Where to Start if You’ve Been Harassed or Sexually Assaulted - VHA Assault and Harassment Prevention Office
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VHA Assault and Harassment Prevention Office

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Where to Start if You’ve Been Harassed or Sexually Assaulted

If You Are Experiencing an Emergency, Dial 9-1-1

VA is here to help you. We want to help you get the care and resources you need. If you have experienced events such as harassment, sexual assault and/or intimate partner violence, you can start here.

If You’ve Experienced Violence or Need Immediate Assistance

Get to a safe place

Your safety is top priority. If you need assistance in locating a safe place, you can talk to the VA Police, Patient Advocate or your primary care provider at your local VA medical center or community hospital to find assistance. Please make sure you find a safe place.

If you are physically hurt, need medical help or want to talk to someone
  • If you need emergency medical treatment call 9-1-1. Find the nearest hospital or VA health care facility and go to the emergency department for treatment. Do not shower so that any potential evidence can be preserved.
  • If you need emotional support: Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, press 1 (available every day, 24/7), or text: 838255. Also, you can find the nearest hospital or VA health care facility and go to the emergency department.
  • Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program: If you would like to speak with a trained Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program Coordinator, click on the following directory to locate a counselor near you: Directory of Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program (IPVAP) Coordinators - VHA Social Work.
  • For 24/7 counseling by phone: Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224.
Decide whether and where to make a report
  • If you call the local police, they will help you determine your options, begin to collect evidence and talk to you about what happened.
  • If you are a Veteran, you may go to the nearest community hospital or VA medical center emergency department. If you go to the VA emergency department, we’ll notify the VA Police. The VA Police, with the local community police, will investigate.
  • If you do not want to report the incident to the police now but would like to talk to someone about it, consider using this list of resources to find the support you need.
  • You can make an official report with the police later if you prefer.

Next Steps If You’ve Experienced Harassment or Sexual Assault

Take care of yourself. Get the support you need either now or later.

  • The VA is here for you, and we want to help. Consider using these VA and Community resources.
  • Reach out to your current VA health care team to discuss your concerns.

Consider making a report

    Each facility has VA Police and Patient Advocates who can talk to you about your experiences.
  • Reasons to make a report include:
    • Raising awareness about your experiences at the VA
    • Having some control in the situation
    • Sending a message that harassment and sexual assault is not OK
  • You can make a report at any time after the incident occurred.

Speak up

  • If you feel safe, it is OK to provide feedback to the harasser to let them know you want their behavior or actions to stop.
  • Learn and use bystander intervention strategies to speak up or assist others.

What to Expect If You Go to VA

The first thing you should expect is Care and Respect. Your safety and well-being are the most important concerns for us. We want the VA to be a place where all feel welcome.

  • Every VA medical center has a point-of-contact to whom you can report harassment or sexual assault (VA Police or Patient Advocate). The VA police will be notified of the report, if appropriate, and will work with local community police to start an investigation.
  • The Patient Advocate can help you get any immediate medical or mental health care.
  • We’ll provide you with any resources you may need or want to get the support you need.
  • After you report the incident, someone from the VA will follow up with you regarding any further needs and updates.
  • You’ll receive a letter from the VA medical center Director or designee, summarizing VA policy and any actions taken to address the incident
  • The facility will follow up with you regarding resolution and will determine whether you need additional resources.