Sexual Assault Response
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual misconduct, there are people at UST who can help.
What to do if someone tells you that they have been sexually assaulted
If a friend or someone you know was sexually assaulted, they may experience a variety of emotional reactions. For some, the emotional impact of sexual assault can be immediate and short-term. For others, the effects can be long-lasting. Your friend may find it helpful to talk to a counselor about these feelings.
How you can help:
A friend may confide in you 10 minutes or 10 years after the assault. At that time, it doesn’t matter so much what you say but how well you listen. Allow the person to talk, but do not push for details or ask a lot of questions. Let your friend decide what and when they feel comfortable telling you about the assault and its impact.
It is important that the survivor feels support from friends and family. Be careful not to invade their space. The survivor may be quite frightened and not want to be in close physical contact with anyone, even someone who is trusted.
It is important that the survivor has someone who believes that they was assaulted. Let your friend know right away that you care and want to help. It takes courage to talk about a sexual assault with other people. Many victims remain silent because they feel ashamed and/or they fear that they will be disbelieved or blamed if they tell other people about what happened to them.
Remember that your friend has been through an emotionally painful, traumatic experience. Your friend may act differently after the assault. Some of your friend’s reactions may be hard to watch, but you “being there” for your friend can help a lot.
Be patient and understanding. The trauma of a sexual assault does not go away quickly. It may take a while for your friend to recover. Sometimes friends and family members expect sexual assault victims to be “over it” in a few weeks. Understand that the pain the victim feels, and the symptoms, may last for a long time.
Don’t disclose what the victim tells you to other people. Let your friend decide whom they want to confide in.
No one deserves to be sexually assaulted or asks to be raped. Avoid searching for things your friend should have done. Survivors often blame themselves and need to know it was not their fault.
During a sexual assault, a person loses all control and it is important for the survivor to regain that control. One important way for the survivor to reestablish control is to make decisions autonomously. You may make suggestions such as calling the police, the victim/witness hotline, or telling a resident advisor, but allow the survivor to make their own choices.
Sexual assault has many lasting effects. It is important for you to realize that each survivor recovers at their own pace. Do not question the timing of the recovery. Remain supportive and provide encouragement.
Your friend may need medical attention or counseling. Offer to accompany your friend to get help, such as medical care, an evidentiary examination, counseling, or other services. Offer to be with your friend when they make a police report or tell a parent or partner. Do what you can to assist your friend in getting information about these and other options so they can make informed decisions.
- Encourage your friend to get medical care, even if the assault happened a while ago and even if your friend does not appear to have any physical injuries.
- Encourage your friend to talk with a counselor at a rape treatment center. If your friend is not ready to talk to a counselor “in person,” encourage your friend to call a rape hotline and talk with a counselor on the telephone.
- If your friend is willing to report the crime, encourage them to contact the police as soon as possible. Police officers can help victims get medical care and resolve concerns about their safety.
- ***Reporting an incident of sexual violence does not mean that the victim must file charges. If the victim wishes to file a charge with local law enforcement officials, UST Public Safety will provide assistance when requested.
- Assist your friend in finding information and resources.
You don’t need to know all the answers – your friend is just looking for someone to listen and be supportive.
Understand your own feelings. You may also feel confused, hurt, angry, or frightened. Such feelings are normal. Know and respect your own limits. There is only so much you can do to help your friend.
You can provide support, compassion, and companionship when your friend wants it, but try not to make commitments that you cannot fulfill. Remember that it was not your fault. You may feel guilty, thinking that somehow you could have prevented your friend’s sexual assault. Don’t forget that sexual assault is a violent crime and you are not responsible for someone else’s actions.
What to do if you have been sexually assaulted
Remember that the sexual assault was not your fault. No one deserves to be sexually assaulted. You are not alone.
It is best for any physical evidence to be collected immediately, ideally within the first 24 hours. The quality and quantity of evidence collected later may be substantially diminished.
Avoid washing, douching, brushing your teeth, or changing your clothes. This could be difficult, but if you wash you may destroy evidence that will be needed should you decide to press criminal charges. If you do change your clothes, put all clothing you were wearing at the time of the assault in individual paper bags (not plastic).
It is important to seek immediate and follow-up medical attention for several reasons:
- To assess and treat any physical injuries you may have sustained.
- To determine the risk of sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy and take appropriate medical measures.
- If you choose, you may have evidence collected to aid criminal prosecution if you later decide to file criminal charges. By law, emergency room staff must contact the police when they treat sexual assault survivors. The police will not ask you to file a report if you do not want to.
Remember that you do not have to go through this alone.
- Medical examination: You can be examined for injury, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy.
- Counseling: You can talk with a counselor or receive referrals to local resources.
Get to a safe place as soon as you can.
The hospital can provide general medical treatment and if the victim chooses, conduct a special evidence collection exam. A medical exam could include treatment of any physical problems and various lab tests for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. A specially trained nurse, an emergency department physician, or a gynecologist will perform the evidence collection exam. A sexual assault advocate or a support person of your choice may be present throughout the procedure.
- The hospital emergency department follows national standards for victim care, rape exams, and evidence collection procedures. If the decision is made to conduct an evidence collection exam, the anonymous evidence may be held for 6 months or longer. This means you do not have to decide immediately whether you want to press criminal charges.
Even if you choose not to have a hospital exam, it is still important to get medical attention to treat any physical problems and to conduct various lab tests for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. To arrange non-emergency treatment, contact Health Services at 651-962-6750.
Call Public Safety at 651-962-5555 (emergency) or 651-962-5100 (non-emergency) or your local police at 911. They can help you get to the hospital as well as help you report the assault, should you decide to do so.
Contact & Reporting Information
St. Thomas Public Safety 24-Hour Emergency – (651) 962-5555
What the University Provides You
On-Campus Places to Report Sexual Violence
On-Campus Confidential Resources
Title IX Coordinator
Department of Public Safety
Dean of Students
Department of Human Resources
Center for Well-Being
Counseling and Psychological Services
Off-Campus Places to Report Sexual Violence
Off-Campus Confidential Resources
Important Emergency Numbers
Hennepin Healthcare (formerly HCMC)
SOS Sexual Violence Services
Sexual Violence Center
RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network)