It’s hard to know what to do, how to feel, or what your options are after a sexual assault. Please know that you’re not alone. Below are some things to keep in mind.
Find a Safe Place
Your safety is most important. If you are in immediate danger or seriously injured, call 911. Even if you do not call 911, consider reaching out to someone you trust for support. You don’t have to go through this alone. What happened was not your fault. Something happened to you that you didn’t want to happen—and that’s not OK.
Consider Preserving Evidence
For immediate guidance on what to do after sexual assault, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673). You’ll be connected to a trained staff member from a local sexual assault service provider in your area. They will direct you to the appropriate local health facility that can care for survivors of sexual assault. Some service providers may be able to send a trained advocate to accompany you.
While it is only natural to want to remove any reminders of the assault, consider preserving physical evidence until you speak to the National Sexual Assault Hotline or someone you trust. For example, bathing, douching, brushing your teeth, chewing gum, drinking, changing your clothes or even combing your hair before seeking medical attention may destroy critical evidence of what happened to you. A trained medical provider can assist you with preserving physical evidence that could be needed later if you decide to pursue an investigation.
When you call the National Sexual Assault Hotline, someone will discuss with you how and when to report the assault. Reporting is always your decision.
Practice Self care
Even if you do not wish to disclose sexual assault, you may need immediate medical attention. For example, you may have sustained injuries that you cannot see or may have been exposed to infectious diseases. The University Health Center provides medical care, including professionals trained to respond to sexual assault, during the hours of 8:00 a.m. - 4:30p.m., Monday - Friday. For Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) services after business hours, please call 1-888-915-7299. Visit Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners for additional information. Remember, getting medical attention or collecting physical evidence does not mean you need to make a decision to report or prosecute.
Consider reaching out to a counselor trained to respond to sexual assault. Whether or not you report the assault or prosecute, a trained counselor can help you deal with the emotional trauma of an assault. Students may call the ETSU Counseling Center at 439-4841 and ask for an OASIS advocate. All counseling is completely confidential. Employees may reach to 1-855-Here4TN (1-855-437-3486) 24/7 for counseling through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Consider seeking out support from ETSU.
- ETSU's Title IX Coordinator can inform you about on-campus and off-campus resources,
including medical assistance, mental health counseling services, law enforcement agencies,
and campus conduct options.
- ETSU's Title IX Coordinator can assist you with supportive measures even if the person who assaulted you is not affiliated with the campus. Such measures may include housing or work relocation, a campus ban or "no contact order," and adjustments to course or work schedules.
ETSU strictly prohibits retaliation against a person who reports sexual assault. Any concerns of retaliatory behavior should be reported immediately to ETSU Public Safety 24 hours a day at 423-439-4480 or by calling 911 and by notifying the Title IX Coordinator.
Garrison Burton, Title IX Coordinator
Burgin Dossett Hall Room 109
Here are some helpful strategies if someone tells you they have been sexually assaulted:
- Listen without judgment. How you react when someone tells you their story affects their healing process.
- Express empathy. Resist the urge to analyze and question parts of the story you may not understand. Instead, actively listen to the person's story without interrupting.
- Do not blame. Individuals who survive trauma often blame themselves. Remember what happened was beyond their control. Don't ask them why or what if questions.
- Assure them they are not alone. It is normal to feel isolation, fear, and helplessness after an assault. You can help by just being there and allowing a survivor to work through their own feelings in a safe environment.
- Empower survivors. Sexual assault takes away power from an individual and this is often compounded when someone insists a survivor should do or act in certain ways after trauma. Provide resources but allow the individual to make their own choices.
- Know the reporting options. There are several reporting options at ETSU. Some are confidential, and some are not. The Title IX Coordinator can help you navigate reporting options. Visit ETSU Title IX to learn more about reporting options.
- Offer to accompany them. If an individual discloses a sexual assault to you, offer to escort them to where ever they need to go for help such to the Counseling Center, Title IX office, Public Safety, or a medical provider.
- Follow up. Reach out to the individual to let them know you are thinking about them and ask how they are doing.
What should I say if someone discloses a sexual assault? Listen carefully and offer neutral phrases to help the person come to their own conclusion about what to do.
- "I am sorry this happened to you."
- "What do you think would help?"
- "How do you feel about that?"
- "You can tell me more if you are comfortable, but you don't have to?"
- "How can I best support you?"
"How can I be most helpful to you?"
- "What would you like to see happen?"
- "Don't blame yourself for things that are beyond your control.
What should I not say if someone discloses a sexual assault? Avoid giving directives or offering solutions, or using phrases that criticize or blame, don't warn or threatening, don't question or placate, and never respond with violence.
- You shouldn't, "you ought," and "you're wrong"
- "This wouldn't happen if you..."
- "If you don't do ___, you'll regret it."
- "You're doing that because..."
- "I think you should..." "If I were you."
- "When, where did it happen?" "Why did you do that?"
- "I'm sure you'll be fine" "It will all work out."
- "It isn't that bad" or "Let's talk about something else."
- "I will find that person and kill them."
Everyone has a role to play in preventing sexual assault. There are many different ways that you can step in or make a difference if you see someone at risk. This approach to preventing sexual assault is referred to as “bystander intervention.”
Bystanders should never put their own safety at risk but may make all the difference
in preventing or stopping an act of sexual misconduct from taking place. ETSU is dedicated
to maintaining an environment which is safe and supportive of its students and employees
where relationships are built on honesty, integrity, and trust. Here are four actions
you can take to safeguard each other:
Create a distraction. By interrupting the situation, you can break the momentum or a harasser or give someone a chance to get to safety. For example you might cut off conversation by saying “Let’s get pizza, I’m starving,” or “This party is lame. Let’s try somewhere else” or "What was the deadline for this project?" or "Do you have the time?"
Ask a direct question. Asking question like "Who are you here with?" or "Would you like me to stay with you?" directly to the person you think might be in trouble.
Refer to an authority. Find a neutral party with authority such as a security guard, RA, supervisor, another employee, or bartender. Never hesitate to call 911 if you are concerned about someone's safety.
Enlist others. It can be intimidating to approach a situation on your own so ask a friend or coworker to join you. Strength in numbers!
Click here to learn more about your role in preventing sexual assault.