Help students understand their options for finding support after sexual assault

Student Advocate: man with woman and counselor

Survivors of sexual assault and harassment can find support from many sources, including informal resources, such as family and friends, as well as professional resources, like crisis centers, health care providers, law enforcement officers, and campus authorities. All these options offer different services and work in different ways. These options aren’t mutually exclusive, and there is no one “right” course of action.

Where can students turn to?

Sexual assault response centers or employees such as victim advocates are often an ideal place to start. They can help survivors explore their options, connect them with further resources, and provide counseling. Below is an outline of services offered by a number of professional support resources.

Sexual assault response centers 

  • Response centers can provide help in the immediate aftermath of a sexual assault or counseling for past assaults.
  • They can provide a safe place to talk, safety planning, and connections to medical care. They can also help explain options for reporting a sexual assault.

Title IX Coordinators

  • Title IX coordinators can explain resources available at the university and connect students to other resources, such as counseling, medical care, and/or the police.
  • They can help arrange safety measures, such as “no-contact” agreements with perpetrators.

Medical professionals

A specially trained medical professional, such as a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE), may complete a forensic evidence exam, commonly called a “rape kit.” The process can include:

  • A full-body physical examination and collection of medical history.
  • Collection of blood, urine, hair, semen, and other body secretion samples.
  • Collection of the survivor’s clothes.
  • Photos to document any injuries.

Police

  • The police can explain a survivor’s legal options, investigate the incident, and potentially prosecute the perpetrator. In some cases, survivors can work with a sensitive crimes officer, who is specially trained to handle sexual assault.
  • The police will interview the survivor about what happened. They can help the survivor connect with a health care provider for a medical examination and the collection of physical evidence.

Support your students by helping them understand what resources are available to them. Make sure to explain confidentiality and reporting duties up front so students aren’t faced with any surprises. Keep in mind that survivors should never be pushed into reporting or taking a particular course of action. Instead, make support resources and reporting options well known and outline the processes for each.

Michigan Tech Resources
GET HELP OR FIND OUT MOREArticle sources

Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. (2019). Confidentiality and privacy. Retrieved from https://barcc.org/help/confidentiality

Break the Cycle. (2014). Reporting sexual assault to the police. Retrieved from https://www.breakthecycle.org/blog/reporting-sexual-assault-police

Brown University: Title IX and Gender Equity. (2019). I am a responsible employee. Retrieved from https://www.brown.edu/about/administration/title-ix/get-help/i-am-responsible-employee

Forensics for Survivors. (2015). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved from https://www.surviverape.org/forensics/sexual-assault-forensics/answers-to-faq

Harvard University. (2019). Title IX coordinators. Retrieved from https://titleix.harvard.edu/links/title-ix-coordinators

Michigan Tech Title IX. (2019). Responsible employees/mandated reporting. Retrieved from https://www.mtu.edu/title-ix/policy/responsible-employees/

National Sexual Violence Resource Center. (2018). Find help. Retrieved from https://www.nsvrc.org/find-help

Northeastern University Office for University Equity and Compliance. (2019). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved from https://www.northeastern.edu/ouec/frequently-asked-questions/

RAINN. (2019a). Reporting to law enforcement. Retrieved from https://www.rainn.org/articles/reporting-law-enforcement

RAINN. (2019b). What is a rape kit? Retrieved from https://www.rainn.org/articles/rape-kit

RAINN. (2019c). Aftermath: Working with the criminal justice system. Retrieved from https://rainn.org/get-info/legal-information/working-with-the-criminal-justice-system

United States, Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights. (2017, September). Q&A on campus sexual misconduct. Retrieved from https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/qa-title-ix-201709.pdf

University of Washington. (2019). Making a report to police. Retrieved from https://www.washington.edu/sexualassault/reporting/police/

Yale University Office of the Provost. (2019). When to contact a coordinator. Retrieved from https://provost.yale.edu/title-ix/when-to-contact

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Chamonix Adams Porter is a student affairs fellow at Yale University, where she works on building a supportive sexual climate. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in school counseling at Boston College.

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Ally Carlton-Smith, MS is executive editor of Student Health 101. She has a master’s degree in health communication from Tufts University School of Medicine.