For further guidance, please see our K-12 Resource Bank and Guide created in partnership with the Victim Rights Law Center!
Violence and abuse can be hard to define, especially as a young adult. Bullying, cyber-bullying, unwanted sexual touching, physical attacks, sexual assault, and relationship abuse are often referred to as violence; it is up to you whether or not you decide to name your experience as any one of those things. If you have questions about what you experienced, you can visit these pages for help, or call the sexual assault hotline (1-800-656-4673).
Know that what you’ve experienced is not your fault. No one has the right to touch your body in ways that make you feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or in pain. And no one—including a boyfriend, girlfriend, teacher, parent, relative, or friend—should tease, taunt, manipulate, or hurt you. If they do, it’s not your fault; it’s theirs.
If you are in secondary school and have experienced any of the above, you may have some different concerns than a survivor who is in college:
(1) Know that you are not alone. 44% of survivors of sexual assault are under the age of 18. There are resources here, here and here for teenage survivors of dating violence and sexual assault.
(2) You might be in a class or after-school activity with the person who assaulted you.You can talk to a school guidance counselor, a teacher, or another trusted adult, to the police, and/or your local crisis centerabout how you can get a protection order to make sure you don’t have to be near your assailant and to make sure s/he doesn’t contact you if you don’t want them to. If you attend a public school or any other school that receives federal funding (e.g., a private school that participates in the federal free lunch program), you have the right to an education free from threats, harassment, assault, and abuse based on your gender. You can learn more about your rights and your schools’ obligations here.
(3) You might have concerns regarding mandatory reporting and control over who knows about your assault and what actions are taken in response. Similar to students on college campuses, if you choose to tell a teacher or counselor, that person may be considered a “mandatory reporter” and have to report your disclosure to an authority such as the police, your local Department of Children and Family Services, or your parents, especially if you’re a minor. These agencies may not end up intervening, but it is a possibility you might encounter.
- The decision made by the authority to whom the mandated reporter reports can vary by situation. For example, if you report that you are being abused by someone you live with, or if you are being abused by a caretaker whose job is to keep you safe, authorities may be more likely to intervene. Learn more about the laws in your state here.
- The goal of mandatory reporting is to keep you safe, even though it might feel like people are not respecting what you want. The decision to tell someone what happened (or what’s happening) can be difficult; you should always do what is safest for you.
(4) You might also worry about your privacy in general. Maybe you want to tell someone, but are worried that everyone will find out what you have experienced. If you don’t feel comfortable identifying yourself, you can:
- Speak in hypotheticals to teachers, doctors, or other adults you feel comfortable with. For example, “What if I had a friend whose brother touched her in a way she was not okay with? What should that friend do next?”
- You can also call a hotline and not tell them your age. A list of available hotlines is below.
If you can, try not to be alone with your experience. Dealing with violence is hard to do at all, let alone all by yourself. Seek out a trusted friend, counselor, or relative you feel safe talking to.
Hotlines and Other Support Resources:
- RAINN’s Online Hotline — This free and confidential service provides services to survivors of sexual assault through an online chat function, instead of by phone.
- The National Sexual Assault Hotline, 800-656-4673 — This free and confidential service provides services to survivors of sexual assault over the phone.
- The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center’s 24-hour hotline, 800-841-8371 — This free and confidential service provides services to survivors of sexual assault. Anyone can call this hotline, though services such as counseling, legal and medical resources are limited to survivors in the greater Boston area.
- The National Dating Abuse Helpline — This helpline is designed for teens and young adults who have experienced abuse in a dating relationship.
- Hollaback! — Hollaback! provides resources and empowerment tools to survivors of street harassment.
- Stop Bullying — This government website provides state-by-state information on policies and laws about bullying, as well as information on how to prevent, report, and respond to bullying. You can also watch videos on bullying.
- Public Justice – Public Justice represents bullying victims and their families, including victims of sexual assault and harassment, in lawsuits against school districts that failed to protect them. You and your family can contact the organization for legal assistance by phone at (202) 797-8600 or by email at caseintake[at]publicjustice[dot]net.
- The National Women’s Law Center is able to assist in filing Title IX complaints and lawsuits in limited circumstances. If the NWLC is unable to represent you, they may be able to help you find another attorney.
- The Victim Rights Law Center assists victims in Massachusetts and Portland, OR. You can contact the VRLC by phone at 617-399-6720 x19 or at their web address here.
While these resources have been written with the guidance of legal experts, Surviving in Numbers is not an entity which can provide legal advice, and the information on this website does not constitute legal advice. We encourage you to contact a lawyer to discuss any legal questions you may have.