How to Help: A Guide for Staff & Faculty

Understanding the Needs of the Victim/Survivor

Sexual assault is an incredibly personal and destructive crime.  Its effects on victims and their loved ones can be felt psychologically, emotionally, and physically.  They can be brief in duration or last a very long time.  It is important to remember that there is no one “normal” reaction to sexual assault. Every individual's response will be different depending on the situation.

Some of the more common psychological effects that a victim may experience include:

  • Depression

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Flashbacks & Body Memories

  • Dissociative Identity Disorder

Unique effects for college students:

  • May not access support from family/friends for fear of being told to leave school and/or move home.

  • Very often, the victim cannot focus or concentrate on coursework. A student who is sexually assaulted may believe this trauma won't affect academic performance, which may delay disclosure of the assault until the student sees that her work is suffering.

  • A student may stay in denial about the rape until it is too late to make accommodations in the classroom. Even the most responsible student may skip class or work without notice.

All of these may effect a student's class attendance, work quality, concentration, and involvement with student life.

How to Help

Believe the student.

teal ribbonA crucial way to show support is to believe the student and affirm it was not her/his fault.The individual faculty/staff member shall provide information and support the choices of the victim (including the decision to take no action) while facilitating referrals and assistance to all involved parties in a confidential manner.

Offer Referrals.

teal ribbonSome victims will seek immediate care, while others will not seek help for some time.  In any case, the sexual assault victim is to be offered consistent and appropriate care.  Faculty/staff response to a sexual assault victim includes one basic area—referral.The goal of all referrals is to return control to the victim and to give him/her adequate information about available services and options. Therefore, the student should be given all options but not pressured into taking a specific course of action.

Appropriate referrals include:

The University Police Department has primary jurisdiction for the investigation and documentation of all sexual offenses occurring on University property.  To report a sexual assault or other sex offense, victims are encouraged to immediately contact the University Police Department by dialing 911 or (760) 750-4567 in order to obtain immediate police assistance, emergency medical care and treatment along with valuable referral information.

Other Options for the Student to Consider.

teal ribbonEncourage the student to seek medical attention. Even if s/he does not want to get a forensic exam, it still may be important to get medical attention for STIs. Please note that students disclosing a sexual assault while receiving medical attention from SHCS will be asked to speak to a police officer.

For students who want to see the perpetrator held accountable, we recommend that the sexual assault be reported to the police immediately to preserve the most viable evidence possible.

If the student feels confused as to what next steps to take, suggest that the student contact the Gender Equity Center or the Center for Community Solutions to speak confidentially with an advocate who can explain more about her/ his options and rights.

Learn More

teal ribbonThe more you know the more you can support student victims. Click on the links to the right of the page for research and reports on sexual assault among college students.