Sexual Assault

The Student who has been Sexually Assaulted

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Research Report (December, 2000) 5% of college women nation wide experience a rape or attempted rape in a given academic year.  Men can also be the victims of rape and sexual assault.  It is important to respond sensitively to students who disclose having experienced a sexual assault or an attempted assault.

The Bureau of Justice report also tells us that 95% of the assaults of college women go unreported in any formal way.  One-third of women do not tell anyone of their experience, and two-thirds tell a friend or other trusted individual.  Complicating the issue of reporting is the fact that most assailants are persons known to the victim; they are not strangers.

If you are the person trusted with this information, what can you do?

It is helpful to

  • Listen to the person’s account
  • Prompt the person to continue the narrative by asking “and then what happened?”
  • Let the person know you care about his/her well-being
  • Appreciate any feelings disclosed as normal under the circumstances
  • Assist the person in obtaining additional support and help (see resources below)
  • Ask about the person’s physical condition, i.e., the possibility of physical injury or exposure to disease or (for women) pregnancy
  • Ask about the person’s current experience of safety; if they do not feel safe in their environment, offer assistance in increasing their sense of safety
  • In addition to the Counseling Center, consider contacting any of the following: the UW Sexual Assault Information Service (SARIS) at http://www.washington.edu/students/saris/office/, (206) 685-HELP (685-4357) or e-mail at saris@u.washington.edu; Hall Mental Health Center at 206-543-5030; King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, 24-hour Sexual Assault Resource Line at 888-99-VOICE (888-998-6423); or the Seattle Crisis Line at 206-461-3222.

It is not helpful to

  • Relate your own experience or story in any detail
  • Pursue specific details, except to clarify what you are hearing
  • Offer judgments about what might have been done differently
  • Make decisions for the person

The student may need and want to seek medical attention, even some time after the assault, to check for physical damage and to test for sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy.  For more information on this process, please see http://depts.washington.edu/livewell/saris/medical-care-after-a-sexual-assault/ The student does not have to decide about pressing charges in order to have the exam.

Federal law requires all campus personnel (except counselors in the Counseling Center) to make an anonymous report of an incident of sexual assault to the office of Campus Safety. This report is used for statistical purposes and contains only the nature of the incident and the location and date of occurrence.

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