As a member of University of Colorado staff/faculty, you are a visible and trusted person in your community.As a Resident Adviser and Hall Director, students will look up to you for advise and seek you as a resource. This goes for other staff too. Students may come to you in times of a crisis. One such crisis is sexual assault. This handout will provide some basic tips and information about how to help a survivor of sexual assault. However, it cannot and does not address every aspect of every situation. If you have further questions, please contact the Office of Victim Assistance (OVA) (303-492-8855) or click here.
1. Safety. If the student feels in immediate danger, call CU Police (303-492-6666) or 911.
2. Medical. Forensic evidence can be collected and saved by seeing a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) for a medical forensic exam. SANE exams are usually done within 72 hours of the assault, but sometimes evidence can still be collected up to a week after the assault, but the sooner you go the better. For those survivors who do not choose to have the forensic exam, medical exams, consultation, and follow-up care (including testing/treatment for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, if applicable) is available. Contact OVA or click here for more information
3. Confidentiality/Reporting: You cannot promise confidentiality! Explain to the student that you must notify the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance, as supervisors, advisors, faculty, are required to report. The idea of reporting to others may be upsetting for some survivors. It is important to let the student know that even though a report must be made, there is NO requirement for the survivor to move forward or talk to the people who may be in contact. Assure the resident that you will not disclose the information to anyone who does not need to know (such as friends, other residents, students, etc.). OVA is here to help survivors know all of their options (medical, emotional, legal, campus, academic, etc.).
Here are some CONFIDENTIAL resources to offer:
- Office of Victim Assistance (OVA): 303-492-8855, M-F, 8am-5pm
- Moving to End Sexual Assault (MESA) Boulder County’s sexual assault support services: 303-443-7300, 24-hour hotline and response services
4. Listen. One of the most important ways to support a survivor is to listen to without judging or blaming. Remember that no matter what the circumstances, no one deserves to be sexually assaulted.
5. Defining. Allow the survivor to talk about the experience in their own way and words. Do not define the experience for the survivors. Sometimes survivors do not know what to call what happened and you do not need to label the experience for them, for example do not say, “That is rape,” if that is not what the survivor is saying.
6. Follow the survivor’s lead. DO NOT take control of the situation. Being a survivor of sexual assault can cause survivors to feel a loss of control. Let the survivor make their own decisions and support their decisions. You can encourage them to reach out for professional support to help them explore their rights and options, like through CU OVA or MESA.
7. Individuality. Understand that each survivor of sexual assault responds uniquely to an assault. Some common reactions may include shock, fear, embarrassment, guilt, anger, depression, and/or feeling overwhelmed. Survivors go through a process after these events and feel differently at different times, their identity, support and access to resources can also impact this. Sometimes survivors want to talk, want to do other things, want to pursue various options, let them know you are available and have resources to offer.
8. Support. Be a support person and help them find support.
9.T ake care of yourself. Resources that are available to survivors are also available to you. Consider talking with someone too, like an advocate or a counselor, to process your feelings and help you support survivors more effectively.