FACULTY AND STAFF: When a student tells you she/he has been sexually assaulted


The reaction of people around the victim and the support the victim receives soon after the assault are very important to survival and recovery.

1) Believe him/her

Survivors need to be believed. Don't deny or minimize her/his experience; refrain from skeptical looks or remarks. Not believing will propel her/him into a maddening nightmare making her/him feel punished for being assaulted. No matter what the circumstances the perpetrator is at fault, not the victim. Even if you feel that she/he exercised poor judgment, sexual assault is not punishment--it's a crime. Reinforce again and again that the assault was not her/his fault. The survivor needs to hear "It's not your fault."

2) Listen

Be attentive and tell her/him that you are eager to help. Let the survivor tell her/his story in her/his own words. Follow her/his emotions. If the survivor needs to cry, let her/him. You do not need to try to calm her/him down. It's crucial to the survivor's recovery that she/he feel free to talk it out in a way that feels appropriate to her/him. As well as you can, put aside your own feelings and deal with them at another time and place.

3) Support Decision Making

Reporting the assault is a choice only she/he can make. Please don't try to force choices on a survivor, she/he may no longer confide in you or anyone else. Don't take charge; ask what she/he would like to do. A survivor of sexual assault have had every bit of control stripped from her/him. A key to the survivor's emotional recovery is to give her/him back some control as soon as possible. Note: The only time to break this rule is if the survivor is too seriously injured to make her/his own decisions.

4) Comfort and Care

Sexual assault is an act of violence; the survivor has been treated badly and devalued. Now she/he needs to feel valued and be nurtured. Provide protection by insuring that she/he has a safe place to sleep, food, clothing and possibly a nighttime companion. If she/he lives alone, strongly recommend that someone stay with her/him.

5) Preserve Evidence

Encourage her/him to preserve evidence and have a forensic exam before she/he showers, urinates, washes her/his hands, face or brushes her/his teeth, or hair. It will be essential should the survivor wish to press criminal and/or civil charges now or in the future. During a forensic sexual assault exam in a hospital, specimens will be taken from the survivor to find traces of blood, hair, saliva and semen from the rapist. There is no charge for this type of exam. If you think the survivor may have been drugged before the assault, ask that urine be collected and a specific drug test of Rohoypnol or GHB be done immediately. She/he should bring a change of clothes, including underwear and shoes, to the hospital as the clothing may be kept for evidence. If the survivor has already changed her/his clothes, she/he should put all the clothing she/he was wearing during the assault, including shoes, in separate paper bags.

6) Treat His/Her Medical Needs

She/he may have bruises, cuts or other injuries. Even if the survivor appears unhurt, encourage her/him to get medical attention because of the possibilities of STD's or pregnancy. In order to avoid pregnancy, emergency contraception can be used within 72 hours at UHCS or a hospital emergency department.

7) Sexual Assault Advocate

If the assault occured in Walworth county, suggest calling 262-472-1060. This does not mean the survivor must report the assault to police. The calls are confidential. Their trained advocates can support and guide the survivor. There are also sexual assault service providers in most counties and all metropolitan areas.

8) Be Available

In the weeks and months following the assault reassure the survivor that she/he can turn to you when she/he needs to. Survivors need varying time to heal. For some it may take months and for others it can take years or a lifetime.

9) Psychological Help

For long-term recovery after the acute crisis intervention phase, continuing mental health services will more than likely be needed. You may even need to do some of the leg work for her/him and line up counseling resources. She/he may need transportation, baby sitting and other services that will enable her/him to receive help. UW-W students can receive free counseling at UHCS by calling 262-472-1305.

10) Take Care of Yourself

Friends and lovers of survivors also need a good listener. If you are one of the secondary victims you are going to need to find someone with whom you can share your feelings. That might be family members, friends, clergy or the professional staff of UHCS. Please don't expect your needed support to come from the survivor. When talking with others, please try as much as possible to respect the confidentiality of the survivor.

11) Don't Assume the Burden

If you are not comfortable being a support person, tell the survivor in a thoughtful way and help her/him find someone who can act as a support person. This does not make you a failure because the survivor will pick-up on your discomfort and may think that it is a reflection on her/him.

12) Support Surviving

For many victims their main fear during the attack is that they will be seriously injured or even killed. So, however she/he reacted during the assault, it must have been the right thing to do because she/he survived. She/he may be second-guessing her/himself, questioning how the survivor reacted and wishing that she/he had responded differently. Don't join her/him in this self-abuse; rather reinforce that she/he responded in a way that enabled her/him to survive a paralyzing, terrifying and life threatening situation.

Resource Phone Numbers/Listings Of Services Provided

UWW Staff and faculty: What can you do if a student tells you that she or he has recently experienced a sexual assault?

Employees of UW-Whitewater are mandated by federal and state law to fill out an incident reporting form if they know of a sexual assault occuring on the UW-W campus or elsewhere to a UW-W student in the past year. Only the name of the person filling out the form is needed not the victim or perpetrator.

This site is not meant to replace the advice of health care, counseling or legal professionals. You should not rely on any information on these pages, or information generated for you by this site, to replace consultations with qualified professionals regarding your own specific situation.

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