How to Help Someone Who Has Experienced Sexual Assault, Relationship Violence, or Stalking
- Assess for their immediate safety. The UWL Violence Prevention Specialist can assist with developing a safety plan: 608-785-8062 or firstname.lastname@example.org. After hours, contact one of the community resources listed on our website: http://www.uwlax.edu/violence-prevention/ (click on Resources tab).
- Listen and believe what they are telling you, without interrogating or attempting to investigate what happened. Never suggest to a victim that they should talk with the alleged perpetrator, and do not attempt to contact the alleged perpetrator or mediate between the parties yourself. Offer your support (not advice), and let them know about available options and resources: (www.uwlax.edu/violenceprevention).
- Assure them that what happened was not their fault. Victims of interpersonal violence often question choices they made leading up to the assault or incident, and feel that they are therefore to blame for what happened. Choices that may have been made by a victim never excuse the decision made by someone else to sexually assault, batter, or stalk them.
- Help them seek medical attention if needed. It is not imperative that someone seek medical attention following an assault, but it is a good idea to ensure peace of mind regarding any possible injuries, STIs, and/or pregnancy concerns.
Please Note: Forensic exams (evidence collection) are not done at the UWL Student Health Center. This can be done 24/7 at either of our local medical centers:
Gundersen Health System Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE): (608)775-3128
Mayo Clinic Health System Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE): (608)392-7000
- In most cases, evidence can be collected up to 5 days after the assault occurred. Having a SANE exam done does not obligate a person to report the assault to law enforcement.
- Strangulation: If there are any indications that someone may have been strangled during an assault, however briefly, they should be strongly urged to seek immediate medical attention.
- Do not pressure them to contact police. The experience of interpersonal violence is just that-very personal and traumatic. A decision to report to law enforcement must be made by the victim alone. In cases of sexual assault, having a forensic exam done does not obligate someone to report the assault to law enforcement. Both La Crosse medical centers keep the evidence collected for a minimum of one year, in case a person decides at a later date to report the assault. In cases of domestic/dating violence, the assault should be reported to law enforcement (if the victim wishes) within 28 days of its occurrence in order to fall under Wisconsin’s Mandatory Arrest statute: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/968/075.
- Empower them by offering support and options, and then letting them make their own choices. Often, one of the most traumatizing aspects of an assault is the lack of control the victim felt during the assault. It is extremely important that those wishing to help respect the victim's choices regarding how to proceed following an assault.
- Be patient. Recovery and healing after an assault takes time, and usually involves ups and downs. In cases of domestic/dating violence, getting out of the situation is more often a process than a one-time event. People need to heal and/or move on at their own pace, which varies for each person.
- Get support for yourself. Supporting someone you care about through a traumatic event is difficult. Any of the resources listed on our website for assisting victims will be able to offer support to friends and family as well: http://www.uwlax.edu/violence-prevention.