How survivors of sexual assault can find ways to cope

Jailene Rivas

For some survivors of sexual violence and other forms of abuse, it can be very difficult to find sources or allies to rely on. Many of them have been fortunate to seek help from loved ones and professionals.

The reality for many survivors is that it may take days, months or even years for them to tell their stories.

“It took me five years [after it happened] to tell anyone or talk about it,” said a female survivor who wished to be anonymous.

Speaking about traumatic experiences can be very difficult for survivors, but sometimes the best people to rely on are other survivors who have been through similar experiences.

One survivor said she ended up meeting fellow survivors and they all met up and talked with one another.

“I also talk to my mom about it and she’s usually pretty good about it and has supported me since I told her,” she said.

The importance of loved ones is essential in the aftermath of sexual harassment. It is beneficial for these people to have support systems where they are listened to and supported.

Many of those within the support system can come from:

  • Family and friends
  • Therapists
  • Partners
  • Other survivors

If survivors are not ready to speak about their experiences, they can turn to activities and other things to help them cope.

“I have since then gone to therapy. I also used art as a way to cope,” she said.

Survivors all find their own ways to help them cope with their experiences. Other survivors have said some ways they cope include reading, writing in journals and exercising.

According to the HelpGuide, other activities that may help survivors cope are:

  • Dancing
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Painting
  • Getting massages

If you or a loved one is a victim of sexual assault, there are many resources to reach out to when the time is right:

The National Sexual Assault Hotline

  • Call: 800-656-HOPE (4673)
  • Chat online:

 Iowa State Resources

  • Assault Care Center Extending Shelter & Support (ACCESS)
  • ISU Student Counseling Services
  • ISU Thielen Student Health Center
  • Student Legal Services
  • Center for LGBTQIA+ Student Success
  • Margaret Sloss Women Center
  • Office of Equal Opportunity
  • Iowa State University Police Department

Ames Resources

  • Mary Greeley Medical Center
  • City of Ames Police Department
  • Story County Attorney’s Office