Being a outside is a scary place to be for anyone. But as a woman, there is the added constant fear of sexual assault. You are either hyper-aware of your vulnerability and efforts to stay safe, or you are putting yourself into danger of being raped, or worse. I have personally experienced it, as probably any woman who has spent any amount of time being homeless has experienced it. It is a fight for your life before, during and after, and then comes the fear and confusion on how should we handle the situation? How do we survive this, and for a lot of us we add the word - again?
Every person has a different story, and it's true that sexual assault is hard to talk about. It thrives in an environment of silence and may cause fear, embarassment, shame and guilt for the victim/survivor. Those affected by sexual assault, especially homeless women are often silenced by these feelings every day. The abusers depend on this silence and their place of vulnerability to keep the cycle of abuse going. We need to support victim/survivors in a way that they can find their voice and try to find real safety in this crazy world.
If you are a victim of an assault, #1 importance is that you are cared for as quickly as possible, every time. You are a human being and deserve to be cared for when you are hurt, no matter your address or non-address. I know sometimes it feels futile, humiliating or scary with whatever the other circumstances to the whole story is...but c'mon, this is YOUR health and YOUR body, and dare I say, YOUR community, too. There are people here who do care. Help them help you.
It is important to try as much as you can to:
- go to a safe place immediately
- seek medical attention as soon as possible
- save clothing and personal items involved in the assault
- if possible, do not bathe, change clothes or change your appearance until after evidence has been collected by the police
- FIND SUPPORT
For immediate assistance you can call YWCAs 24-hour crisis hotline and they can help you in figuring out the next steps:
Local number - 360-695-0501
or toll free: - 800-695-0167
For life threatening situations, please call 911
The YWCA of Clark County Sexual Assault Program says, "It's never too late to seek support!"
The Sexual Assault Program strives to reduce the trauma of sexual assault for victims and their families by providing:
- Non-judgmental support, information, and referrals for victims/survivors who have experienced sexual assault at any time in their life
- Advocacy for all ages during medical exams, law enforcement interviews, and the criminal justice process
- Individual therapy and sexual assault support groups
- Prevention and community education
- Free and confidential services available without discrimination by reason of race, color, religion, disability, pregnancy, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, age, ethnicity, income, veteran status, marital status, or any other basis prohibited by federal, state, or local law.
** It is important to note here, especially for homeless women, that sometimes being a part of helpful survivor programs may also open doors into other programs that can help you get into more secure environments or housing.
You don't have to suffer any longer alone. Be strong. Fight back. Get real help..at any time.