Your Questions

Your Questions

Rape Response Services provides free and confidential services to people who have been affected by sexual violence at any point in their lives. Our 24/7 free and confidential crisis and support line at 1-800-310-0000 is staffed by trained advocates who can offer support, information, and referrals. Trained advocates are also available to meet in person. Advocates can be with you during a medical exam or legal interview. They can also meet with you to answer your questions, provide you with resources and support, or just be there to listen.

If you have experienced sexual violence, it is important to know that you are in no way responsible for someone else’s actions; what happened to you was not your fault. You may be feeling lots of different emotions or be feeling no emotions at all.  There is no right or wrong way to act or feel after an assault.

After a sexual assault occurs, it is always your choice whether you want to seek services or not. If you decide to seek services, such as choosing to get a rape kit, you have the right to stop those services at any time. Rape Response Services advocates are available to discuss your options and support the decisions you make.

 Below is a list of commonly asked questions. The information contained in the page below is for information only and does not constitute legal advice.  Only an attorney can give legal advice.

 

What is a rape kit?

A rape kit is also known as the State of Maine Sex Crimes Kit. It is an official evidence collection kit. If you have been a victim of sexual assault, there may be evidence of the sexual assault on your body or on your belongings. Specially trained nurses, known as Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners (S.A.F.E), are available at our local hospitals to quickly, efficiently, and sensitively perform the steps in the kit to collect any evidence.  The rape kit itself does not prove whether a sexual assault has taken place or not; it is only a way to collect the available evidence. 

You may choose to have no kit done, parts of the kit done or all of the kit completed. It is best to have a kit done as soon as possible after the assault takes place because this makes it more likely to find evidence. However, sometimes people are not sure whether they want to report the assault or not.  If you are not sure whether you want to report to law enforcement, an anonymous kit can be done.  Law enforcement will hold the anonymous kit for 90 days.  If you decide to get a kit, the State of Maine will pay for it and your insurance will not be billed. 

Advocates are available to answer questions about the rape kit and to accompany you to the hospital.  An advocate can stay with you while the rape kit is being done. An advocate can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-310-0000.

 

What if I don’t want to do a kit?

After a sexual assault, you may not feel like getting a rape kit done or reporting the sexual assault to law enforcement. However, you may still wish to seek medical attention. A Rape Response Services advocate can accompany you to any medical appointment and will not pressure you to make a report to law enforcement or get a rape kit.  What you want to do is always your choice. To reach an advocate, call 1-800-310-0000.

 

What happens if I report to law enforcement?

Remember, if you decide not to report to law enforcement, it does not mean that the assault did not happen. If you decide to report to law enforcement, the interviewing officer will need to ask you a series of questions. Sometimes these questions can feel uncomfortable but the law enforcement officer needs honest answers in order in order to move the case forward. An advocate is available to accompany you during a law enforcement interview in order to provide support.

Once you report to law enforcement, law enforcement will investigate and give a report to the district attorney, who will then decide if there is enough evidence to move forward with arrests and prosecution. Making a report to law enforcement doesn’t guarantee that your attacker will be prosecuted or punished by the law. This does not mean that you were not sexually assaulted. 

An investigation can take a long time. If there is a prosecution it can take anywhere from 6 months to years from the time a report is made to the police until there is a trial or a plea agreement is reached. Rape Response Services is available to provide support through the entire process. You don’t have to go through this alone.

 

 I think I may have been assaulted last night but I don’t remember what happened?

Just because you don’t remember being assaulted doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen or that it wasn’t rape. Memory loss can result from the ingestion of certain drugs and excessive alcohol consumption. Even if you chose to take drugs or to drink alcohol, what happened is not your fault. If you think someone might have hurt you, don’t hesitate to call Rape Response Services for support. We are available to discuss your options or simply to listen.

 

What if I don’t know if it was really rape?

Popular culture, things like books, movies and television, makes it seem like rape only happens a certain way. In reality, there are many different ways perpetrators use sexual violence to hurt their victims and there are many different ways in which people respond to sexual violence. For example, popular culture tells us a victim of rape will always fight back, but this is not the case.  In fact, many victims make the conscious decision to not fight back for fear that fighting back may cause the attacker to become more violent.  

A sexual assault is a sexual act committed against someone who has not consented. Lack of consent can be expressed in many ways, for example saying “no” or not saying “yes.” A person who is afraid to scream or fight back because the perpetrator threatened to harm them or a loved one did not consent.  Some people are considered unable to consent such as a person who is unconscious or a child.

A dating partner or spouse does not have permanent consent just because the two people are in a relationship or have had sex before.  Dating partners and spouses can still commit sexual violence against their partner.  Partners have the right to say no to sexual activity even if they have consented to sexual activity before.  

 

 I am remembering something that happened many years ago?  What can I do?

A sexual assault that happened many years ago can still cause painful memories and flashbacks. Sexual assault affects people in many different ways. There is no right or wrong way to feel nor is there a time table for healing.  If you are experiencing distress, concern, worry, or painful memories, you can call our 24/7 crisis and support line to speak with an advocate who can help you discuss your options or simply be there to listen. Rape Response Services can assist you in your healing journey no matter how long it’s been since the assault happened.  

 

I am concerned that my child has been abused. What do I do?

If you are concerned that your child has been abused, it is important to believe your child and to seek the appropriate help for your child. You may want to consider taking your child to the hospital to be examined by a S.A. F. E. nurse or to take your child to a trusted medical doctor for a physical exam. Please note, however, that sexual abuse does not always leave physical marks or symptoms. This does not mean the assault or abuse did not happen.  While children who have been assaulted may be impacted by the assault in different ways,  it’s also important to remember that children who have experienced sexual abuse can and do recover.  You can help your child by providing the proper care and support.  If you suspect that your child has been assaulted or your child has disclosed an assault to you, you may be feeling very, scared, angry or sad. Advocates are available 24/7 to provide support, discuss your options, answer questions or just to listen.  Advocates are also available to accompany you and your child to the hospital, medical appointments or to any law enforcement interviews.

 

My five-year-old told me she was sexually abused, but later on, told me it did not actually happen. What should I believe?

You should always assume that a young child would never make up a story of their own sexual abuse; remember that false disclosures are very rare. Sometimes after disclosing their abuse, a child will take it back because he or she is frightened by the changes that have happened since the disclosure, because the child senses what this accusation might mean for the family, or because the adult they disclosed to showed obvious disapproval, disbelief, pain, or upset. Often, talking about the abuse becomes too difficult or intimidating for the child. You can make talking about it easier for your child by remaining calm, asking clarifying questions in a matter of fact/nonjudgmental way, reassuring them that they are not to blame for what happened, and letting them know you still love them and will do your best to help and protect them.  Even if you are confused about what happened it is very important to show your support for your child. Be sure to recognize your own feelings as it may be very difficult to handle hearing that your child has been sexually abused or assaulted.  It is very natural for you to be experiencing a variety of emotions.  Contact Rape Response Services 24/7 crisis and support line for support, guidance, or if you have any questions.

 

My friend just told me that they were assaulted. What do I do?

When a friend tells you that they have been assaulted, your first instinct might be to get angry at the person who hurt your friend or to tell your friend that they have to get a rape kit or should report to law enforcement.

It is important to recognize that sexual assault is not about sex; it is an act of violence. Your friend’s power and control over their own body has just been taken away from them.  Therefore it is important to give them back the power and control. You can help do this by letting them decide if they want to report to law enforcement and if they want to get a rape kit done or seek medical attention. Who they tell is their decision.  Remind your friend that they have the right to decide what happens to their body.  Ask them if it is OK to hug or touch them. 

You can also help them by letting them know what options are available. For example you may want to learn about what services we offer and then offer our hotline. You might offer to your friend that you can call the hotline together.

Hearing about what has happened to a friend can be upsetting and stressful to you.  You may feel that you need to talk or would like support. Our 24/7 crisis and support line is available to you at 1-800-310-0000.

 

My grandmother/grandfather told me they have been sexually abused. What should I do?

Any person can be a victim of sexual assault. If an elder person discloses to you, it is important to listen to and believe them. Elders are more at risk for people not believing them because of stereotypes about elders such as perceived lack of mental competency, but remember that false disclosures are very rare.

The physical impact for elders who experience sexual violence, especially regarding recovery, is often severe. If your grandparent is in immediate danger, call 911. If they are physically injured, offer to accompany them to the hospital. You may need to call Adult Protective Services. Remember that Rape Response Services can help you figure out all available options.

Hearing about what has happened to your grandparent can be upsetting and stressful to you.  You may feel that you need to talk or would like support. Our 24/7 crisis and support line is available to you at 1-800-310-0000.

To learn more about elder abuse, click here.

 

I’m L/G/B/T/Q and I’ve been sexually assaulted, are there people who can help me deal with the aftermath?

In our society, having a sexual orientation or gender identity that differs from heterosexual and the mainstream puts one at higher risk for sexual violence. This does not make it your fault. LGBTQ individuals often experience sexual violence within the context of hate violence incidents.2 The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reports that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer people were three times more likely to report sexual violence and/or harassment compared to heterosexual people who reported to NCAVP in 2010.3 Most studies reveal that approximately 50% of transgender people experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.4 One in ten transgender individuals have been sexually assaulted in at least one health care setting.

LGBTQ individuals may face unique challenges in healing from sexual violence. Rape Response Services advocates are a safe resource for you and can connect you to other safe community resources as well. Rape Response Services is available to assist you wherever you are in your healing journey.  To access any of our services call our 24/7 free and confidential crisis and support line at 1-800-310-0000 or email rrsinfo@penquis.org.

1 Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs. (2010). Setting the stage: Strategies for supporting LGBTIQ survivors. Connections Magazine, 13.
2 National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. (2011). Hate violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected communities in the United States in 2010. Retrieved from http://www.avp.org/documents/NCAVPHateViolenceReport2011Finaledjlfinaledits.pdf
3 Ibid.
4 Stotzer, R. (2009). Violence against transgender people: A review of United States data. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14, 170-179.

 

I’m a man and I’ve been sexually assaulted. I’m not sure how to handle this and I’m worried no one will believe me.

Popular culture, things like books, music, and television, makes it seem like men can’t be victimized.  Popular culture suggests that men can’t be raped because they are strong, because men want sex all the time, or makes it seem like it is physically impossible to rape a man. All of these myths make it very difficult for men to come forward when they have been assaulted. However, statistics demonstrate that one in seven men will be sexually assaulted before the age of 181 and one in ten high school boys in Maine report having been forced to have sexual intercourse.2 Every year, approximately 834,700 men are raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner.3 Males can be sexually assaulted by females or other males, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Remember that sexual assault is about power, control, and opportunity. Perpetrators make their victims vulnerable through coercion, physical force, manipulation, or threats and then take advantage of that vulnerability. If you are not physically injured, that does not mean the sexual assault did not happen. If you became physiologically aroused during a sexual assault, that does not mean it wasn’t sexual assault – that just means your body is working in the way it was biologically programmed to. Often in extreme situations of danger or fear, our bodies become aroused and our senses become heightened. Physiological arousal can happen to both women and men during a sexual assault and does not mean you consented.

If you have been sexually assaulted, it’s important to take care of yourself. Recognize your feelings, identify support networks, and think about your options for medical care (i.e. going to the hospital to get a rape kit or to get STD/I testing). Rape Response Services is here for you in your healing journey. We serve all people who have been sexually assaulted in a safe, nonjudgmental, victim centered way. To access any of our services, call our 24/7 free and confidential crisis and support line at 1-800-310-0000 or email rrsinfo@penquis.org.

1 Briere, J. & Elliot, D.M. (2003). Prevalence and psychological sequelae of self-reported childhood physical and sexual abuse in a general population sample of men and women. Child Abuse & Neglect, 27, 1205-1222.
2 Maine Centers for Disease Control. (2010). 2009 Maine integrated youth health survey. Retrieved from http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/attach.php?id=101987&an=1
3 Tjaden, P. & Thoennes, N. (2000). Extent, nature, and consequences of intimate partner violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control. Retrieved from http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/181867.pdf

What is a protection order? How do I keep someone away from me?

Protection from Abuse orders (PFA) are available to individuals who need legal protection from another person who has hurt them.

 

A PFA is available:

  • To victims of sexual assault
  • To victims of stalking
  • To dating partners
  • Regardless of your gender or sexual orientation
  • Regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of the person who hurt you

 

A PFA can order the person who hurt you to:

  • Stop threatening, abusing or harming you
  • Stop contacting you
  • Stay away from your home, school or workplace

 

If the person who hurt you is the parent of your children, the PFA can order the person to have no contact with your children or set a safe contact schedule.

 

Information and Definitions

A PFA is available to people who have been abused by a dating partner, intimate partner, family member or household member.

Abuse includes hurting you physically or attempting to hurt you physically, sexually assaulting you, threats of harm or keeping you from doing something you have a right to do through force or threats.

A PFA is also available if you have been sexually assaulted or stalked.  A PFA is available if you were sexually assaulted or stalked by a friend, an acquaintance, a dating partner, a family member, or stranger.

Sexual Assault includes sex or sexual contact which occurs without your consent or is forced upon you. 

Stalking includes a course of conduct which causes you serious inconvenience—like changing your address or daily routine—in order to avoid the person, or causes you to fear that you or someone you care about will be hurt or that your property will be destroyed.

Protection from Harassment Orders (PFH)

  • A PFH is an option if you have been harassed by any other person.  For example you may be able to get a PFH against a neighbor who is harassing you.  Harassment generally includes three or more acts of intimidating behavior.

 

To request a PFA/PFH from the District Court:

  • You must fill out forms and file them with the court clerk.  Forms are available at the court or online.
  • If you are in present danger, an Order can be granted immediately.  The Order is effective when it is served on the person who is harming you.
  • A hearing will be scheduled.  The hearing is the opportunity to present your testimony, and evidence or any witnesses.  The other person will have the opportunity to object to an Order.  At that time a Judge will grant or deny your Order.
  • A final PFA can be in effect for up to two years and a final PFH can be in effect for up to one year.  An Order may be extended at a later time.
  • You can be represented by an attorney or represent yourself.
  • A Rape Response Services legal advocate can assist you through any part of this process.  Legal advocates cannot give legal advice or speak on your behalf in court, but can give you information and support.  Legal advocates may also be able to help you find legal resources if you wish to be  represented  by an attorney but cannot afford one.

Call 1-800-310-0000 or (207) 973-3589 to speak to Rape Response Services about assistance from an advocate.  You can also email ashaw@penquis.org.

 

The information contained in the page above is for information only and does not constitute legal advice.  Only an attorney can give legal advice. If you have more questions, please contact Rape Response Services at 1-800-310-0000 or rrsinfo@penquis.org