Responding to Sexual Assault
What can I do if I think I was assaulted?
1. Consider going to the emergency room
At the emergency room, doctors and nurses can treat any injuries, test for and treat sexually transmitted infections, and test for pregnancy. The Northwestern University Health Service lists some other things that assault victims can expect from an emergency room stay:
- If possible, you should not shower, bathe, douche, or change clothes or bedding before going to the hospital.
- The hospital will call an advocate from Evanston Victim Services to explain various procedures, as well as an officer from the Evanston or University Police Department. If you are in Chicago, the hospital will likely call Rape Victim Advocates. You are not required to speak with the police or the victim advocate.
- You have the option of having a rape evidence collection kit taken; you can decline consent to all or some evidence collection procedures. You can also request that a kit not be released to law enforcement until you make other decisions.
- If you suspect that a “date rape drug,” such as GHB or rohypnol was used, medical personnel can perform the appropriate tests. Because date rape drugs pass quickly through the body, it is important to get tested as soon as possible after the assault.
- Emergency contraception can be dispensed within 120 hours of an assault to reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy. It can also be purchased from NU Health Service or other pharmacies.
Read a more complete version of this information from NUHS.
2. If you choose not to go to the hospital, consider seeing a private doctor or clinician at NU Health Service.
NU Health Service provides a list of possible providers.
3. Emotional support following a sexual assault
The Northwestern University Health Service provides suggestions for victims of sexual assault:
- Avoid blaming yourself. You were not assaulted because of personal characteristics or behavior.
- Talk to someone you trust. There are people on campus and the community who are trained to help you cope with the experience and examine all of your options. This includes counselors from the Womens Center.
- Give yourself time to heal. It is perfectly normal to feel a range of emotions from sadness or depression to anger, resentment, confusion, and sometimes indifference.
Read more about these suggestions from NUHS.
4.You have the option of seeking an institutional hearing through SAHAS, the Sexual Assault Hearing & Appeals System.
Read more about SAHAS.
How can I support someone who was sexually assaulted?
Dealing with sexual assault is not only difficult for a survivor; it is also difficult for the people that the survivor turns to for support. Being a supporter can be stressful and confusing. Remember that its okay if you don't know exactly what to say to the survivor or how to help. Remember you dont have to have all the answers. It may be that all the survivor wants from you is somebody to listen and empathize. Here are some helpful guidelines:
- Believe the survivor
- Be patient
- Do not be judgmental
- Validate her/his feelings of fear and anger
- Remind her/him that sexual assault is never the victims fault
- Let the survivor make the decisions
- Keep it confidential
- Know the resources
- Let her/him know that there are people who can help and they do not have to go through this alone
- Take care of yourself