VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - When it comes to survivors of sexual assault speaking out, there are a number of different scenarios that can play out. But experts at the Samaritan House in Virginia Beach say you can almost certainly expect victims having to relive what has been done to them when telling others what happened.
“Whether it was 30 minutes ago or 30 years ago, that trauma can lead to mental illness, substance abuse or use if you’re having to self-medicate to make it through the day," says Katherine Ashford, Samaritan House.
A fear of not being believed or even being subject to "victim-blaming’’ are all too familiar stories experts say victims experience when finding their voice.
"Oftentimes there are threats of, 'I will expose you.' Perhaps the person is a part of the LGBTQ community, so the attacker or assailant says, 'I will out you,'" says Ashford.
Survivors of sexual assault speaking out and speaking up can have different effects on other survivors. Their stories can either be traumatizing for people who have been in their shoes or empowering for others to know they are not alone, but more importantly, they let them know they are not defined by what happened to them.
"When someone is able to be a voice for the voiceless, we want to encourage them to speak their truth so others can speak their truth. It’s not about punishing, it’s about being able to come forward," says Ashford.
For help, you can call the Samaritan House's Coordinated Crisis Response Hotline at 757-251-0144.
For a list of resources, click here.