Believe. Often the number one factor in a survivor's recovery is whether or not they are believed. Add to this fact that statistically only 2-8% of sexual assault reports are false reports, and there is little reason not to believe a person when they tell you that they have been sexually assaulted.
Safety. There could still be danger, especially if the assault just happened. Make sure he/she is in a safe place by offering to stay with them, or by offering for them to stay with you. There may also be medical needs that need to be addressed. Even if a survivor doesn't feel hurt, there may be internal injuries that she doesn't know about. Offer to go to a hospital, but it is very important that he/she isn't forced to go. It is still the survivor's decision.
Choices. Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, and Stalking are all about power and control. For the survivor, control has been taken away and often needs to be restored. Offering small choices (i.e. talk at your place or my place; Pepsi or Coke) and supporting these decisions can do an incredible amount to build back confidence for the survivor. This can help to make the bigger decisions (i.e. filing a police report; going to the hospital; pressing charges). Whether you agree with these decisions or not, it's important to support the survivor and not to push the survivor into anything they don't want to do.
Listen. Listen more and talk less. It's important to follow the lead of the survivor as information unfolds. Often we may get curious, or want to know details about what happened or how, but avoid asking questions. Let the survivor tell you what they're ready to. Also be mindful of physical space. It's often best to sit on the same level and not to loom over them. As well as following their lead with talking, follow their lead with touching as well. Some really want a hug, and others may not want to be touched at all. It's best to ask before touching and respect the fact that even a close friend might not want to be touched.
Revenge. It is very common to feel angry that someone we know and love has been hurt. The anger is justified. What is not justified, however, is bringing more violence into the situation. Seeking revenge doesn't help the survivor; it only helps our own selfish need for violence. Further, it may put the survivor in more danger of further retaliation and at great risk of losing a system of support, as the person they just told will most likely be in jail.
Limitations. Particularly with those feelings of anger, it is important to take care of our own
needs. Recovery is a long process that often needs professional assistance. Counselors
are trained to help walk a person down that road: many of us are not. It is important
that the person knows that they have a friend, but also that there are others available
and trained to help. You may also benefit from talking to a counselor. Being a friend
in this situation takes a lot of emotional energy, and there is absolutely nothing
wrong with taking care of yourself and making sure that you're well equipped to help
your loved one further.
(Adapted from John Faubert's "The Men's Program")
Below is information for those who have experienced Sexual Assault/Rape; Dating/Domestic Violence; or Stalking; and for friends and loved ones of these survivors. There is no “one size fits all” action plan. Experiences differ, and whatever you decide is best for you, is the right thing for you to do. These are some things to consider, and options that have been found helpful. We are here to help you through the process. You do not have to do it alone.
Assess the safety of where you are. Do you feel safe? Is there a chance he/she may return? Is there anyone you could call for support? Is there a safer place that you can think of? (ex: Friend's room, Neighbor's home, Safe House for Women, Inc., etc)
Beacon Health Center or the hospital can help with treating injuries, pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) assessment, possible prevention if it has been within 72 hours, and evidence collection. An evidence exam is often described like a gynecological visit. This procedure may go on your insurance if you have it, but Beacon Health Center may be able to help if this is not an option.
A relative, friend, counselor, or advocate from either the Safe House for Women or Beacon Health Center can accompany you through this.
A police report may be filed. This would be through the Department of Public Safety (DPS) if it happened on campus or through Cape Girardeau Police Department if it happened off campus. Do not be afraid to ask questions before you report the incident or throughout. You may consult with the police officers about pressing charges and continuing forward with a criminal suit.
If the assailant is a student at SEMO, sanctions can be placed upon him/her through the Office of Student Conduct. Adjudication is based on a preponderance of evidence, rather than reasonable doubt. Sanctions may also provide specific needs of the victim such as removing the accused student from a class, residence hall, or the campus. The Southeast Missouri State University Sexual Assault Policy may be found here
A civil suit may also be filed. Survivors of sexual assault have successfully sued for emotional distress, hospital fees, etc. Legal representation will need to be found and consulted.
Any option or combination of these legal options may be pursued by you. Again, it is important to know that whatever you decide, you don't have to do it alone.
Take special care if you are planning on leaving or ending a relationship. Violence often gets worse when a person shows signs of trying to leave, as the abuser may feel that he/she is losing control.
Call the police:
If you can get to a phone, call the police. If you can't get to a phone, try to arrange a signal with a neighbor that the police need to be called. Ask that your partner be arrested. If it is too frightening to attempt this in front of your partner, you can ask to speak with an officer privately.
Get support from family and friends:
Do not try to protect the abuser. Tell them what has happened. The process can be long and hard, and it can be made much more doable with the support of loved ones.
Move out – Move away:
It is unfair to have to leave your home because of something that someone else has done. At the same time, it is often the best way to stay safe. The Safe House can help with relocating.
Here is a form from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence that will help to generate a safety plan.
If you are in immediate danger, dial 911.
Trust your instincts:
Do not downplay your feelings or the danger of the situation. If you feel threatened or in danger, you probably are.
Take threats seriously:
Danger is generally higher if and when the stalker threatens death or suicide, and when the victim attempts to leave a relationship.
Do not communicate with the stalker or respond when the stalker attempts to communicate with you.
Or, log the incidents of contact. Keep notes, emails, and phone messages. For example, if the stalker is waiting outside of work on Monday, and then later that night and left a message:
Mon, 4/2, 8:00pm: Waited outside of work for me.
Mon, 4/2, 9:35pm: Telephoned and left message on machine.
(Elements taken from National Center for Victims of Crime: Stalking Resource Center pamphlet.)