With the spread of the novel coronavirus, many businesses, non-profit organizations, and government agencies are transitioning to online-based services. The rise of telehealth, or remote healthcare, may increase the accessibility of medical treatment for many people. Sexual assault survivors in particular may benefit from telehealth services, especially if they live in remote or rural areas.
Sexual Violence in Rural Communities
Sexual assault can happen to anyone, at any time. To heal from sexual assault, it is vital for survivors to seek professional help, from counseling and support groups to medication to treat mental health conditions. However, resources for sexual assault survivors can be few and far between, especially in areas that are rural or remote.
This fact is shocking, since many studies suggest that people in these areas suffer from higher rates of intimate partner violence than those who live in urban areas. In addition, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center found that several rural counties in the United States have significantly higher rates of sexual assault than the national average.
Survivors in smaller communities also face significant challenges when seeking help, such as a lack of anonymity, physical isolation, and mistrust of external resources and support. Telehealth for sexual assault survivors can help bridge these gaps, allowing for more anonymous, accessible support.
Why Is Telehealth Important for Survivors?
Aside from the lack of resources, rural communities face significant challenges that urban areas do not always face. However, some of these concerns may translate to tight-knit communities in cities as well.
Since smaller communities have fewer people living in them, many rural survivors refrain from seeking help out of fear of ostracization, rumors, or other people finding out what happened to them. In addition, their perpetrators may also be members of the community, and survivors may fear retaliation. Telehealth allows survivors to seek confidential, professional support in the safety of their own home.
Without these resources, survivors may have to heal alone, which can lead to the development of dangerous coping mechanisms and worsening mental health. With telehealth options, survivors can work through their trauma with a trained counselor — possibly reducing the rates of substance abuse, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and other harmful and dangerous behaviors that survivors often struggle with.
Is Telehealth Available for Survivors without Internet Access?
The main downside to telehealth for sexual assault victims is the reliance on an internet connection. Not all survivors have safe or private access to the internet, especially if they are in domestic violence situations. Some survivors may not have an internet service provider at all.
Resources are still available outside of the internet sphere. Survivors can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at (800) 656-HOPE (4673) to connect with sexual assault resources in their local area. Operated by the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), trained staff members are available to speak to survivors 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.
Seeking Justice After Sexual Violence
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, it is important to remember that you are not alone, and help is available for you. Telehealth services may be available for your community, and the National Sexual Assault Hotline can help you connect with additional resources.
If you are taking legal action against your perpetrator, contact a sexual assault attorney with experience advocating for survivors as soon as possible. Your Uber sexual assault lawyer can connect you with additional resources and walk you through your options to justice.