A Kink-Friendly Resource Guide for Survivors of Sexual Assault in Texas
by Michele Quintin, LCSW
All of the following information is is based on materials available for free download from the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault [taasa.org][http://taasa.org/product-category/survivor-support/], as well as my professional training as a Texas OAG certified Sexual Assault Advocate and licensed clinical social worker with over four years experience providing counseling and crisis intervention to victims of sexual assault and abuse. Please distribute widely, to anyone who may benefit from this information.
As a kinky survivor, you can expect the same range of emotional responses to an assault as any person. However, you may have special concerns that you will be treated differently if you choose to disclose your sexual orientation(s), or that your kink might become the focus of treatment instead of the sexual assault. You may be concerned that even those who may be sensitive to the crisis of sexual assault may still hold distorted, judgmental ideas about BDSM, kink, and alternative sexualties.
If you are not open about your sexuality with your friends, family or employer, you may fear that disclosure may threaten your job as well as the support you need from your significant others. You may worry that public disclosure of your sexual orientation(s) may negatively affect your close friends and loved ones, both within and outside of the kink community.
These are all valid concerns. Let me be clear, they shouldn’t be. I passionately believe that every survivor should be treated with compassion, kindness, and trauma-informed care by their loved ones, the police, medical personnel, and victim advocates. I also have enough real world experience to know that may or may not happen, or may happen with some professionals and not others.
Professionals are people too, and some bring their biases and prejudices with them. This is an issue for all sexual assault victims, and of special concern to people with alternative sexualities. I want you to know the facts about sexual assault, as well as what your rights and options are, so you can make the wisest, most informed choices for yourself.
MOST IMPORTANT: Sexual Assault is never, ever your fault. No matter what, no matter the circumstances, you didn’t ask for this or deserve it, and it is NOT YOUR FAULT.
You don’t have to disclose anything you don’t want to disclose. This goes for talking to the police, medical personnel, victims services, and your loved ones. You can choose to disclose some details and not others. However, choosing not to disclose certain details may have consequences, such as hindering prosecution, if you choose to pursue pressing charges, or affecting the thoroughness of your medical exam if you seek medical attention. Also, it may be difficult to give some facts and hide others. I want you to be able to make an informed choice.
You have the right to assert your right to professional treatment regardless of the circumstances of the sexual assault. After an assault, you may not be in a position, physically, emotionally, or mentally, to advocate for yourself.
You have the right to compassionate personal and professional support to help advocate for you. Show supportive friends and family this guide if they are unsure how to help you, or enlist the support of a victim’s advocate. Victim advocates commit to helping all victims of assault, regardless of race, creed or sexuality. Their job is to explain the procedures, give you information on options and follow-up services, provide support, and help advocate to other professionals for the best care possible for you.
If you go to receive a sexual assault exam, an OAG certified sexual assault advocate from your service area will be called for you. You can also contact an advocate yourself by reaching out to your local rape crisis center.You can request to speak with your advocate in private. You can explain that you don’t want to disclose certain details, or ask for their support with details you do to choose to disclose. Ask for written materials that explain your rights in detail, or consult the guide below:
Facts about Sexual Assault
By definition, any sexual activity is assault when it occurs without consent, regardless of the circumstances. Victims of sexual assault are forced, coerced, or manipulated to participate in sexual activities against their will.
Anyone has the right to withdraw consent at any time. In the midst of an assault, it’s very common to go into “freeze” mode and be physically unable to say no. Lack of protest is not the same as consent!
Consent for some activities does not imply consent for other activities. Consent should always be explicitly expressed, never assumed.
Persons who are drunk, drugged or unconscious cannot legally provide consent.
In Texas, a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) also known as Sexual Assault Nurse Examination (SANE) is free of charge. Some (but not all) hospitals/clinics may charge you for medication or other services provided during the visit, but, under Texas law, the forensic exam is free. You are not required to file insurance.
A SANE can only be conducted within 96 hours of the assault.
Victim Rights for Sexual Assault Survivors in Texas
No police report is required for an adult in Texas to receive a free SANE exam or medical care after an assault. An adult victim may receive an exam, including STI and pregnancy prevention, if desired, without police involvement.
Some hospitals automatically call law enforcement for sexual assault victims. You have the right to choose whether to make a statement or not.
You have the right to have an OAG certified sexual assault advocate in the exam room, both for support and to help explain your options/rights.
You have up to 2 years to decide whether to report the crime and release evidence. A Evidence collected during a SANE exam will be stored for 2 years in case a victim decides to prosecute. The statute of limitations for sexual assault of an adult in Texas is 10 years.
Under some circumstances, a sexual assault victim may break a lease without penalty. See HopeLaws.org for more info.
A victim can also receive FREE & CONFIDENTIAL follow-up services such as counseling and advocacy. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 for information and referrals to local resources.
What to Do Immediately After an Assault
First, Get to a safe place.
Know your body may experience a wide variety of reactions, from shutdown to extreme agitation, which can include symptoms such as trembling/shaking, rage, physical pain, shortness of breath and/or racing heart, extreme fear or sadness, shame, or a combination of any or all of these. Know this is a normal reaction to an extreme situation. Staying as calm as possible and focusing on your breathing, particularly exhaling slowly, can help your body discharge these sensations and feelings.
Do not shower, bathe, douche, wash your hands, brush your teeth, or use the toilet. Don’t change or destroy clothing. As hard as it may be not to clean up, you may destroy important evidence if you do. If you absolutely must use the toilet, collect urine in a clean plastic cup and do not wipe. Note that these are best practices and none of these actions will prevent you from being able to get an exam.
Contact a friend or family member you trust or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 for support and information.
Get medical attention as soon as possible.
Finding & Receiving Medical Attention
After a sexual assault, find an emergency room or specially equipped facility to receive a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam. It is important to CALL AHEAD! Not every hospital or emergency room offers Sexual Assault exams, and even when they do, the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) nurse and Victim’s Advocate may be on call and need time to travel to the facility. Call your local crisis center or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 for information and referrals to local resources.
Bring a change of clothes, including underwear. Be prepared to wait. The exam itself is thorough and can take up to 2 hours.
You can choose to have the OAG Certified Advocate accompany you into the exam room for support. Friends and family members can accompany you to the facility and stay with you while you wait, but they are not allowed in the room during the forensic exam.
During the exam, you call the shots. The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner is a Registered Nurse who has received special training to provide comprehensive care to sexual assault victims. S/he will conduct a comprehensive forensic exam both to collect evidence and provide appropriate medical interventions. You have the choice to decline any part of this exam. The SANE may also provide expert testimony if a case goes to trial. The forensic exam includes conducting a head to toe assessment of the survivor (including pelvic exam), collecting physical evidence, photographing different areas of the body, diagnosing and treating medical issues, and dispensing medication to prevent pregnancy and STIs, if desired.
There is no charge for the forensic portion of the exam. Depending on which facility you go to, you may be billed for medication dispensed or for the medical portion of the exam.
In Austin, Safeplace has a 24/7 facility for providing free Sexual Assault Forensic Exams, called Eloise House. Visit http://www.safeaustin.org/help/eloisehouse/ for more information.
UT students can receive a SAFE exam on campus through University Health Services: https://www.cmhc.utexas.edu/vav/vav_medicalattention.html
Reporting to Law Enforcement: Pros & Cons
There are advantages and disadvantages to reporting your sexual assault.
Advantages of Reporting a Sexual Assault
The possibility of protecting others if your report leads to an arrest and conviction. Your reporting may help to strengthen another survivor’s report.
You will also be eligible for Crime Victims’ Compensation provided by the State of Texas to help with medical bills or follow-up care such as counseling. And you can request assistance throughout the trial process from Victim Advocates and/or Crisis Counselors.
Disadvantages of Reporting A Sexual Assault
It may be difficult for you to repeatedly tell your story to law enforcement and prosecutors. Retelling your story, especially if you don’t feel supported, may also be retraumatizing or trigger flashbacks or other trauma symptoms.
The victim does not get to decide if the case will be prosecuted. Even if you report the crime and choose to press charges, the District Attorney has the right to decide whether or not to prosecute the case. If the D.A. does not file, you are entitled to know why.
Fewer than one out of five cases goes to trial, and fewer result in conviction, and fewer of those lead to jail or prison time. This does not mean that your particular case will not be filed, but the statistics are not encouraging at this point.
Long Term Healing After an Assault
It’s normal for your body and mind to take time healing after an assault. Being gentle and kind to yourself, exploring mindfulness and body-positive movement, and working on creating a safe space in the here and now – all of these can help. So can trauma-focused therapy.
You can receive free and confidential counseling through your local rape crisis center. Depending on your local area, there may be waiting lists, and you may or may not get a choice in your counselor.
You may consider finding a licensed therapist in private practice. You can consult the [National Coalition for Sexual Freedom Kink-Aware Professional Directory][https://ncsfreedom.org/resources/kink-aware-professionals-directory/kap-directory-homepage.html] to find kink aware professionals in your area, or you can also consult the [Psychology Today Therapist Finder][https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms] and look for a therapist who specializes in trauma and is trained in trauma-informed techniques. Consult the NCSF Guide to Finding a Kink-Aware Therapist: http://www.drkkolmes.com/docs/kap.pdf
Most therapists offer a free phone consultation to help you determine if it’s a good fit. Ask about their experience and attitude towards kink and alternative sexualities. If it’s not a good fit, it’s good to know that up front and find someone who is.
Friends & Family Members – How to Help
What to say: Thank the survivor for trusting you enough to tell you. Ask, “What can I do to best support you?” Say, “It’s not your fault. I care about you and I’m here for you.”
Know it’s normal for you to have your own reaction to hearing that a person you cared about has been hurt. Reach for support for yourself from others (NOT the survivor). You can also contact the national sexual assault hotline or your local crisis center and receive free and confidential support for your feelings and reactions.
Show compassion and kindness. This is what the survivor needs the most. Don’t take outbursts personally, or force the survivor to forgive. Don’t press for details the survivor doesn’t want to share, or blame the survivor for what happened. Be open and nonjudgmental in your attitude and actions towards the survivor. Remember, that no matter what, sexual assault is NEVER the victim’s fault.
Don’t set timetables or give the survivor ultimatums. Support whatever decisions the survivor makes in regard to reporting the sexual assault, or receiving counseling.
A sexual assault brings up strong feelings of powerlessness. It is important to allow the survivor to make choices and be in control of what they need and want to recover. My purpose is to help kinky sexual assault survivors, and their loved ones, know what a victim’s rights and options are after a sexual assault, and to be realistic about what reactions they may encounter after a sexual assault. Survivors who practice BDSM, fetishes, power dynamics, etc. have unique questions and concerns, but still have the same rights (and challenges) as any other sexual assault survivor. Every survivor has the right to make the choices that work best for them, and to know that there is compassionate, trauma and kink-informed professional care available.
Helpful Links & Numbers
RAINN – National Sexual Assault Hotline (24/7 Crisis line that also gives referrals to local resources): www.rainn.org 1-800-656-4673
NCSF – National Coalition for Sexual Freedom Kink-Aware Professional Directory: https://ncsfreedom.org/resources/kink-aware-professionals-directory/kap-directory-homepage.html
Psychology Today Therapist Finder:
TAASA – Texas Association Against Sexual Assault : www.taasa.org
TAASA’s free downloadable materials for Sexual Assault Survivors and their loved ones: http://taasa.org/product-category/survivor-support/ and a comprehensive (30 page) guide for Sexual Assault Survivors: http://taasa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/BK_TAASA-Survivor-Booklet-2014.pdf
Texas Crisis Center Locator (To search for local resources): http://taasa.org/crisis-center-locator/
LAASA: Legal Aid for Survivors of Sexual Assault (Free Hotline Answered by attorneys 7 days a week): http://www.tlsc.org/programs/lassa.asp 1-844-303-7233
TAP – Texas Advocacy Project: Toll Free Legal Help (Available M-F 9-5) (800) 374-4673
TRLA – Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid: http://www.trla.org/ (888) 988-9996
CENTRAL TEXAS RESOURCES
24/7 Free Sexual Assault Forensic Exam Facility in Austin http://www.safeaustin.org/help/eloisehouse/
University Health Services (Forensic Exam on campus for UT students): https://www.cmhc.utexas.edu/vav/vav_medicalattention.html
Crisis Centers by County *Services are free and confidential*
Travis County: Safe Alliance (formerly SafePlace): http://www.safeaustin.org/ (512) 267-7233
Williamson County: Hope Alliance: http://www.hopealliancetx.org/ (800) 460-7233
Hays & Caldwell Counties: HCWC: www.hcwc.org (512) 396-4357
Bastrop County: Bastrop County Family Crisis Center: http://www.family-crisis-center.org/ (888) 311-7755
Comal County: Crisis Center of Comal County: http://www.ccccnbtx.org (830) 620-4357
Bexar County: The Rape Crisis Center http://rapecrisis.com/ (210) 349-7273
Guadalupe County: Guadalupe Valley Family Violence Shelter http://www.safeseguin.org/14.html (800) 834-2033