It is very difficult to talk about being sexually assaulted and many choose not to report the assault. However, a survivor may reach out to their friends to talk about the assault or for help. You may experience a variety of emotions while hearing that a friend or loved one has been assaulted. It is generally not helpful for healing to occur if you vent your anger or disbelief, attempt to take charge of the situation, make a judgement about the assault or make decisions for your friend. What is often most helpful is offering support, patience and assisting them to get professional support.
Nothing you can do will take away the pain of the assault but your support and concern can help with their recovery.
Guidelines for Helping
- Listen. If they want to discuss the assault with you, let them talk. Follow their lead and do not ask detailed questions about the assault or push for details. Understand it is not your responsibility to fix the situation.
- Ask them how you can help. There are simple actions that can be very helpful — offering to walk them to/from class, accompanying them to the dining center, etc. Ask them what they need.
- Validate their experience by expressing that you are sorry that this happened to them.
- Don’t blame the individual who experienced the assault/violence. No matter what they did or did not do, what they were wearing, where they were or how much they had to drink. No one “deserves” to be assaulted. No one is responsible for someone else’s behavior. Many often blame themselves and need to know it was not their fault.
- Encourage them to get medical attention and other needed services. Do not push or make decisions for them. It is important that they re-establish a sense of personal control and trust in their own judgement. Make them aware of resources and offer assistance in accessing needed services. Actively encourage them to seek services or additional support from the Campus Victim Advocate.
- Understand survivors often feel ashamed and embarrassed about the assault. It takes a great deal of courage to speak out and talk with someone. Acknowledge their strength and the trust they place in you. Do not share the confidential information that they have told you with anyone else, unless the survivor has given you permission to do so.
- Be aware of your own feelings and concerns. Seek out support, such as talking to a counselor at the Counseling Center or in the community for dealing with your own feelings about your friend’s experience.
What can men do?
Sexual assault is not just a women’s issue, it impacts all genders.
As a man, it is likely that you will know someone who is a survivor of sexual assault — a friend, family member, partner.
- Although most survivors are female, approximately 5% of survivors are male. Men are assaulted by other men and sometimes by women. It is important that male survivors seek services and talk with someone about what has happened. Free and confidential services are available.
- For positive change to occur, it is critical that men become involved as part of the solution, rather than continuing to be viewed as “the problem.” Men become a part of the solution by educating themselves on the issue, confronting negative behaviors of friends and challenging behaviors and attitudes that may lead to sexual assault.
Sexual Assault Prevention
For positive change to occur, it is critical that men become involved as part of the solution.
What can men do to become part of the solution?
- Approach sexual assault and interpersonal violence as a MEN’S issue.
- Make sure that the sex you are having is consensual. Do not accept the myth that “no” means “yes.” Understand that submission is not consent. Do not make assumptions about consent, ASK for consent.
- Remember that if an individual is drunk or under the influence of a substance, they cannot legally consent to sex (they cannot make an informed, rational decision).
- Communicate clearly how you feel and what you want. Listen to your partner. Do not rely on body language.
- Do not make assumptions about consent based on style of dress, body language or previous sexual activity. ASK for consent.
- Understand, and help friends understand, that sexual assault is assault and has little to do with sex.
- Do not remain silent, do not look the other way . Become an “active bystander” — confront friends who are becoming disrespectful or abusive. Intervene when a friend is making a decision that could have devastating consequences.
- Examine your attitudes about women and men that may perpetuate sexism and violence against others. Challenge rape culture.
- Interrupt actions, comments or jokes that support sexual assault and other acts of violence.
- Understand and behave with the knowledge that there is no excuse for violence. The only person responsible for violence is the person committing the violence.
- Realize that becoming violent with your boyfriend or girlfriend, family, etc…when you’re intoxicated is not an excuse for your behavior.
- SPEAK UP — Don’t cover for a friend if they have done something wrong. It hurts all involved.
It’s On Us to create a safe, supportive, and inclusive UW Oshkosh community. Which is why we have created Stronger & Safer Together, UW Oshkosh’s bystander intervention campaign. Helping in potentially harmful incidents is part of that responsibility. Follow these steps when someone appears to be vulnerable to sexual violence.
If you see something, say something!
- Recognize when something is happening. Is someone vulnerable or in danger? When in doubt, trust your gut, and step up to help at the at the earliest possible point.
- Decide how you are going to help and then take action. Try not to put yourself at risk or make the situation worse. There are many ways to help in different situations:
Direct intervention: Directly addressing the situation in the moment to prevent harm. Examples of helping directly include talking to the person or removing them from the situation.
Delegation: Ask other people to help you. This may be a friend or someone who is in a role of authority, such as a police officer or campus official.
Distraction: Interrupting the situation without directly confronting someone by causing a distraction. Examples can include spilling your drink, asking a question, or causing a scene.
At UW Oshkosh we are Stronger & Safer Together. Do not remain silent and look the other way. Become an “active bystander”; confront friends who are becoming disrespectful or abusive; intervene if a friend may be in need of help. Speak out. Don’t allow others to make jokes about sexual assault or derogatory comments which condone violence. Support friends, family members and partners who have been assaulted. Listen to them and let them know about available resources. Contact the Campus Victim Advocate.
If you see something, say or do something.
You walk into your residence hall and the exterior door is propped open.
Close the door.
You and a group of friends are walking home late and see someone walking home alone.
You could remind them of the resource “Safewalk” for assistance in being safely escorted home on campus.
You see a couple arguing and one of the people is becoming forceful with the other person.
It is always important to remember everyone’s safety when intervening as a bystander. The best thing to do may be to call the police and inform them of what you saw so they could do a wellness check and offer assistance if there is a safety concern.
Your friend tells you that the partner they recently broke up with won’t stop calling them and has been outside all of their classes waiting for them to “talk.”
Remind them of the various options to report their potential concern for safety, such as, the police and UW Oshkosh Dean of Students. Also, remind them of their resources for support, such as the Counseling Center, the Campus Victim Advocate and off-campus resources. You may want to encourage them to walk with someone and to encourage them not to agree to meet alone with the person.
You are at a party and you see a man who is trying to convince a woman to go to the back bedroom with him. She has declined but he appears to be persistent in trying to convince her to go.
Distract: You could walk up to the woman with a few of your friends, whether you know her or not, and start a conversation with her to separate her from the guy.
Delegate: You could let her friends that she came with know that she seems to need some assistance and help them separate her from the guy. You can always call the police to express your concern for a potentially harmful situation for someone.
Direct: You could confront the male involved without using physical force.
You notice someone is walking around your floor in your Residence Hall that no one seems to know and he gives you an uneasy feeling.
You could let your CA (community adviser) know and they can check out the situation. If you are off-campus and you have the same experience in your apartment complex, you could call the police.
You see someone sitting alone who is visibly upset.
You could ask them if they are OK or do they need some help. Remind the person that the Counseling Center, and Campus Victim Advocate is always available to students, as well as many other supportive resources on and off campus.