Assault can happen to anyone and be perpetrated by anyone, regardless of age, gender, or color. An attack may come from someone close to the victim. In 2012, female aggravated (with a weapon) assault victims knew the perpetrator 52.4% of time time. Male victims knew the perpetrator 34.8% of the time. Both male and female victims of simple (without a weapon) assault knew their attacker an even higher percentage of the time. Assault is an inherently traumatic experience, so it’s important to know how to react if you ever become a victim of such a crime.

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What is assault?

An assault is any kind of physical attack or the threat of a physical attack directed at an individual. Assault may or may not involve the use of a weapon (aggravated assault) or have a sexual component (sexual assault). Assault is an intentional act; accidental contact does not count. There must also be the real possibility of harm. For instance, an assailant who comes up behind an individual and says “give me your money or I will break your arm” is committing assault because there is a real possibility that they would follow through on their threat. But, an individual who shouts “I’m going to bite you” from across a football field is not committing assault because it is physically impossible to bite someone from so far away.

What should I do after an assault?

This post on the Student Caffé blog talks about what to do if you are mugged, but many of the steps outlined in the text are similar for any type of assault. After an assault you may feel confused, ashamed, helpless, or terrified. These are all natural feelings, and with help and time, you will feel normal again. Regardless of the type of assault you have experienced, you should seek help.

  • Call 9-1-1, campus police, or both. You will be asked to describe what happened, if you know or could describe the perpetrator, and any other relevant information. This will help the police track down your attacker. Be sure to take the reporting officers’ business cards in case you need to follow up with them later on.
  • Call an ambulance if you have experienced a sexual assault or are severely injured. If you’ve been hurt, you need medical attention. Besides providing medical treatment, the hospital may also document your injuries in case you decide to press charges against your attacker. If you have been the victim of sexual assault, you may want to shower before going to the emergency room. Do not do so until after you’ve let the hospital if you want to complete a rape kit, which will check your body for the DNA of the perpetrator.
  • Call your parents, a trusted family member, or a close friend. Your family is going to want to be with your during this time, but if you can’t call family, call your best friend. You don’t have to go through anything alone and having a hand to hold may be comforting.
  • Consider calling a national hotline or talking to a therapist. Everybody deals with trauma in a different way. Some internalize and don’t want to talk about anything but suffer emotional consequences. Some people seem to be okay and try to continue living their lives as before. Others may develop post-traumatic stress disorder, often referred to as PTSD. Talking to a professional who is removed from your situation may provide an outlet for your emotions and frustrations, and you may get advice on new ways to cope with the trauma. If you do not feel comfortable using the health center on campus or finding a therapist nearby, you can call one of the following toll-free numbers:
  • Consider pressing charges. If the police were able to identify and catch the perpetrator, it is well within your rights to press criminal charges against that person. Talk to the police or a lawyer about your options.
  • Know that it will take time. Recovering from a traumatic event takes time, sometimes years, but you will be okay again. Nothing about the assault was your fault, and you should not take any of the blame for your situation. Someone else did that to you. You are strong, and you will recover.

There are any number of resources that are there for you in any emergency. Read more about them here.

Page last updated: 12/2016