or damaged.
What to do if you have been sexually assaulted
If you have been raped, whatever you’re feeling right now is okay. There is no right or wrong way to feel after being raped. Most importantly, though, the sexual assault was NOT YOUR FAULT. There is nothing anyone can do to deserve to be raped or sexually assaulted. If you have just experienced a rape or sexual assault, here are some important tips:
- Get to a safe place. If you cannot get somewhere safe, call 911 immediately.
- Don’t shower, eat, drink, go to the bathroom, brush your teeth, or change your clothes before going to the hospital. These activities may eliminate valuable evidence that could assist in prosecution if you choose to file a police report. However, if you have already done these things, please don’t let this stop you from seeking medical care. If you have already changed your clothes, place the clothes in a clean paper bag and bring them with you.
- Seek medical attention. There may be serious injuries from the assault that are not visible to you. A doctor or nurse can help make sure you are okay and treat you for possible sexually transmitted diseases as well as offer medication to prevent pregnancy (emergency contraception). If you are considering police involvement you should call the police or the MESA hotline within 72 hours (3 days) of the assault.
- Call MESA’s Crisis Line for support and help at 303.443.7300.
- Decide whether you want to make a police report. Choosing to report the assault to the police is an individual decision, so don’t let anyone pressure you either way or another. You do not need to report to police in order to receive medical care, or to receive any of the services that MESA provides.
- Get information whenever you have questions or concerns. After a sexual assault, you have a lot of choices and decisions to make; e.g., medical care and follow-up needs, participating in law enforcement investigation, telling other people, and returning to work and/or school. Ask questions if you are confused or not sure about your options, MESA volunteer counselors can be reached at 303.443.7300.
- Ask about Colorado’s Crime Victim Compensation Program. As a victim of crime, you may be eligible for reimbursement for the financial impact of the assault. The Colorado Crime Victim Compensation Program assists with expenses associated with loss of work, counseling, and other qualified expenses. If you would like to understand your rights and information about crime victim’s compensation you may meet with an advocate to assist you in the application and filing process. Contact MESA for additional information at 303.443.0400.
- Seek support for yourself. You have been through a traumatic experience and may need help dealing with the impact of the assault. Even if it happened a long time ago, it is never too late to talk to someone about it. You do not have to go through this alone. MESA offers free and confidential support services for survivors of all forms of sexual violence. You can call our 24-hour hotline 303.443.7300 to speak to a counselor immediately or call the office at 303.443.0400 to set up a time to meet one-on-one.
What Happens During the Medical Exam?
The following is a very brief description of what to expect during a forensic medical exam, or SANE. Remember to ask questions as you go along if you don’t understand something and remember you can refuse any part of the exam if you choose. MESA can provide support during a medical exam; please reach out and call us at 303.443.7300.
- Try not to use the bathroom, eat, or drink before the exam because this may interfere with some aspects of evidence collection.
- You must give written consent to have the exam performed.
- They will request a general medical history (current medications, past illnesses, etc.)
- You will be asked to give a “sexual assault/ abuse history” which is a detailed description of the assault.
- If you are wearing clothing you wore during the assault, the nurse may ask for it as evidence.
- The nurse will take various “samples” from you (such as fingernail scrapings, hair standards, oral swabs etc.) this is for evidence collection and to establish a difference between your DNA and any other that is found.
- If you think you were given a “drug” used to facilitate a rape or sexual assault the nurse will collect a urine sample. Depending on the time elapsed since the assault, the nurse may also advise the collection of blood.
- The nurse will offer you emergency contraception and medications that may help to prevent contraction of sexually transmitted diseases.
- The final stage of the exam is a vaginal/penile exam in which the nurse will check for injuries and evidence.
- Most importantly, remember that you can refuse any part of the SANE exam!
This content is also available in: Spanish