Quick Help Guides Sexual Violence
What is Sexual Violence?
This is an umbrella term that encompasses several forms of violence, including: Sexual assault (including rape), Interpersonal violence - (a.k.a. domestic abuse, dating violence). This includes not only physical, but emotional and psychological abuse as well, and Stalking.
Sexual Violence on College Campus
You are not alone. Among undergraduate students, 26% of females and nearly 7% of males will experience rape or sexual assault during their college career. Women ages 18-24 who are in college are 3x more likely than women in the general population to experience sexual violence. Nearly 50% of all assaults on a college campus occur during the first semester (during the months of August, September, October, and November) suggesting an increased risk of sexual violence occurring during the first few months of college. Nearly 90% of survivors on a college campus knew their attacker prior to the assault, and less than 5% of rapes are reported.
What is Consent?
1) Consent is voluntary
True consent is given without use of force, threat, coercion, manipulation, intimidation or abuse of any kind. Consent can be verbal or physical. True consent means that both parties experience a willingness and desire to engage in a behavior, and have expressed this desire clearly and directly.
2) Consent is affirmative.
Consent means a clear communication of a "yes". The absence of ''no" does NOT constitute consent.
3) Consent is conscious.
Consent is an informed, conscious decision by each person to engage in a mutually agreed upon behavior. Someone who has been drinking, using other substances, or is asleep is NOT able to give consent. Additionally, your own incapacitation is not an excuse for not knowing if your partner is incapacitated. Individuals who commit sexual violence are always responsible for their own behaviors and actions, even if they are incapacitated themselves.
4) Consent is revocable
Consent for any action or behavior can be revoked at ANY time. Consent does not carry over from one encounter to the next. Consent should NEVER be implied. Consent may be withdrawn at anytime and the activity or behavior must stop. Past, present or future relational status does not imply consent.
Taking Care of Yourself
- If you experience sexual violence, remind yourself of the important truths of sexual violence
- What happened to you is not your fault. You have done nothing wrong.
- There is absolutely NOTHING you could have done to prevent sexual violence from occurring (the only one responsible for preventing sexual violence is the perpetrator).
- Get help. Sexual violence often comes with a range of emotions, including anger, confusion, grief, and loss. Talking with a trusted individual can be very helpful.
- Make space for the range of emotions that come. It is okay to not be okay. Some people experience anxiety, depressed mood, feelings of worthlessness or shame, difficulty concentrating, disbelief / shock, changes in eating or sleeping, and thoughts of self-harm.
- Do not neglect your own self-care, including eating, sleeping, and engaging with others.
- Say kind and positive things to yourself. Instead of saying negative or critical things to yourself, try saying positive affirmations (for example, 'I am a survivor', 'I am strong', 'I am a good person'), or soothing statements (for example, 'this will pass', 'I am doing my best', 'I am safe here').
- Write it down. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you to feel better. It can help you to express your feelings, explore patterns and reflect.
Symptoms Survivors of Sexual Violence Might Experience:
- Trauma/PTSD - including flashbacks, nightmares, re-experiencing the assault, anxiety, hyper-vigilance, shock, fear, dissociation, numbness
- Panic attacks
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or shame
- Difficulty concentrating
- Substance use
- Confusion, shock, disbelief or denial
- Changes to eating, sleeping, and self-care patterns
- Thoughts of self harm, including suicide
Survivors may experience symptoms of trauma days, weeks or even years after the trauma has occurred. It is normal and natural to not have a full and complete memory of the trauma. Many survivors can only recall 'snapshots' of a traumatic event, and are unable to piece together a full narrative of what occurred. This is a normal trauma response, and has everything to do with how your brain processes trauma.
How to Help a Friend
- Remain Calm - You will understandably have your own emotions around what the survivor is sharing. You may feel shocked, angry, or overwhelmed. Expressing these emotions might cause further confusion or discomfort for the survivor. Additionally, this moment is about you offering support to the survivor, not the survivor working to support you and your emotions around their trauma. You might say: "Thank you for trusting me with this" or "I am so glad you shared this with me"
- Believe them - Make it very clear that you believe and honor what they are sharing, and that none of what happened to them was their fault. Avoid asking 'why' questions, and allow them to lead the conversation.
- Give the survivor control - Survivors of sexual violence had control taken away from them during the assault. Empower the survivor to make their own decisions about what steps to take next (i.e. reporting to the police, reporting to Title IX, seeking counseling, seeking medical care, sharing information with family members, etc). You might provide them with information around these options, but it's important that you avoid telling the survivor what to do next. Simply affirm them in their decision making, whatever that might be in this moment, even if you disagree with it. A good question might be "What can I do to support you right now?"
- Ask Permission - Most people want to comfort those in high distress, and we do this through our words, as well as our actions. You may want to hug, or embrace the survivor who is sharing a painful narrative with you, but it's important to remember that this person may not want to be touched. Simply asking "can I give you a hug" will go a long way in re-establishing their sense of safety and control in the world. If your friend declined, respect their decision, and continue to communicate your care for them verbally
- Be available - A range of emotions and ways of expressing emotion may surface. This could mean crying, screaming, or being silent. Simply allow for whatever comes up for the survivor, and recognize it's not your role to make these feelings go away. It's simply your job to help the survivor make room for their expressed emotion. This is a moment for you to 'just be' and accept them as they are. You might say "It's okay to feel ______"
- Maintain confidentiality - This goes back to control. Allow the survivor to share this info with others if/when/how they should choose. This is their story to tell (should they choose to share) and it's important for their healing that individuals they confide in don't share this information with others.
- Be patient - The healing process from trauma or symptoms of distress caused by sexual assault is different for everyone. With that said, don't be surprised if the survivor declines invitations, or tends towards isolation. If that happens, don't give up on them, and continue to reach out and invite them to do things. Even if they decline, they'll likely appreciate the invite. This lets them know they are still valued, appreciated, and loved by those around them. Eventually, they will likely accept, or accept invites sporadically. Just don't give up and keep the invites coming!
- Take care of yourself - Supporting a survivor can be overwhelming, particularly if you yourself have a trauma history. Contact CAPS or the Campus Pastor's Office in order to receive support for a range of feelings that might come up for you as you work to support the survivor.
What if these suggestions don’t work?
The Student Life Office and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) can help you get in touch with specialized help on or off campus. Individual counseling is available on campus in addition to support offered by staff in Campus Pastor’s office, Student Life and Residence Life.
If you need immediate assistance, please call 911, the On Call RD at (805) 565-6273 or Westmont Public Safety at (805) 565-6222.
On- and Off-Campus Support
1) Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) - westmont.edu/caps - 805-565-6003
2) Campus Pastor's office - 805-565-6210
3) Report to Title IX Office - Dr. Edee Schulze (Title IX Coordinator) - 805-565-6028*
4) RD or On-Call RD - 805-565-6273*
5) Health Center - 805-565-6164*
1) Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (STESA) - 805-963-6832
433 E. Canon Perdido Street, Santa Barbara 93101
2) 24-Hr Hotline - (805) 564-3696 - www.sbstesa.org
3) National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673
4) Report to local police*
*These are sources of support and/or reporting, but note that confidentiality can not be offered due to mandatory reporting requirements within their respective professional role.