Sexual Assault Survivor's Guide
The pages you find here have been compiled by the CSB/SJU CERTS team. This is a student/staff partnership designed to facilitate honest, open conversation regarding sexual health issues in order to foster healthy, safe decisions and an environment that does not accept, condone or encourage sexual activity without consent.
Unfortunately, sexual assault does happen and it is a time that is frightening, confusing and generally full of emotions for the victim/survivor. We hope the pages here can serve as a starting point to understanding those feelings, finding resources, and taking the steps towards healing. You will find definitions, what to do immediately if you have been sexually assaulted, emergency contacts, thoughts about reporting, a description of common feelings and some tips on how to cope, a link to the CSB/SJU sexual misconduct policy, commonly asked questions about the policy, as well as information for the people closest to you. This is an evolving effort and we welcome any resources that you have found that we do not have listed, as well as any feedback. We want to do our best to make this work for you. Please send comments to [email protected].
Below, you will find some of the principles from the Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center that we also feel are the foundation for how we address sexual health and sexual assault. Some of the principles may be adapted slightly from the original.
- Each individual has the right to accept or refuse sexual contact at his or her discretion; and no one deserves to be sexually assaulted.
- Each sex has equal ability to control their sexual behavior and that they are ultimately responsible for their own actions. (The survivor is not responsible for the assailant’s actions.)
- Sexual assault is a violent crime and is often premeditated.
- Each survivor of sexual assault is a separate individual having distinct and separate needs and should be treated accordingly. There is no uniformly accepted “normal” reaction to sexual assault.
Remember, YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME, even if:
- Your attacker was an acquaintance, date, friend or spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, parent, sibling, guardian, other relative, professor, coach, or even employer.
- You have been sexually intimate with that person or with others before.
- You were drinking or using drugs.
- You froze and did not or could not say “no” or were unable to fight back physically.
- You were wearing clothes that others may see as seductive.
- You said “yes” but later said “no” and were not listened to.
- Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center at (320) 251-4357
CMSAC is a 24-hour crisis intervention center for victims of all forms of sexual violence. The Center’s purpose is to provide non-judgmental direct services to victims of sexual assault, their families and friends, to provide professional training and prevention education regarding sexual assault; and to improve the coordination of services of various agencies that deal with sexual assault and its victims.
- Campus Security (CSB): 363-5000
- Life Safety (SJU): 363-2144
- St. Cloud Hospital Emergency Trauma Center: (320) 255-5656
- CSB/SJU Sexual Misconduct Policy Information
- Report Sexual Misconduct
Sexual assault is actual, attempted, or threatened sexual contact with another person without that person’s consent. Sexual assault is a criminal act that can be prosecuted under Minnesota state law. Conduct that is determined to be sexual assault also violates the joint sexual misconduct policy of the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University.
What is Rape?
Rape is a commonly used term to describe a sexual assault that includes unwanted, coerced and/or forced sexual penetration, as well as situations where the victim/survivor cannot actually give consent (underage, vulnerable adults, etc.)
What is consent?
Consent is the free and active agreement, given equally by both partners, to engage in a specific sexual activity.
Consent is not present when the other person:
- Is incapacitated by the use of alcohol or drugs
- Fears the consequences of not consenting
- Feels threatened or intimidated
- Is coerced (compelled to submit through intimidation, threats, misuse of authority, manipulation, tricking, or bribing with actions and words)
- Is physically forced to comply
- Says no, either verbally or physically (e.g., crying kicking or pushing away)
- Is not an active participant in the activity
- Is below the legal age of consent (In Minnesota, 16)
- Has a disability or mental impairment that prevent the person from making an informed choice
- Lacks full knowledge or information of what is happening
What is acquaintance sexual assault?
Acquaintance sexual assault is non-consensual sexual contact between people who know each other. According to the National Institute of Justice, 90% of college sexual assault victims know their attacker.
- Get to a safe place.
- Contact someone who can help you: a friend, the police (911), the local hospital, CMSAC, or other campus and community agencies.
Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center (Confidential)
St. Cloud Hospital Emergency Room (Confidential)
St. Joe Police
St. Cloud Police
Stearns County Sheriff’s Office
Saint John’s University Life Safety
College of Saint Benedict’s Security
CSB Health Services (Confidential)
CSB/SJU Counseling (Confidential)
CSB Office of the Dean
SJU Office of the Dean
CSB/SJU Policy Information:
Reporting Sexual Misconduct
- Do not shower, drink or eat, go to the bathroom, brush your teeth, douche, or change your clothes, no matter how dirty or violating it may make you feel. These activities destroy important physical evidence in the event that you decide to prosecute the person who assaulted you. However, if you cannot refrain from urinating before seeking help, urinate into a clean glass jar. If you must change your clothes before seeking help, place them (including undergarments) in a brown PAPER bag. Placing clothes or all other possible pieces of evidence in a plastic bag will chemically render them useless during evidence collection procedures.
- Get medical attention. You may have hidden injuries and may want to explore options for preventing pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. The decision to undergo a sexual assault medical exam at any hospital is most often performed by a specially trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) in the state of Minnesota. The exam is free, federally insured by the Crime Victims Fund of Minnesota. Also, the decision to complete such exam does not hinge upon the immediate reporting of the sexual assault to law enforcement. The evidence will be sealed and frozen immediately after completing the procedure, and can be stored within a medical facility for up to 3 months after being collected. During these 3 months, it may be used at anytime as admissible evidence in the event that a victim/survivor feels that he or she wants to report their experience to law enforcement.
- Write down everything that you remember happening, with as much detail as possible. This can help with your own healing process and in any legal action you might decide to take. This is also extremely helpful if a victim/survivor decides to report immediately to law enforcement. The process of reporting will involve questions calling for distinct detail about the sexual assault. The more detail a victim/survivor can extensively recall about their experience, the stronger their case may become when presented to the County Attorney’s office.
Sexual assaults are rarely reported. In fact, sexual assault remains the most drastically underreported crime in the U.S. In college, fewer than 5% of completed or attempted rapes are reported to the police. Reporting rates are low for a variety of reasons. A survivor may be uncertain whether what happened was actually sexual assault. Sexual assaults that are committed by acquaintances are often trivialized as “not so bad” because it does not fit the common social understanding of sexual assault. Survivors may think they won’t be believed or may even be blamed by police, courts, and friends. Many victims/survivors find an immediate coping strategy in indulging in the denial that the assault ever occurred in the first place. Without the acknowledgement of the sexual assault, they find temporary relief from their experiences. However, this relief will not last, and will most likely affect their healing in the future. Also, if the assailant was an intimate partner or close friend, victims/survivors may feel torn between their personal violation from the experience and their love for the assailant. They do not want to get their loved one in trouble. Especially in these cases, victims/survivors may feel that they are to blame for the assault, and therefore do not feel validated or entitled to making a report.
Decide if you want to make a police report. If there is even a chance that you might want to report, preserve all evidence. Do not shower, urinate, change clothes (including undergarments), brush teeth, bathe, douche, or straighten up the area until the medical and legal evidence has been collected. If you choose to change clothes, place the clothes you were wearing in a paper bag (to preserve evidence) and bring it with you to the nearest hospital or law enforcement agency. If you chose to urinate, do so into a clean glass jar, and bring it with you to the hospital or law enforcement agency. If you do choose to report, call 911 and go to the hospital to have medical evidence collected. It is best to have the medical exam within 72 hours of the assault. Even if you choose not to report, you should still go to the nearest hospital or clinic. You may feel OK, but it is still a good idea to talk with a medical care provider about tests for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections/diseases, and support services.
Emotional responses of survivors will vary from individual to individual. Sexual assault can be extremely traumatic and life-changing. It’s important to remember that your responses are not crazy; they are normal reactions to a traumatic situation – sexual assault. Our goal is to offer support, options and resources that encourage empowerment and healing. Below are some common questions and feelings survivors of sexual assault may experience but it is not necessarily an exhaustive list.
Why did this happen to me?
You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not your fault. Your power was taken away by someone else. Sexual violence can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, etc. One in three women and one in six men are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.
When will I be okay? When will this be over? When will I stop feeling so bad?
It is hard to understand that someone would do this to you and that there would be so much pain. It isn’t fair but you did survive. You are strong and courageous. There is no blueprint for healing. It is on your own time schedule and in your own way. There are people who can help you if you need it.
How do I get over this?
No one was taught how to heal from a trauma, so it’s scary. There are no simple 10 steps to healing but healing is happening. Talking about it is a very important healing tool. Sexual assault is not something that any individual will ever “get over” in their lifetime, more, it becomes an experience that makes up the character and being of the victim/survivor that has no more or no less impact on the individual than any other life experience.
No one understands!
You are not alone. These are common feelings of survivors. Even if you feel that no one can understand your personal situation, there are those out there who want to help and support you through this time. Sexual assault is a very common experience for many people. 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and 1 in 6 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
I feel like I am going crazy!
You are not crazy; you are dealing with a “crazy” difficult situation. Many survivors have this feeling.
It wasn’t that big of a deal.
What happened was a trauma and can affect you very much. Sometimes you don’t realize the extent of how it is affecting you right away. But, just pretending it didn’t happen or ignoring it won’t be helpful in the healing process.
I’m just imagining this. This couldn’t really have happened.
It’s hard to believe something so awful and so painful but typically memories like this are real. Memories of painful experiences are sometimes blocked until you’re ready to process them and move on.
SHOCK AND NUMBNESS
This response may occur soon after a sexual assault. Survivors may experience feelings of disbelief or denial about what happened. Survivors may feel emotionally detached or drained, and at times may be unaware of what is happening around them. Other reactions to the emotional shock may include: crying uncontrollably, laughing nervously, withdrawing, or claiming to feel nothing or to be “fine”. Survivors often may feel overwhelmed to the point of not knowing how to feel or what to do.
- If you are a victim/survivor, here are some tips that may help: Recognize that these feelings are normal reactions are experiencing trauma. Reassure yourself that these feelings will diminish over time but it takes as much time as you need to heal. If you want company, it may be helpful to surround yourself with supportive friends or family. You may also want to think about what has helped you through a previous crisis. For example, it may help to practice breathing exercises or meditation, go for a walk, listen to music, or talk with supportive friends and family. Remember the on-campus resources that you have as well if you want to talk to someone:
- CSB/SJU Counseling: 5605/CSB, 3236/SJU (Confidential)
- CSB Health Services: 5605 (Confidential)
- Dean of Students: 5601/CSB, 3512/SJU
DISRUPTION OF DAILY LIFE
After an assault, victims/survivors may feel preoccupied with thoughts about the incident. It may be difficult for survivors to concentrate, attend class, or focus on school work. It can be very upsetting to have reminders of the assault when trying to reclaim your normal life. Survivors may have nightmares, trouble sleeping, appetite changes, general anxiety, or depression. For the first few weeks or months after the assault, survivors may feel as though their life has been upset and may be wondering if it will ever be the same.
- If you are a victim/survivor, here are some tips that may help: It is important to be gentle with yourself and take steps to reclaim your life. After experiencing any kind of crisis, it is important to take time to grieve, to adjust, and to reorganize your life. Recognize that you will be able to go on with your life. Don’t be afraid to seek help if you are struggling academically or you need help dealing with the trauma.
LOSS OF CONTROL
Survivors may feel disoriented and overwhelmed. They may also feel anxious, scared, or nervous and have a difficult time concentrating. Often, survivors feel unsure about themselves, and may temporarily lack their usual self-confidence. Decisions that were made routinely before now may feel monumental. Survivors may feel that because of the assault they will have to change their whole lifestyle to feel safe.
- If you are a victim/survivor, here are some tips that may help: Try to make as many of your own decisions as possible. Even making small decisions can help you regain a sense of control. You may want to make some changes in your life such as re-arranging the furniture in your room, changing your look by cutting your hair, or changing your routine by exercising in the morning instead of at night. Small changes can help you feel like you are taking back control. Although there are people to help you through your options and support you to make a decision that is best for you, it is important to trust your instincts about what is right for you.
It is not uncommon for victims/survivors to fear people and feel vulnerable even when going through the regular activities of life. They may be afraid to be alone, or afraid of being with lots of people. They may find themselves not knowing who to trust. Survivors may have lost their sense of safety in their own environment, which makes them feel vulnerable and may fear that they will be assaulted again. Survivors may also be more aware of sexual innuendos, stray looks, or whistles.
- If you are a victim/survivor, here are some tips that may help: Make any changes in your life that you need in order to feel safe. If possible, you may want to change your locks, take a self-defense class, or stay with a family member or friend. Temporarily “not trusting” is a protective device that is an emotional coping skill. Most of these fears will go away or lessen over time. You will be able to trust when you have had a chance to heal and are feeling less vulnerable. If it doesn’t get better and fear is getting in the way of your daily life, it may be helpful to speak to a counselor.
GUILT, SHAME, SELF-BLAME
Most victims/survivors feel guilty and ashamed about the assault. Survivors often question that they somehow may have “provoked” or “asked for it”, that they shouldn’t have trusted the assailant, or that they should have somehow prevented the assault. Some of these feelings are the result of society’s myths about sexual assault and sexuality. Survivors will often start to doubt their ability to make good judgments or trust their own instincts. Sometimes blaming themselves helps survivors to feel less helpless.
- If you are a victim/survivor, here are some tips that may help: It was not your fault. No one deserves to be sexually assaulted. Tell yourself that many times a day. Being sexually assaulted does not make you a bad person; you did not choose to be sexually assaulted. Realize that guilt and self-blame are efforts to feel some control over the situation. Many survivors also experience blame from individuals they tell about the incident. These reactions are fueled by society’s myths about sexual assault. It is important to surround yourself with supportive people. Education about the facts surrounding sexual assault may also be helpful in dispelling shame and self-blame. You may want to find some resources on health and recovery after sexual assault.
Victims/Survivors may have different reasons to feel angry. There is often as much anger at the events following the assault, as toward the assault itself: changing lifestyle, loss of freedom, being told to “get over it” by friends and family. Anger is an appropriate, healthy response to sexual assault. It usually means that the survivor is healing and has begun to look at the assailant’s responsibility for the assault. Survivors vary greatly in how readily they feel and express anger. It may be especially difficult to express anger if a survivor has been taught that being angry is never appropriate. Anger can be vented in safe and healthy ways, or can be turned in, where it may become sadness, pain, or depression.
- If you are a victim/survivor, here are some tips that may help: Allow yourself to be angry. You have a right to feel angry. However, it is important to feel angry without hurting yourself or others. As part of your anger, you may find yourself more irritable at home, school, or work. Anger can be expressed physically without harming yourself or others. Some people find that physical activity (such as walking, running, biking, hitting pillows, etc.) can help release the physical tension that often accompanies anger. Writing in a journal, playing music, or singing out loud to music are also helpful and healthy ways to release anger. Reporting the sexual assault may be another way you choose to turn your anger into a positive action. Many people often find it useful to speak with other survivors. Be careful to avoid unhealthy ways of coping with anger such as alcohol or drug use, cutting, or other self destructive behaviors.
Some sexual assault victims/survivors feel their experience sets them apart from others. Oftentimes, they feel differently or think that others can tell that they have been sexually assaulted just by looking at them. Some survivors do not want to bother anyone with their troubles, so they do not talk about the incident or their feelings. Survivors may withdraw or distance themselves from family and friends.
- If you are a victim/survivor, here are some tips that may help: You are not alone in what you are feeling. Many people find benefit in speaking with other survivors. Reading more about the topic can also be reassuring and validating. If you are feeling alone, call a trusted friend or family member. It can make all the difference to be with someone who cares about you.
ANXIETY, SHAKING, NIGHTMARES
Victims/Survivors may experience shaking, anxiety, flashbacks, and nightmares after an attack. This can begin shortly after the attack and continue for a long period of time. Nightmares may replay the assault or include dreams of being chased, attacked, etc. Survivors often fear that they are “losing it” and may feel that they should be “over it by now”.
- If you are a victim/survivor, here are some tips that may help: These responses, as scary as they are, are normal reactions to trauma. These physical reactions are ways your emotions respond to the fear you experience. It is important to be able to discuss your nightmares and fears, particularly how they are affecting your life. Keeping a journal to write about your feelings, dreams, and worries can be a helpful tool in the recovery process.
CONCERN FOR THE ASSAILANT
Some victims/survivors express concern about what will happen to the assailant if the attack is reported or prosecuted. Others express a concern that an assailant is sick or ill and needs psychiatric care more than prison. It is human to show concern for others, especially those who are troubled, destructive, and confused. Some of these attitudes may be the result of the survivors’ effort to understand what happened, particularly if there was a previous relationship. These attitudes might also be the result of the survivors blaming themselves for the assault. If survivors feel sorry for the assailant, they might find it difficult to express their anger and indignation for what they suffered.
- If you are a victim/survivor, here are some tips that may help: The sexual assault was not your fault. Only the assailant is responsible for what happened. You have a right to feel and express anger. It is important to hold the assailant accountable. You can have mixed feelings – you can love/like the assailant as a person and still hate what that person did to you. Pushing yourself to prematurely “forgive” the assailant may force you to bury your feelings of anger and rage. Reporting the sexual assault may be one way you choose to turn your anger into a positive action. Reporting may also be the only way for the assailant to get treatment.
Victims/Survivors may experience a variety of sexual concerns after an assault. Some survivors may want no sexual contact whatsoever; others may use sex as a coping mechanism. Some people may experience some confusion about separating sex from sexual abuse. Particular sexual acts may provoke flashbacks and thus, be very difficult for the survivor to engage in.
- If you are a victim/survivor, here are some tips that may help: Sexual healing takes time. Go at your own pace. Be very clear with your partner about your needs and limits when it comes to any type of sexual touching or sexual contact. You have a right to refuse to be sexual until you feel ready. Tell your partner what kinds of physical or sexual intimacy feels comfortable to you. Sexual assault is not sex. Intimate consensual lovemaking should be pleasurable for both partners. A patient, gentle, intimate partner is helpful in your healing process. A therapist with experience in sexual trauma recovery can be very helpful to your healing process.
POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD, involves a pattern of symptoms survivors may experience after a sexual assault. Symptoms of PTSD include repeated thoughts of the assault; memories and nightmares; avoidance of thoughts, feelings, and situations related to the assault; and increased stimulation (e.g., difficulty sleeping and concentrating, jumpiness, irritability). One study that examined PTSD symptoms among women who were raped, found that 94% of women experienced these symptoms during the two weeks immediately following the rape. Nine months later, about 30% of the women were still reporting this pattern of symptoms. The National women’s Study reported that almost 1/3 of all rape survivors develop PTSD sometime during their lives and 11% of rape survivors currently suffer from the disorder.
- If you are a victim/survivor, here are some tips that may help: Treatment for PTSD typically begins with a detailed evaluation and the development of a treatment plan that meets the unique needs of the survivor. PTSD-specific treatment is usually begun only after people have been safely removed from a crisis situation.
Adapted primarily from the Sexual Violence Center of Hennepin County, “Coping with Sexual Assault” by Terri Spahr Nelson, The Aurora Center for Advocacy & Education Sexual Assault Info Packet, and Becoming Whole Again – Healing from Sexual Assault, The University of Texas at Austin Counseling & Mental Health Center.
It is important for you to know that any of the above reactions are normal and temporary reactions to an abnormal event. The fear and confusion will lessen with time, but the trauma may disrupt your life for awhile. Some reactions may be triggered by people, places or things connected to the assault, while other reactions may seem to come from “out of the blue”.
Remember that no matter how much difficulty you’re having dealing with the assault, it does not mean you’re “going crazy” or becoming “mentally ill.” The recovery process may actually help you develop strengths, insights, and abilities that you never had (or never knew you had) before.
Talking about the assault will help you feel better, but may also be really hard to do. In fact, it’s common to want to avoid conversations and situations that may remind you of the assault. You may have a sense of wanting to “get on with life” and “let the past be the past.” This is a normal part of the recovery process and may last for weeks or months.
Eventually you will need to deal with fears and feelings in order to heal and regain a sense of control over your life. Talking with someone who can listen in understanding and affirming ways – whether it’s a friend, family member, sexual assault center staff member, or counselor – is a key part of this process.
Are you in the same class as the person that assaulted you?
It can be very scary and distracting for many survivors to attend class with the person who assaulted them. Your academic career is important and you should feel safe attending class so that you may be successful both academically and in your healing process. If you need to make alternate arrangements in your class schedule, talk to the dean at either CSB (5601) or SJU (3512) or if you are seeing a psychologist at CSB/SJU Counseling, you can talk to them about what you need and how to do it.
If the person who assaulted you is a student at the College of St. Benedict or St. John’s University, you have the option of making a report the Dean’s Office on either campus. Sexual assault is a violation of the joint sexual misconduct policy. This is separate from the criminal process, but can result in suspension or expulsion. If you are interested in pursuing this option, please contact the Dean’s Office directly. (CSB – 5601, SJU – 3512) or click on reporting sexual misconduct.
Are you worried about seeing the person that assaulted you on campus?
It can be very distressing and traumatic to see the person who assaulted you on campus. If you feel unsafe, talk to the dean of students on your campus about your options.
Are your grades suffering because of the assault?
It will take some time to adjust after the assault and it is very common to have difficulties concentrating on studying or focusing on coursework. You are encouraged to communicate directly with your instructor in order to limit any possible misunderstanding about expectations and requirements. If you decide to take an incomplete or arrange for alternate requirements with your instructors, you are encouraged to have a contract in writing with your instructor in order to protect yourself in case of confusion at a later time.
You may need to talk with someone to help you consider the options that will allow you to successfully continue your academic career. Sometimes survivors decide that they need to reduce their course load or withdraw in order to be successful in the future. This is a big decision and we encourage you to talk with Academic Advising if you are considering these choices.
Do you live in the same residence hall as the person who assaulted you?
You have the right to feel safe in your home. If the person who sexually assaulted you lives in the same residence hall as you or you feel unsafe in your room, contact CSB or SJU Residential Life to discuss your options. If you live off-campus and feel unsafe in your home, contact the local law enforcement agency.
Do you have concerns about the incident because you were drinking at the time?
No one deserves to be assaulted, no matter what the situation. Law enforcement will not issue tickets for underage drinking if there is a greater crime involved, such as sexual assault. For many reasons, survivors may hesitate to come forward if they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the assault. Many worry about reporting because they may not remember everything or may blame themselves for being intoxicated. Don’t let this get in the way of reporting a sexual assault. The focus should be on the behavior of the one who assaulted, not the survivor. An individual who is physically incapacitated cannot legally consent to sexual contact. It is also important to make sure that you receive appropriate medical attention. No matter what you decide to do, remember that is was not your fault.
Are you worried about making a police report?
Making a police report after a sexual assault can be a very difficult decision for survivors. Uncertainty about reporting the assault is common, especially if you know the person who assaulted you. Filing a police report is the first step in beginning the criminal justice process.
Are you concerned about telling your parents what happened?
If you tell your parents will it be more or less helpful to you? This is a very difficult question for survivors. Many people find it hard to disclose to their parents, but ultimately find parents’ love and support helpful to their healing process. Some survivors may be concerned about hurting their parents or fear that their family may blame them for the assault. Only you can decide if and when to tell your family.
What if you have mutual friends or belong to the same groups as the person who assaulted you?
This is a common situation since most assaults occur between acquaintances. People will likely take sides and you may find yourself distrusting friends and colleagues. Surround yourself with people who support, respect, and believe you. Trust your instincts, and take steps to ensure your personal safety and well-being. If you are experiencing harassment or feel unsafe, contact CSB Security, SJU Life Safety or the dean’s office on one of the campuses.
Do you worry about dating again?
Surviving a sexual assault involves having your control taken away from you, and it may be difficult to regain trust. Go at your own pace. It may be helpful to start in larger social situations or go on double dates. At first, you may want to avoid situations where you feel isolated or lacking control. When you are ready to date, don’t hesitate to be clear about your sexual limits.
When learning to survive a traumatic experience, taking care of yourself is very important. Preventing undue stress and emotional over-load must be your priority. Here is a list of things that might be helpful for you:
- Get support from friends and family – try to identify people you trust to validate your feelings and affirm your strengths, and avoid those who you think will deter your healing process.
- Talk about the assault and express feelings – choose when, where, and with whom to talk about the assault, and set limits by only disclosing information that feels safe for you to reveal.
- Use stress reduction techniques – hard exercise like jogging, aerobics, walking; relaxation techniques like yoga, massage, music, hot baths; prayer and/or meditation.
- Maintain a balanced diet and sleep cycle as much as possible and avoid overusing stimulants like caffeine, sugar, and nicotine.
- Discover your playful and creative “self”. Playing and creativity are important for healing from hurt. Find time for noncompetitive play – start or resume a creative activity like piano, painting, gardening, handicrafts, etc.
- Take “time outs.” Give yourself permission to take quiet moments to reflect, relax and rejuvenate – especially during times you feel stressed or unsafe.
- Try reading. Reading can be a relaxing, healing activity. Try to find short periods of uninterrupted leisure reading time.
- Consider writing or keeping a journal as a way of expressing thoughts and feelings.
- Release some of the hurt and anger in a healthy way: Write a letter to your attacker about how you feel about what happened to you. Be as specific as you can. You can choose to send the letter or not. You also can draw pictures about the anger you feel towards your attacker as a way of releasing the emotional pain.
- Hug those you love. Hugging releases the body’s natural pain-killers.
- Remember you are safe, even if you don’t feel it. The sexual assault is over. It may take longer than you think, but you will feel better.
When someone you know is sexually assaulted, it can be a frightening and confusing time for them and for you. Remember that the person who has been sexually assaulted needs to obtain medical assistance, feel safe, be believed, know she or he was not at fault, take control of his or her life.
There are some things you can do to help. Here are a few suggestions. Keep in mind that there is not one “right” way to deal with sexual violence; each person has to make his or her own decisions.
- Believe them. The most common reason many people choose not to tell anyone about sexual assault is the fear that the listener won’t believe them. People rarely lie or exaggerate about sexual assault; in fact, survivors of sexual assault are much more likely to downplay the violence against them. If someone tells you, it’s because they trust you and need to talk to someone.
- Don’t blame them. Another common fear in telling someone about a sexual assault is that the person will think it was somehow their fault. NO ONE deserves to be sexually assaulted, no matter what. Sexual assault is always the fault of the assaulter, not the survivor.
- Offer shelter. If possible, stay with the person at a comfortable, reassuring place.
- Be there and give comfort. The survivor may need to talk a lot or at odd hours at the beginning. Be there as much as you can and encourage the survivor to talk to others. Thank the survivor for feeling like he/she could talk to you. It’s not easy to tell someone about a sexual assault and you, as a listener should feel grateful that the survivor feels you are a safe person to talk to about the incident.
- Be patient. Don’t try to rush the healing process or “make it better.” Individuals do not heal at the same pace.
- Validate the survivor’s feelings: their anger, pain and fear. These are natural, healthy responses. They need to feel them, express them, and be heard.
- Express your compassion. If you have feelings of outrage, compassion, pain for their pain, do share them. There is probably nothing more comforting than a genuine human response. Just make sure your feelings don’t overwhelm theirs.
- Resist seeing the survivor as a victim. Continue to see them as a strong, courageous person who is reclaiming their own life.
- Accept the person’s choice of what to do about the assault. Don’t be overly protective. Ask what is needed, help the survivor list some options, then encourage independent decision-making, even if you disagree. It is very important that the survivor make decisions and have them respected, as it can go a long way in helping them regain a sense of control in their lives.
- Stay friends. Don’t pull away from the friendship because it’s too hard for you to handle: that will make the person feel like there is something wrong with them. You can always help them find other support people –don’t try to do it alone.
- Respect their privacy. Don’t tell anyone who doesn’t have to know. Don’t gossip about it with mutual friends. IT IS UP TO EACH PERSON WHO WAS ASSAULTED TO DECIDE WHO TO TELL AND WHEN.
- LISTEN. Try to be supportive without giving advice. You really can’t know what is best for someone else. In sexual assault, a survivor’s power over body and feelings has been temporarily taken away; the person needs support to take that power back, beginning with make his or her own decisions.
- Get help. Sometimes a person needs medical attention or other emergency help or support from other people besides friends. You can help your friend find the resources that are needed.
- Help yourself. When someone you care about is sexually assaulted, it affects you in a very deep way. You have your own needs and feelings which are probably somewhat different than your friend’s. Find someone you can go to without violating your friend’s confidence.
- Educate yourself about sexual assault and the healing process. If you have a basic idea of what the survivor is going through, it will help you to be supportive. There are many good information sites on the internet and there are also resources at CSB/SJU Counseling located on the ground floor of Mary Hall on the SJU campus or the Health Center in lower level Lottie on the CSB campus. CSB Health Services, located in the same CSB location, is another good resource. Talk with other survivors and supporters of survivors. Many are willing to share what has helped them, or can give you ideas on how to deal with a certain situation.
People can and do survive sexual assault. It is much better if they have support from people they trust. You may be able to be that person for someone close to you. If you need information, resources, or support, contact the CSB/SJU Counseling or CSB Health Services (CSB- 5605, SJU-3236) or the Dean’s Offices on either campus (CSB-5601, SJU-3512)
Most sexual assaults occur between two people who know one another. This doesn’t make the assault any less traumatic but it can be a source of confusion, embarrassment, hurt, broken trust, and guilt and lead to misunderstanding and under-reporting. Regardless of who commits the sexual assault, it is still a crime that leaves the survivor injured and traumatized. Survivors of sexual assault, especially when committed by an acquaintance, often feel a sense of responsibility for the attack and don't report the crime to the Police.
- If you are interested in any type of sexual contact with another person you should ask. Since sexual assault is any type of sexual activity that is not agreed to by both people involved, it would be in the best interest of both parties to discuss sexual wants, boundaries, and values. Consensual sexual activity involves the presence of the word “yes’ without incapacitation of alcohol or other drugs, pressure, force, threat or intimidation.
- You should respect the response of the other person. Sexual activity is a choice. A person has the right to say yes or no each and every time a sexual activity is considered.
- When considering whether you have consent for sexual contact, consider:
- Is the other person under the influence of alcohol or drugs?
- What is my relationship with this person?
- Am I pressuring?
- Am I manipulating?
- Am I using any kind of force?
- Is there any reason for the other person to be afraid of me?
- Is the other person of legal age to consent?
- Is the other person asleep or passed out or not participating?
- Is the other person indicating they do not want sexual contact by pushing away, moving away, or saying no?
Consent is NOT PRESENT when the other person is incapacitated by the use of alcohol or drugs, fears the consequences of not consenting, says no either verbally or physically, is not an active participant in the activity, or is below the legal age of consent.
- You have the right to say "NO" to any unwanted sexual contact. If you are unsure about what you want, make that uncertainty clear. Communication between both of you is essential. Listen carefully. Take time to hear what the other person is saying. If you feel the other person is not being direct, or is giving you a "mixed message", ask for clarification.
- If you don't know your date well, consider driving your own car and asking to meet your date in a public place. If you do accept a ride from a date, always carry some "mad money" so that you can call a cab if you need to cut the date short. You also could make sure a friend knows where you are at all times and is available to call, if needed.
- Communicate your limits. If you say "NO," that’s ok. If you say “YES,” that’s ok. As long as you and your partner are comfortable with the decision of whether or not to engage in sexual activity.
- Listen to your gut feelings. If you feel uncomfortable or think you may be at risk, leave the situation or call someone who can help.
- Use common sense. Realize that you do not have the right to force anyone to have sex just because you paid for dinner or drinks.
- Don't fall for common stereotypes. When someone says "NO", don't assume that they really mean "Yes". "NO" means "NO". If someone says "NO" to sexual contact, believe it and stop.
- Don't make assumptions about someone’s behavior. Don't automatically assume that someone wants to have sex just because they are drinking, dress provocatively (in your view), or agree to go to your room. Don't assume that just because someone had sex with you previously that they are willing to have sex with you again. Also don't assume that just because someone consents to kissing or other sexual intimacies that they are willing to have intercourse.
- Attend large parties with friends you can trust. Agree to look out for one another. Try to leave with a group, rather than alone or with someone you don't know very well.
- "Get involved" if you believe someone is at risk. If you see someone in trouble at a party, don't be afraid to intervene. You may save someone the trauma of a sexual assault.
- STAY SOBER ON A DATE. Alcohol impairs judgment and memory.
- Remember that sexual assault is A CRIME. It is never acceptable to use force in sexual situations, no matter what the circumstances.
If a sexual assault has occurred, talk to a friend, family member, RA, RD, counselor, Campus Security Officer, Life Safety Officer, or the Police. It is very important that you get medical and emotional support to help you cope with the crisis.
PLEDGE FOR ACTION
I, ____(insert your name here)________________________, pledge to do my best to help my family, friends, and peers in potentially dangerous situations in which drugs, alcohol, a violent person, or other threats to their safety and well-being are present. I will do this by having the focus and self-control necessary to remain aware of my surroundings, the wisdom to identify dangerous situations, and the courage to take action in confronting my friends when their judgment is impaired. I recognize that these dangerous situations may arise at times when people feel safe and comfortable, such as at bars, parties (especially when alcohol is influencing the situation and a person is trying to “hook up” with another individual), or in the context of a romantic relationship. I realize that it may not always be easy to help people from harm in these situations, but by remaining watchful and showing care and concern, I may help to prevent a sexual assault from occurring. I understand that the ONLY person responsible for a sexual assault is the person who engages in sexual contact without the consent of the other person. Through my own positive words, actions, and beliefs, I am taking the responsibility of helping to end sexual assault. I will share with people the importance of consent and the need to obtain consent with your partner by Asking First. I will treat all survivors of sexual assault with my respect and admiration. I will inform all of my family, friends, and peers that “If anyone ever has or ever does sexually touch you without your consent, I will fully support you. I will always be here for you. Always (from simply listening to helping you seek the proper support from professionals)!” During the next
24 hours, I will start putting this pledge into action by saying these words to at least 3 people.
Sexual assault is a horrific and traumatic crime. My active commitment to this project will help reduce the violence in my community and create a safer atmosphere for everyone.
- Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center (CMSAC) at (320) 251-4357
CMSAC is a 24-hour crisis intervention center for victims of all forms of sexual violence. The Center’s purpose is to provide non-judgmental direct services to victims of sexual assault, their families and friends, to provide professional training and prevention education regarding sexual assault; and to improve the coordination of services of various agencies that deal with sexual assault and its victims.
|SJU Life Safety||2144|
|CSB Dean of Students:||5601|
|SJU Dean of Students:||3512|
CSB Health Services
|St. Joseph Police||(320) 363-8250|
|St. Cloud Police||(320) 251-1200|
|Stearns County Sheriff’s Office||(320) 251-4240|
|St Cloud Hospital||(320) 251-2700|
- Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault: http://www.mncasa.org/
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center: http://www.nsvrc.org/
- Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network: http://www.rainn.org/
- The Office of Violence Against Women: http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/
- Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center (CMSAC): (320) 251-4357 or 1-800-237-5090
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE