Seriously Injured by Physical or Sexual Assault?
The Victim’s Guide to Surviving Abuse & Assault
At Cranston & Edwards PLLC, we care about our clients and the community we serve. If you or a loved one has endured abuse or assault at the hands of another, we invite you to take charge of your future. We are pleased to offer six important steps you can take to empower yourself, along with several valuable resources you may find useful. As a survivor of interpersonal violence, you can pursue justice while getting the support you need to not just survive, but thrive. Read on to learn more.
6 Steps Toward Closure – and Justice
Healing After Sexual and Physical Assault
If you have endured physical or sexual assault, you may wonder how you can get the support and justice you need. In some cases, the criminal justice system may fail to convict the offender, as well as others who enabled the assault, despite their guilt. Whether you suffered sexual violence, a physical assault, domestic assault and battery, a hate crime, or other traumatic experience, you can take steps to recover your sense of safety and move forward with confidence.
Step 1: Cut Off All Contact With the Abuser
If you are still in contact with the perpetrator, you must completely eliminate their ability to access you. Maintaining physical and psychological safety and security are important so you can begin working through the recovery process. Change your phone number and ignore all attempts the abuser may make to contact you. You do not owe your abuser an explanation. Often, a survivor may not be safe at home. You may consider a temporary stay at a West Virginia domestic violence shelter or a move to a new location where the perpetrator will be less likely to find you. A wide range of nationwide resources is available to provide guidance to help ensure your safety.
Step 2: Surround Yourself With Support
Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult for assault victims to get the support they need – even among their own families, friends, and community. This may be especially true if the abuse was hidden or the perpetrator holds a position of influence in the community. In many cases, victims may have been intentionally isolated from friends and family. Accept all help that is offered to you. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support when you need it. Our communities are full of people who want to help you. Consider joining a support group of others who understand what you are going through.
West Virginia Crime Victims Compensation Fund
If you are a West Virginia resident who has been seriously injured within the past two years as the result of an assault, you may be eligible to access funding to assist with your recovery. Financial assistance for medical and dental care, counseling, lost wages, and other specific expenses resulting from the following violent crimes (as reported to law enforcement) may be available through the West Virginia Crime Victims Compensation Fund:
- Malicious Assault
- Assault and Battery
- Child Abuse/Molestation
- Domestic Violence
- Driving Under the Influence
- Reckless Driving
- Vehicle Homicide (Negligent Homicide)
- Sexual Assault
- Hunting Accident
- Other Violent Crimes
To apply for relief, call the WV Crime Victims Compensation Fund: 1-877-562-6878
Step 3: Take Care of Yourself
Experiencing serious sexual and/or physical abuse can be completely overwhelming. It may significantly impact one’s sense of self-worth. It can affect your ability to work, care for your children, and focus on daily activities. You may be left feeling defeated and unwilling or unable to treat yourself with the care you need. Remember, you must eat regularly, get adequate sleep, maintain your basic personal hygiene, and seek medical care as appropriate. It may be tempting to retreat into the temporary comfort of alcohol or even illicit drug usage – but these will merely create additional problems while doing nothing to promote healing.
Take time each day for self-care. Enjoy a cup of tea, take a walk, a relaxing bubble bath, talk with a trusted friend, cuddle with a pet, take time to pray or meditate, listen to relaxing music, stretch, draw, or do a favorite activity you haven’t done in a while. If you find that you are still having difficulty handling your basic personal responsibilities or would like help developing a plan to stay safe, reach out for help. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7/365 for personal, confidential advocacy and support at no cost whenever you need it: 1-800-799-7233.
Step 4: Remember: Healing Takes Time
Be patient with yourself. Healing from abuse and assault is a process that can take many months or years, but you can recover. Try to hold fast to your regular routines as much as possible, maintain contact with caring friends and family, and explore all options for support available to you. NEVER blame yourself. Each person is fully responsible for their own actions and nothing you did (or did not do) made you deserve what happened to you. Take as much time as you need to heal and find what works for you.
Most county prosecutors’ offices have access to victims’ advocates and additional local resources to assist in your recovery. You may want to ask if there are any specific locally based resources for victims of assault in your area.
Step 5: Consider Trauma-Centered Counseling
Feelings of fear and reluctance to fully engage in life can persist for years following assault. The earlier you pursue professional trauma recovery techniques, the better you may be able to work through feelings of loss, grief, and emotional trauma. It may be tempting to bury these emotions and move on as if nothing happened, but this is seldom a good idea.
Reaching out for professional counseling does not mean you are weak. Instead, counseling can help ensure that you are able to face life without unexpected feelings of anxiety, panic, and flashbacks of the incident appearing without warning.
The trauma you endured does not define you. You can learn to forgive your abuser – not because they deserve it, but for your own peace of mind. You can also learn to forgive yourself, as well, by internalizing the fact that the abuse was not your fault – and you did the best you could. When you integrate what happened and learn to process the powerful emotions you feel in a healthy manner, you can go beyond merely surviving. You can overcome and THRIVE.
Step 6: Holding the Abuser Accountable
Whether the perpetrator was successfully prosecuted and sentenced to prison time, fines, and other legal sanctions or not, you may have additional options to hold them accountable. Consider filing a personal injury-based civil lawsuit against the person(s) responsible for causing your serious personal injuries. The standard of proof for civil cases is lower than that which must be proven in criminal cases. You may be eligible to recover damages for the physical harm, as well as emotional distress, that you suffered (and may continue to endure) as a result of abuse/assault at the hands of the perpetrator, as well as others who may share liability. Importantly, holding the perpetrator accountable may serve as a deterrent against future abuse and/or assault by the individual in question.
Contact Cranston & Edwards PLLC
Morgantown, WV Personal Injury Law Firm
No Fee Unless We Win – Home & Hospital Visits Available
Cranston & Edwards PLLC is a specialized personal injury firm based in Morgantown, WV. Our AV® Rated law firm works on a contingency basis for those who have been seriously injured or lost a family member from the negligence or fault of another. Contact our experienced personal injury lawyers for effective legal representation, more than 55 years of collective litigation experience, proven skills, and a track record of success. There are absolutely no legal fees until we win your claim. For a free case evaluation, contact us today at 304-296-3500.