Existe Ayuda (Help Exists) Toolkit
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Fact Sheets

Atención mujeres...existe ayuda: English Translation

Attention Women...Help Exists

by Laura Zárate and Jessica Coloma

If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you are not alone.

  • Have you experienced unwanted sexual gestures or remarks while at work?
  • Has somebody forced you to have sex against your will, recently or during your childhood?
  • Has your spouse or partner forced you to perform sexual acts against your will?
  • Did somebody who helped you cross the border force you into prostitution?
  • Did someone who smuggled you across the border force you to pay with sex?

If you answered yes, you have been a victim of sexual violence and you deserve the help you need regardless of the circumstances, your gender, your immigration status, your sexual orientation, or who your perpetrator was.

One out of every six women is a victim of sexual violence. A common form of sexual violence suffered by women is acquaintance rape.

Acquaintance rape occurs when someone you know uses force, threats, or intimidation to have sexual contact with you. The perpetrator could be a boyfriend/ex-boyfriend, husband/ex-husband, coworker or boss, landlord, neighbor, friend, classmate, priest, or a family member (e.g., father, brother, grandfather, uncle). Women can also commit acquaintance rape.

Common Myths About Sexual Violence

Myth: If a man spends a lot of money on a woman, she owes him sex.
Fact: Nobody owes sex to anybody, regardless of how much is spent on a date or during a relationship.

Myth: Women who dress provocatively and go to bars are at fault if they are sexually assaulted.
Fact: Any form of sexual aggression is a violent crime committed against a person. Only the perpetrator is responsible for the crime, never the victim.

Myth: A man who is already turned on can’t help himself and needs to go through with the sexual act.
Fact: All men can control themselves if they choose to. They do not need to have sexual relations after being turned on.

Possible Emotional Reactions to Sexual Violence

Am I to blame? Many times society makes victims feel as if they are to blame or that they provoked the incident:

  • "It was God’s punishment."
  • "There is a reason this happened to me."
  • "Maybe I asked for this."
  • "Nobody is going to want to marry me now."
  • "I am a tainted, loose woman."

Nobody deserves to be sexually assaulted. It is not your fault. You have a right to look for help. Your life is valuable. To survive sexual violence is to survive a very traumatic experience. There is not a "correct" way to respond to sexual violence. Each person reacts in different ways. However, there are some emotions and reactions that many victims share:

  • Guilt.
  • Sadness.
  • Embarrassment.
  • Anger.
  • Depression.
  • Fear.
  • Anxiety.
  • Distrust.
  • Insomnia and nightmares.

From Victim to Survivor

For the simple reason that sexual violence still remains underreported, we do not know truly how many victims there are in our communities. While some victims deal with their trauma in silence, without looking for help, others do look for available help in their communities. The healing process for this type of trauma is very personal and can last a lifetime. In spite of this, however, many survivors form healthy relationships and live full lives. The first step in the healing process is to realize that it was not your fault, regardless of the circumstances. You are not alone. There is free and confidential help to help you begin the path from victim to survivor.

Crisis centers generally offer services from the moment of the incident all the way through a trial, if that is what the survivor wants. These services may include—

  • A 24-hour crisis line.
  • Accompaniment to the hospital, police station, and court to provide emotional support and information.
  • Short- and long-term counseling for individuals and groups.
  • Legal advocacy.

If you have been the victim of sexual assault, the decision to tell the police is yours alone. Reporting the crime to the police is not the same as suing the perpetrator for damages.

Sexual Assault Medical Exam

Collecting and preserving the evidence will be necessary if you want to bring charges against the perpetrator. It is important to preserve the evidence by collecting it through a sexual assault medical exam within 72 hours of the sexual assault. Before the medical exam, you should not—

  • Take a shower, take a bath, or do a vaginal cleanse.
  • Brush your teeth if there was oral sexual assault.
  • Drink, eat, smoke, or change your clothes before you go to the hospital.


  • Bring a change of clean clothes to the exam facility.
  • Find someone to talk to whom you trust and with whom you feel safe.
  • Blame only the rapist.
  • If the attack happened at your home or apartment, do not change the sheets or destroy any evidence that may have been left.
  • Even if you do not call the police or a sexual assault crisis center, it is important to receive medical attention to protect against sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy.

Local Services and Crisis Lines:

Office for Victims of Crime
810 Seventh Street NW., Washington, DC 20531
The Office for Victims of Crime is a component of the Office of Justice Programs,
U.S. Department of Justice.
Office of Justice ProgramsOffice for Victims of Crime. Justice For Victims Justice for All.