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Sexual Assault

The rate of sexual assault on college campuses remains alarmingly high. Statistics show that one in four women will be sexually assaulted, as well as one in ten men. We also know that women are three times more likely to be assaulted during the college years (18-22) than any other time in their lives. The majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by assailants known to the victim. As a result, the feeling of being violated and traumatized is compounded by feelings of betrayal and confusion.

The sexual assault victim should seek medical attention as soon as possible, even if there are no visible signs of injury. A doctor will test for sexually transmitted diseases, look for cuts and vaginal tearing and will also test for pregnancy. This is important for the health of the individual and is also important if the person wishes to press charges against the perpetrator either presently or in the future. It is important to know that having an exam does not mean that one MUST press charges.

An individual who has been assaulted may also experience a number of reactions which may occur immediately or may emerge as time goes by:

  • Numbness, denial
  • Nightmares, flashbacks
  • Anxiety
  • Sleeplessness
  • Social withdrawal, distrust
  • Guilt/Shame
  • Anger
  • Difficulty being alone

Services Available to Survivors of Sexual Assault

  • SARA (Sexual Assault Response Advocates): 515-330-6392
  • Simpson Counseling Services: 961-1332
  • Simpson Health Services: 961-1604
  • Indianola Police Department: 961-9400
  • Rosenfield Center (offer sexual assault exams): 285-6200 (day) or 244-9099 (night)
  • Polk County Crisis and Advocacy Services: 286-3600

It is helpful to:

  • Listen to the student’s account of what happened to them
  • Communicate to the student that they are not at fault
  • Allow the student regain personal control by making their own decision about how to proceed (reporting, exams, who to tell, etc.)
  • Make statements such as “What can I do to help you feel safer?” “I’m sorry this happened to you.” And “I’m glad you decided to talk about this with me.”
  • Appreciate any feelings disclosed as normal under the circumstances
  • Assist the student in contacting any of the resources listed
  • Be supportive-sometimes the best thing you can do is communicate that you believe what he or she is telling you

It is not helpful to:

  • Offer judgments about what might have happened differently
  • Ask the student how she or he “let” this happen
  • Express anger toward the assailant or pressure the survivor to seek retribution
  • Make decisions for the student
  • Pursue specific details
  • Make statements such as “why didn’t you fight back/scream/say no?” or “Just try not to think about it.”
  • Minimize what has happened
  • Make excuses for the alleged perpetrator “I’m sure he/she didn’t mean to do it.”