Supporting Sexual Violence Victims
How to Offer Support to Victims of Sexual Violence
Helping a friend who has experienced sexual violence is not an easy task. This is very different from helping a friend through an everyday problem. Thus, it will be important to get appropriate information from professionals and obtain services for yourself as well. Below are some helpful guidelines to consult.
First and foremost, you must start by believing your friend. End Violence Against Women International has created the Start by Believing campaign in order to emphasize how important this movement is for victims. Often, the very first person's response when a victims shares their story will determine whether or not that victim chooses to disclose again. Watch the video below to see just how important your response is.
How to Support a Friend
Often, victims report that one of the worst parts about experiencing sexual assault is losing control of their choices and what happens to them. So, it is your responsibility to give the victim back as much control as possible. This means allowing the victim to make his/her own decisions about the next steps they will take regarding medical attention, law enforcement, counseling, and who hears their story.
If your friend is a victim of sexual violence the following information can offer guidance on how to help and support.
- Listen and accept what you hear. Do not press for details. Allow your friend to reflect on what has happened and to share some of her/his feelings. This is important because asking victims about details of a situation, like what they were wearing, where they were, or who they were with, might come across as blaming victims because of these things.
- Keep what is said confidential. The victim should always decide who hears their story and who does not; even if you have good intentions in telling someone without the victim's permission, your actions may further harm the victim. This does not apply to University employees as employees are required to report all Title IX issues to the office of Student Conduct or the Title IX office.
- Let your friend know that she/he is not to blame. Many victims tend to blame themselves for the offenders actions, especially if the perpetrator was an acquaintance.
- Encourage your friend to obtain a medical examination. It might be helpful to offer to drive them to Stillwater Medical Center. You can read more about the process at SMC on the I’ve Been Assaulted. What do I do? page.
- Encourage your friend to call the OSU-OKC Sexual Assault Advocate (405-945-8687) or the 24-hour YMCA Crisis Hotline (1-800-522-7233).
- Seek emotional support for yourself if needed. Again, it is incredibly difficult to watch a friend go through this. Not only could a counselor help you process this experience, the counselor may be able to give you advice on how to continue helping your friend.
- Allow your friend to make their own decision about their next steps.
- Accept their choice even if you disagree with what they have chosen to do. It is important that they feel empowered to make choices and take back control. Do not impose your values on the victim.
- Encourage your friend to file a police report. Filing a report does not commit you to prosecute, but will allow the gathering of information and evidence. The information and evidence maintain future options regarding criminal prosecution, university disciplinary actions and/or civil actions against the perpetrator. Information can be helpful in supporting other reports and/or preventing further incidents (even anonymous reports are useful).
- Offer campus resources to your friend. See On and Off Campus Resources for more information.
Supporting Students as University Employees
As a University employee, your role is very different from that of a friend. There are specific guidelines set forth by Federal Statutes that mandate how you are to handle a situation in which a student confides in you. Please read the Guidelines for University Employees page to fully understand your role and responsibilities.
Additionally, you may find the following checklist helpful.
1.____ According to Board of Regent’s policy, OSU-OKC Safety &Security should be contacted immediately if the incident happened on campus and OKC Police Department should be contacted if the incident happened off campus.
2.____ In compliance with Title IX federal guidance, if an employee of the University is aware of an assault or any type of gender discrimination then the university must investigate, end the discrimination, prevent the discrimination from reoccuring and educate the campus. University employees must notify the office of Human Resources (405-945-3298) for issues regarding students and employees.
3.____ Provide the victim with a 1 is 2 Many Booklet. Booklets are provided to each college's student services center and available from the office of Student Conduct.
4.____ In the case of sexual assault, provide the student with information about the OSU-OKC Sexual Assault Advocate (405-945-8687) and the 24-hour YMCA Crisis Hotline (1-800-522-7233).
5.____ Encourage the student to seek follow-up health care through a medical center immediately or with a personal physician, for physical injuries, a general physical exam, and testing for STD, pregnancy and HIV.
6.____ Ecourage the student to seek counseling. Counseling option are provided on campus and in the community. On and Off Campus Resources
7.____ Offer information concerning the OSU student conduct process, and the reporting student’s options to file a complaint with the University alleging another student violated University policy.
8.____ Offer information to the student concerning accommodations to be made as needed for the student to feel safe and continue in school.
9.____ Help the student generate a list of people in her/his life who may be able to provide non-judgmental, confidential support.
10.____ If appropriate, make a plan to follow-up with the student.