I think we’ll all agree that, if your phone rings or buzzes after a certain hour, it’s 99% a guarantee that it’s not going to be a pleasant conversation – especially if you have kids who drive. If you’re lucky, it will be their number coming across your screen but if it’s someone else’s number you see, it will put a pit in your stomach like you’ve never felt before.
It was supposed to be your typical high school party which means there will most likely be pot and some form of alcohol acquired by someone’s older sibling, fake ID, or some guy at the convenience store who just earned an extra $20 to buy it for them. Before I went to bed, I did the obligatory check-in to be sure all was well and that my daughter would be home at the time we agreed upon. Fast-forward to 2 hours later a family member who was visiting was shaking me awake and saying something to me that I couldn’t understand until she said it again – “You need to wake up – I think something happened.” As I bolted into her room where she was lying in a fetal position, I knew beyond any doubt what had happened. My daughter had been raped that night at the party that she was at.
And that was the moment that all of our lives changed but especially for her.
I preface this next part by saying that I hope beyond all hope that no one EVER has to refer to it for their own family. I also hope that it will shed some light on how incredibly traumatic and unfair it is to have to go through it. If your child is sexually assaulted, here are the things you need to do as well as what they and your family can expect to go through after.
- Shame. Your child is going to experience the utmost level of shame and immediately question whether or not you think she is to blame. I remember telling my daughter that ‘even if she walked thru that party buck naked and drunk (she didn’t of course) that she was in no way to think she was at fault for this.
- Notify the Police. They’ll probably beg you to not do this but you absolutely must in case you decide to press charges later. They will hate you for doing it and that’s okay – they’ll eventually forgive you. When I called I insisted that they send a female officer in my case, because no matter the training given, a male officer just isn’t going to be able to get the information from them.
- You will need to go to the ER. Once you’ve finished with the Officer at your home, they’ll call ahead to the ER so they will know that you are coming. Depending on the time of day or night, you may be waiting even longer than a normal ER visit because they will bring in a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) nurse. These are nurses that have received intensive training on working with sexual assault victims and they are nothing short of angels. If your child is 18 or older understand that most likely you will not be going back with them for the evaluation and exam which, depending on the process of getting your child to talk about the assault, can take hours.
- Take a change of clothes. The hospital will have to keep the clothes your child wore to keep as evidence and your child will feel so much more ‘normal’ leaving in their own clothes as opposed to clothes the hospital would give them to wear home.
- Expect a follow up call from the WSPD Victims Unit. This is where some conversations and decisions will need to start happening. I had a conversation with my daughter before this call even came about whether or not she felt she wanted to press charges. There are so many things to consider that, as a parent and a female, will enrage you. Unfortunately we still live in a society that victimizes the victim and rarely does the assaulter ever get convicted yet the victim is forced to relive the assault and retell their story over and over again. We decided it wasn’t worth having her relive that trauma.
- Get them into therapy ASAP. This is critical for them to be able to work their way thru this horrible ordeal. We experienced night terrors, sleepless nights, soul crushing anxiety, guilt, fear of leaving the house, and so much more. Working with a therapist who specializes in sexual trauma is also highly recommended.
- They’ll talk when they want to. This was hard for me but I knew that I couldn’t push her to talk about it. When she wanted to talk, I listened. When she crept into my bed in the middle of the night, I pulled her as close as she would allow. I just made sure to allow those moments to happen naturally and gently let her know that no matter when and where, if she wanted to talk, I would stop everything.
There are so many more things that I could add to this list. Should you ever find yourself having to refer to these points just know that somehow, someway you, your child, and your family will get through this horrible occurrence with a lot of time, love, and therapy.
In the end and, after many conversations between us, we decided to not press charges which was not an easy decision to make. It killed me to know that this person would just keep walking around with no care to the harm he caused and sadly, would most likely do it again but knowing that our court systems rarely convict the perpetrator, it was not worth dragging my daughter through it repeatedly and in front of the public eye. We know that there will probably be years of therapy ahead for her but she’s come a long way over the past year. She laughs again and slowly starting to trust again and in a game with so many losses, I’d say that’s a bit of a win.
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