TAKING CONTROL

Victims of sexual assaults are often embarrassed or emotionally distraught, but should immediately seek help to ensure they are OK and prevent other attacks.

One out of four women will be victimized by sexual assault at some point in her life, according to June Payne, psychologist for Counseling and Health Services.

Resources are available on campus and in the Muncie community to help those who may become victims. Knowing support is available might comfort those baffled by sexual assault statistics.

It is not unusual for victims to initially blame themselves after the rape occurs, Payne said. They will often mull over what they could have done to prevent the assault.

"Rape survivors need to know that although they are victims,they don't have to live as a victim forever, but can move on to be a survivor," Payne said.

FIRST STEPS

After a person is raped it is essential to report the incident as soon as possible by calling 911, contacting the University Police Department or going to Ball Memorial Hospital's emergency room.

Payne said people tend to buy into the misconception that rape is not a crime and wants people to know it is a serious offense that needs to be pursued.

"Rape is a crime," Payne said. "It should be treated the same as if you are robbed or assaulted in any other way."

It is critical for the victim to refrain form showering. Payne said it is common for rape victims to feel unclean and want to shower and change clothes, but this can be destructive when collecting evidence later.

She said the victim should bring an extra change of clothes to wear when the examination at the hospital is finished.

GETTING HELP

When a rape is reported, the hospital automatically contacts the Victim Advocacy Program where advocates are on call 24 hours a day. If a victim decides to proceed with the investigation, they will guide the victim through the legal aspects as well as the rape kit study and assist in any possible way, said Michelle Macon Cole, a representative of Victim Advocacy Program.

According to Cole, the State of Indiana Crime Victim Service will pay for the rape kit and any professional counseling needed if the victim commits to proceeding with an investigation.

According to Rose Hahn, a registered nurse who has worked for Ball Memorial Hospital for 11 years, many victims go to the hospital after being raped and don't want to proceed with the investigation. They just want to know if they have an STD or are pregnant.

"After talking with a victim advocate, many women change their minds about not prosecuting," Hahn said. "Many times they will go ahead with an investigation after spending time with a victim advocate."

After it is determined the victim wants to proceed, a rape kit is performed. Although it can be painful and often the victim feels re-victimized because the graphic nature of the exam, Hahn said the nurses and victim advocate will do everything possible to make the victim comfortable.

"The victim can be feeling very sensitized and very frightened during the exam," Payne said. "We are making a great stride in the sensitivity of the exam and paying attention to the needs of victims and what they are going through."

Hahn said the rape kit process is not as painful as the assault the victim just encountered.

"We explain step by step what we are doing and will stop at any time if the victim needs us to," Hahn said. "Victims didn't choose to be victims - but they are."

The advocate will also assist in dealing with the emotions the person may be feeling during the exam.

When the rape kit testing is finished, it is sent to the Indiana State Police crime lab where it is examined and tested for DNA.

PRESSING CHARGES

Cole said in July 2000 one of her clients, a Ball State student, was sexually assaulted near campus. The assailant broke through her window and raped her. She did not know her attacker.

The victim chose to pursue the investigation and through the advancements of rape-kit testing and DNA matching, her attacker was successfully found, charged and will spend the next 20 years in jail. The student has now moved on with her life, graduated and is happily married, Cole said.

Because this victim pursued her case, she was able to put a rapist in jail for 20 years.

"When a victim does not press charges," Hahn said. "It allows the attacker to possibly strike again."

Cole said the rape kit is intrusive and the victim shouldn't be pressured to pursue an investigation, but having the rape-kit examination is necessary because victims usually want to press charges later.

After a victim decides to pursue the investigation, Cole said he or she makes a statement to the officers in charge of the case. It is then sent to the prosecutor's office, where he decides whether or not to file a case. The victim can attend all hearings, as they are open to the public.

Victims who attend these hearings can request a higher bond for the accused assailant if they feel they are in danger. She said it takes on average one year to complete the entire legal process.

Cole said victim advocates are available and can help victims with any legal aspects.

"We take time to explain to the victim exactly what the process will entail," Cole said. "If they have any questions they can always come to us."

Payne said the victim should seek some sort of professional counseling as soon as possible after the rape occurs.

Although talking with friends and trusted people is helpful and comforting, she said professional help is necessary to help the victim deal with the incident emotionally and mentally.

Indiana's Sex Crimes Department, in addition to paying for the rape-kit testing, will pay for any counseling needed by victim.


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