After an Assault
For many people experiencing an assault is just the beginning of the horrors. We try to help people avoid, prevent and prevail in assault situations, but also need to address common things that happen after an assault. Common issues include secondary attacks, medical emergencies due to injuries, police inquiries and psychological trauma.
Leave the area
Pretty simple: Just get out of there. The person who assaulted you might come back, might have friends, or something else unexpected might happen. Try not to draw attention to yourself as you leave. It is usually in your best interest if the bad guys can't figure out who you are or where you went; the less they can figure out about you, the less chance there is of a follow-up attack at a later date. Get to a safe area as quickly and discreetly as possible. If you cannot leave, and there are others present, ask them for help.
See to critical injuries
If you have any serious, life threatening injuries apply First Aid and get to a hospital. If you cannot get to the hospital and the injuries are serious, call 911, but say only "Help. I was just assaulted and have been shot/knifed/whatever. I need help and I'm at [xxxx].' Describe your appearance. Describe the appearance of the attacker. Don't say anything except you were attacked, you are injured, you are scared and where you are. Decide to survive. If your attacker was seriously injured you might consider calling an ambulance to the scene of the event. If a knife or gun was involved, the hospital is likely to call the police, so don't be surprised if they show up.
Document the Incident
Memories fade and are modified quickly. Whether it is in writing, audio or video, document every detail of the incident. If you have any injuries, be sure to get pictures or video of them. If there were any witnesses, get a record of what they saw, as well. Don't be surprised if there are differences between the stories.
Call an attorney
Contact a competent attorney. Describe the situation and follow his advice. Do not go to or make any statement to the police except on his advice. In general, you should not answer any questions posed to you by police officers, especially right after a self defense event. In your agitated state you are very likely to say something that may result in you being arrested. If the police get to you before you can talk to your attorney -- something they purposefully try to do -- and are pressing you for a statement or answers, tell them that you will be happy to file a police report once you are in a better emotional state and after consulting with your attorney.
Some people think or will say that it looks suspicious if you call an attorney before calling the police. That is ridiculous. Your attorney has your best interest in mind. His job is to protect you, personally.
Psychologically Prepare to be Arrested
Many attackers will claim that you attacked them, even if they shot you, knifed you, etc. Consequently, the ideal in an assault in which you escaped or prevailed (and caused any injury to the attacker) is to not be identified. But you might as well assume that you were. If you have time, get your affairs in order so that you and your family are prepared if the police come to question or arrest you. It would be best to not have any weapons on you if that happens, especially any weapon that you might have used to defend yourself. Don't be surprised if the police are extremely aggressive, as they will have been told that you violently assaulted someone using tanks, grenade launchers, machetes, dynamite and poison gas bombs. If police attempt to arrest you, do not resist. They can kill you, if necessary, and it won't matter to them that you were actually the innocent victim all along.
Call the police... maybe
Ask yourself, why call the police at all? What good will it do? Calling the police during an assault is a waste of precious time; many people are killed while they are on the phone (when they might otherwise have been able to defend themselves). The police aren't going to protect you. They will show up (long) after the assault has been completed, take notes, and might even arrest you unless it is crystal clear that they wouldn't be justified in doing so.... And things are rarely crystal clear when it comes to assault.
One reason to call the police is when the attacker can be identified, has fled, and you want him arrested. If you can't identify the attacker, and there weren't any witnesses, then calling the police probably isn't going to help you. In fact, in some cases it can cause you positive harm (e.g., the attacker called the police, claimed that you attacked him, but they haven't identified you -- in calling them you will have identified yourself and will probably end up arrested).
If you choose to call them after the event, clearly state the following:
- You were just attacked
- You were scared for your life and attempted to defend yourself
- Describe the attacker
- You are afraid you may still be in danger, and might not be able to stay on the phone or at your current location (if appropriate)
- Please send an ambulance (if anyone is seriously injured)
- Give the location and then put down the phone (unless you intend to use it as a weapon, which isn't a bad idea)
If you have decided to remain in the area, do not have a weapon in your hand when police appear. Hundreds of innocent people are shot and killed every year by police, and you don't want there to be any more confusion about who is the bad guy. There will already be enough. If/when the police arrive, tell them that you are very distraught at the moment, but you'll file a report once things have settled down and you've consulted with your attorney. Make it clear that you do not consent to any search of your person, property or home.
Keep your mouth shut
Do not talk to anyone except your attorney about the event. Statements you make to anyone else can be used to prosecute you. Make sure that members of your family and close friends understand that it is in your best interest for them not to make any statements to police about you except perhaps about what a nice, non-violent person you are, and how you'd never harm anyone unless it was necessary to defend your life. Make sure that your family knows that they are not to allow the police into the home or to search your property without a warrant.
Assaults cause psychological harm as well as physical, and the psychological harm can take much longer to heal. Many people experience extreme anxiety, emotional swings, and other psychological problems after an assault. Once the physical wounds have healed and any legal complications have worked themselves out, consider seeking psychological help.