Student Wellness: What Can You do if You are Sexually Assaulted?

Sexual assault does happen on college campuses, and it is important for all students to know and understand that there are different avenues to turn to after experiencing sexual assault. Ultimately, the choice is yours, and you need to decide what would be best for you so that you have the all the help you need. Seeking medical and psychological help can be of great value after experiencing a trauma, and it is highly recommended that all individuals who are sexually assaulted seek out that assistance. There are many individuals and organizations in our community that can help, and there is no shame in seeking that help. You do not have to go through this alone, there are many resources to help you.

If you were sexually assaulted and did not report it to the police right after the incident, a great first step and first person to talk to is the WNMU therapist. The therapist can help guide you in the direction you want to go, and is able to answer any questions you might have. They can also see you for counseling to work through the trauma without necessarily having to file a formal report with the police or school. If you prefer to work through it without reporting, this is a great resource for you. Counseling sessions are confidential, and your assault will not be reported to any school official if you so choose. One thing to keep in mind is that these services are free of charge as you pay for them through your student fees.

If you would like to go through a more formal school process, you can speak with the Title IX Coordinator here at WNMU, who conducts investigations of any sexual assault related cases. Keep in mind, if you were to file a formal complaint, the coordinator would need to write down what happened, but rest assured that the information you give will not be public record. A formal hearing will be conducted where you explain your side, and those on the hearing committee will come to a decision. This works like a court case, in that you will see your assailant. If this is the case, you can also go to the WNMU therapist if you feel anxious or nervous about this confrontation.

If you would like to speak with someone anonymously, not necessarily in the community or university, there are 24 hour hotlines with trained individuals. You can talk to them about your experience and they will guide you in terms of what steps to take, and provide you with information about sexual assault. This is completely confidential, there is no need to give out your name or any other information, and you are welcome to call as many times as you want.

If you are more comfortable with seeking outside counseling from someone in the community, there are a number of different resources. The WNMU counseling website lists many great resources in our community that focus specifically on sexual assault. If you are interested in any of these, visit our website, which has phone numbers and locations for each resource. You can also come speak with the school therapist who could refer you to someone in the community. Keep in mind that to receive these services you may need health insurance that covers mental health visits, or you may need to pay a fee out of pocket.

If you’re unsure about pressing charges, but want to make sure the evidence from the assault is collected, there is an organization that conducts it. During this process a nurse will collect any and all evidence from you, which will be stored up to a year. This gives you time to figure out what you want to do, and whether or not you would like to bring up a formal complaint with the police. After the year, your file will be shredded, and no one will be able to have access to it. This service is free of charge, and if you would like to go through this process you can contact 1-800-750-6474 and they will get you started with letting you know of the closest location, and answer any questions you may have. The nurses that will conduct the examination trained to deal specifically with victims of sexual assault. The forensic exam consists of a medical forensic history, physical and emotional assessment, written/electronic and photographic documentation, collection and management of forensic samples, and providing emotional and social support and resources. Nurses ensure the correct handling of samples to provide for any court proceedings, as well as being prepared to testify if necessary.

If you are interested in pressing formal charges against the assailant, you are free to contact local or state police, who can assist you through the process. A police officer will take your statement, and may ask you some questions about the assault; be prepared to answer some difficult questions, and remember you can always contact someone to help you with that process. Once the complaint has been filed, police will investigate your claims. If there is enough evidence to press charges, police will file those charges and arrest the assailant. At this point it is important that you prepare to testify against the assailant, if they choose to plead not guilty. This means that a trial will ensue and you will need to face your assailant in court. One thing to keep in mind is that the verdict may not be to your advantage, but you can rest knowing that you did something about your assault, and you took a stand against your assailant.

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