Sexual and domestic violence happens in every community and affects people of all genders, races, and ages. Sexual abuse and domestic violence are some of the most under reported crimes for a variety of different reasons. Reporting these crimes is a personal decision. The following information and resources can help support you in making a decision that is right for you.
What is Sexual Assault?
The term sexual assault refers to the sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim.
What is consent?
While the legal definitions of consent may vary by location and circumstance, the general concept is always the same: Consent is an ongoing process of discussing boundaries and what you’re comfortable with.
Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent should be clearly and freely communicated. A verbal and affirmative expression of consent can help both you and your partner to understand and respect each other’s boundaries.
Consent cannot be given by individuals who are underage, intoxicated or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, or asleep or unconscious. If someone agrees to an activity under pressure of intimidation or threat, that isn’t considered consent because it was not given freely. Unequal power dynamics, such as engaging in sexual activity with an employee or student, also mean that consent cannot be freely given.
What to do if you have been raped?
Your immediate safety is the first priority: call 911 if you are not safe.
When you are safe, seek medical attention right away. This is the first step of recovery. Call 911 and describe the assault or rape. Do not shower or bathe: this will interfere with the collection of important forensic evidence. For the same reason, do not wash any clothing – including underwear – that was worn during the assault or rape. It is ok to put the clothing in a paper bag (not a plastic bag). When the 911 operator receives your call, if you are uninjured, a police officer will transport you to the Philadelphia Safety Collaborative (300 E. Hunting Park Ave., Philadelphia; 215-425-1625); this is where PSARC (Philadelphia Sexual Assault Resource Center) and the police department’s Special Victims Unit (SVU) are located. If you previously put your clothing in a paper bag, be sure to bring it.
As an alternative to calling 911, you may also call SVU (24/7: 215-685-3251) and go there without a police officer providing the transportation. Reports are not taken over the phone. SVU and PSARC operate 24/7; they help victims/survivors day and night.
If you are seriously injured, go to a hospital and explain what happened. The hospital will call 911 to ensure that the above occurs when your health status is stable.
At SVU, you will be asked to describe what happened to a detective. We strongly encourage survivors to do this: it is often another step of recovery. A specially trained PSARC nurse will conduct a sexual assault exam that assesses your health and any injuries. Collection of forensic evidence also occurs. First aid and medication may be given, and the nurse will explain important information about STDs, birth control, and medical aftercare. In many situations, a WOAR advocate may provide in-person support at PSARC. If this cannot be arranged, a WOAR advocate will follow up with you by phone.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence refers to the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner or cohabitator against another.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, online.rainn.org) in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.
WOAR works with survivors, their loved ones and their support network to support healing, find their voice, understand the impact of trauma and find ways to thrive.
WOAR provides FREE victim and trauma therapy services to children and adults who have experienced sexual violence: this includes sexual abuse, sexual harassment, rape/date rape, and incest to heal from sexual trauma. It does not matter if the sexual trauma occurred yesterday or 40 years ago. WOAR works with anyone who has experienced sexual trauma. Call of text the 24-hour hotline at 215-985-3333. The staff and volunteers are highly trained Sexual Assault Counselors and/or Master’s prepared Counselors.
The website contains information related to:
- Counseling Services/Treatment resources
- Victim Advocacy
- Sexual Assault Resources
- Court and Legal Information
The Philadelphia Sexual Assault Response Center (PSARC) was established in 2011 to meet the forensic and medical needs of sexual assault victims who are 16 years of age and older. PSARC is a private, not-for-profit center whose mission is to provide expertise in the assessment and evaluation of sexual assault victims in Philadelphia. All services are provided in a private, medical office setting located adjacent to the Special Victims Unit of the Philadelphia Police Department. This unique setting allows for private, confidential, victim-centered care.
The center is staffed 24/7, by on-call, specially trained and experienced Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) who provide forensic rape examinations and evidence collection to both females and males. Staff are all highly-trained and compassionate nurses with years of experience in the care of sexually assaulted patients.
PSARC works closely with the Philadelphia Police Department's Special Victims Unit, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence (formerly Women Organized Against Rape or WOAR), and the Philadelphia Sexual Assault Advisory Committee to provide a survivor-centered approach to sexual assault.
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV) is a statewide collaborative membership organization committed to ending intimate partner violence and all forms of violence against women. You can find help or information about abuse and advocacy at https://www.pcadv.org
Women Against Abuse has served an average of 11,500 people over the past five years through a continuum of trauma-informed care, as well as community education and advocacy. Services offered include assistance with shelter, counseling, economic and job support, and legal information.
Help is available! Call the citywide, 24-hour Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline (1-866-723-3014) anytime for crisis intervention, safety planning, resources and referrals. All calls are free, confidential and anonymous.
Hotline counselors can help connect you with free services in the Philadelphia area, including emergency housing, legal services, behavioral health services and other resources. There is also a chat line for when this option is safer than calling. Loved ones of those affected by domestic violence can also call to find assistance with helping their loved one.
Chat service is a safe and private way to connect with a Women Against Abuse advocate. Web Chat is available every day from 12 pm - 8 pm EST.
Web chat is end-to-end encrypted, which means that only you and the advocate you're chatting with can read the contents of the messages being sent. When you are done with your web chat, it is a good idea to clear your computer's history and erase your computer’s cookies. This will prevent someone from viewing your internet activity. Click here to chat: https://www.resourceconnect.com/waa/chat