Helping a Survivor

Sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault, no matter what; no matter how much alcohol was consumed. Alcohol may increase the risk of sexual assault, and may make someone incapable of giving consent or protecting themselves, but it is not the cause of the assault. Responsibility lies with the perpetrator; the survivor is never responsible for the assailant's behavior (75% of admitted date rapists said they used alcohol to get dates drunk so they could have sex; 40% of men in one study thought it was acceptable behavior to force sex on a woman who was drunk).

In the vast majority of sexual assaults against college students, the offender is known to the victim (acquaintance sexual assault accounts for 90% of college rapes). This means that the offender was not a close or intimate friend, but someone recognized by the victim such as a classmate, friend of a friend, lab partner, someone seen around campus, or person met at a party.

Survivors of a sexual assault may experience a range of emotional, physical, and mental reactions to the trauma of being victimized, which may include the following:

  • Self-blame
  • Denial
  • Eating difficulties
  • Embarrassment
  • Confusion
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Shame
  • Anxiety
  • Flashbacks
  • Guilt
  • Mood Swings
  • Fatigue
  • Fear
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Anger
  • Shock
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Rage
  • Disbelief
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feelings of worthlessness

If a friend has been sexually assaulted:

  1. Believe your friend.
  2. Listen non-judgmentally.
  3. Assure your friend that he or she is not to blame for the sexual assault.
  4. Encourage your friend to immediately reach out for help (reporting options).
  5. Empower your friend to make his or her own choices.
  6. Stay with your friend during interviews and examinations if she or he wants you to do so.
  7. Take care of yourself. You may need to talk to someone about how this has affected you.

If you have been sexually assaulted:

  1. Go to a safe location.
  2. Do not blame yourself. The sexual assault was not your fault.
  3. If you are injured, seek medical attention immediately.
  4. Reach out for help (reporting options).
  5. Understand that you have choices, and you should make the choice that is best for you.
  6. In order to preserve evidence, do not shower, bathe, douche, or brush your teeth.
  7. Recognize that healing from a sexual assault will take time. Give yourself the time you need.
  8. Remember, it is never too late to seek help. Many victims do not realize they need help until months or years later.