How Can I Help If a Sexual Assault Occurs to Someone Else on Campus?
- Call the Public Safety Department on your campus if you witness the assault.
- Do not blame the survivor. Understand that it is not the person's fault.
- Let the person talk about the incident without forcing a discussion.
- Know that shame and guilt are normal reactions to sexual assault.
- Be supportive and ask if they would like to report abuse.
If someone you know has been a victim of sexual violence, you may already know that providing support in the aftermath of sexual violence can be incredibly difficult, and we thank you for being there for that person. Knowing that someone you care about has been hurt may leave you feeling overwhelmed. Oftentimes, both survivors and their supporters struggle with feeling helpless in the aftermath, and it can take some time to learn how to respond.
For many victims, support is a crucial part of the healing process, and receiving compassionate and validating responses from friends and family can make a real difference.
You may have difficulty in knowing what to say or do to help your loved one. It's okay to not have all the answers; non-judgmental listening and simply being there can be very helpful for the victim. Unfortunately, there are no quick or easy fixes for healing from sexual violence, so it's important to be patient when the process seems to be taking a long time.
In addition to finding ways to support the survivor, it's very important to maintain your own well-being. You may find yourself feeling alarmed by the intensity of your own feelings. It can be helpful to recognize that it is natural for supporters to experience their own sense of shock, anger and devastation. Acknowledge the impact that this has on your own life, and seek outside support for yourself if you need to. Taking care of your needs can make it easier to provide support to others. You may call the Roxcy Bolton Rape Treatment Center's 24/7 hotline at 305-585-7273, or on a national level you could call RAINN: 1-800-656-HOPE.
Since it can be hard to know what to do to help a friend or family member who has been sexually assaulted, the following are tips on what to do (and what not to do) and how to cope yourself.
What to Say
- You are not alone
- It is not your fault
- There is help available
- I am hear for you
- Offer (but don't insist) to accompany them to therapy sessions or medical appointments
What Not to Say
- It was your fault.
- You could have avoided it had you ____________.
- It's been so long! Get over it!
- You wanted it.
- It's not that big of a deal; it happens to lots of people.
- I don't believe you. (That's the very worst thing to say.)
Do's and Don'ts
Don't assume the victim does or doesn't want to be touched. Some people can't stand a hug at this point; others can't make it without one. If you are unsure, ask the survivor what their preference is.
Don't demand to know every detail of the sexual assault. It has been said that the supportive friend is there when the victim needs to talk, is open to hearing what they have to say, and doesn't always press for more. The overbearing friend is constantly checking up on the victim, forces them to talk, and tries to solve the victim's problems for them.
Don't be afraid of silence. If you don't know what to say, that's okay. The most powerful statement a friend can make is by simply being there, not trying to fix everything or pretending it's okay. Silence often says more than words.
Depending on your relationship with the survivor and the trust they have in you, they may experience a flashback or panic attack in your presence. It can be frightening and difficult to know what to do during a situation like this, but here are a few suggestions.
- Remind the survivor of where they are. Ask them to sit down and place their feet on the floor. Describe their surroundings to them, and ask them to do the same.
- Remind the survivor to take deep breaths.
- If the survivor has medication prescribed to take during panic attacks, remind them that if they need it, it is available.
Remember that during flashbacks, the survivor is often actually reliving the abuse or assault. Be cautious in your actions and get to know the survivor and what they need before you do anything at all. Here are a few suggestions.
- Name it. Not everyone realizes that what they're suffering from is a flashback.
- Tell the survivor that you know it feels real to them, but that it is not really happening.
- Turn triggering music or television shows off.
- Get to know the survivor's triggers as well as you can.
- Help to ground the survivor. Encourage them to take slow, gentle breaths. Talk softly to the survivor.
- Remind them of where they are. Ask them to describe their surroundings to you. Remember that they may not be able to respond to you, but often are aware of your voice.
It is important to get to know the survivor and what works and what doesn't. There's not a lot you can do during situations like this, which can be frustrating. Just be there for them during and after the flashback.
You may, as a third party, submit a report of sexual assault either formally at your campus Public Safety Office, or anonymously through the online Silent Witness form on this website. The online form is received by the Miami Dade College Public Safety Department campus as designated on the report. When the form is received, the identity of the sender is displayed as "anonymous" and cannot be traced. However, if the person sending the form wishes to provide contact information, it can be noted under the last question, "Optional Contact Information." All information will be kept confidential unless you indicate otherwise.