Aftermath of sexual assault: part three of a three part series

The aftermath of date rape, rape and sexual assault is a long journey for the victim. There is often internal mental scarring which remains for a lifetime.

According the U.S. Department of Justice, at least 70 percent of sexual assault victims know their attackers — compared to about half of all violent crime victims — which can lead to confusion as to what to do following a sexual assault.

Director of Student Counseling Services Gaither Terrell told The Guilfordian that early reactions typically include shock, fear, anger, anxiety, confusion, loss of trust in others, decreased self-esteem, detachment, disbelief, embarrassment, guilt, shame, grief, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, flashbacks, panic attacks and somatic symptoms.

“Later responses might also include depression, anxiety, difficulty with sexual relationships, intense feelings of powerlessness, even suicidal thoughts or feelings, all while trying to appear normal to the outside world and often succeeding,” said Terrell.

Terrell added that those reactions can last weeks or even months and that one third of sexual assault victims go on to develop rape-related post-traumatic stress disorder.

Associate Dean for Campus Life Tammy Alt told The Guilfordian that the college does not turn a blind eye to sexual assaults or victim services, the college wants to help.

“We want students to be educated not only about sexual assault but also about sexual health in general,” said Alt. “We strive to make resources available to students so they know how to report and have a safe reporting system.”

Guilford College relies on many community resources for those who are victims of sexual assault and rape, though according to Alt, the actual number of reported assaults at Guilford is extremely low.

The Counseling Center offers counseling for students who have experienced sexual assault. Also, most counties in North Carolina have a North Carolina Rape Crisis Center.

Guilford County offers two centers: Family Services of The Piedmont in Greensboro and Family Services of the Piedmont in High Point. These offer a 24-hour hotline (336-273-7273) for help immediately following an assault and later counseling, referral and victim advocacy.

Guilford County also has a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program through the emergency department at Cone Health System, which provides nurse practitioners specially trained in physical exams following sexual assault.

Besides counseling, reporting options extend outside of the Guilford community. The Greensboro Police Department has officers who are trained in how to handle cases of sexual assault and rape and can be contacted at 336-373-2222.

Moreover, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime, rape and sexual assault survivors who had the assistance of an advocate are significantly more likely to have police reports taken and are less likely to be treated negatively by police officers.

Terrell told The Guilfordian that it is important that sexual assault victims receive immediate physical and psychological help and support, whether or not they are planning to press charges related to the assault.

“Rape crisis workers, SANE nurses, and counselors are trained to allow victims the right to make their own decisions about whether or not they take legal action,” said Terrell.