A Special Note to Students About Sexual Assault
The staff of the Counseling Center understands students' current awareness and sensitivity of the crime of sexual assault. We would like to remind you that most sexual assaults (Criminal Sexual Conduct) are acquaintance-related, although stranger assaults obviously can and do happen.
The Counseling Center staff can and does see students for counseling and advocacy who have been sexually assaulted. The Counseling Center is not required by the Federal Cleary Act to report sexual assault to the authorities but stands ready to refer to additional resources including law enforcement if the student victim chooses to report.
If you are a Ferris male or female student and wish to see a counselor about a related issue or problem that is of stress to you, please contact the Counseling Center on the second floor of the Birkam Health Center (591-5968, Monday-Friday, 8-12 pm & 1-5 pm).
Effects of Rape on Women & Men
It is helpful to receive counseling and treatment after experiencing a sexual assault to start the healing process and avoid dealing with the trauma in unhealthy ways. According to The World Report on Violence and Health (WHO, 2002), in the absence of trauma counseling, negative psychological effects have been known to persist for at least a year following a rape.
Rape-Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Many rape victims experience what is referred to as Rape-Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (also called Rape Trauma Syndrome). The four major symptoms of this are:
Re-Experiencing the Trauma: Rape victims may experience recurrent nightmares about the rape, flashbacks or may have an inability to stop remembering the rape.
Social Withdrawal: This symptom has been called 'psychic numbing' and involves not experiencing feelings of any kind.
Avoidance Behaviors and Actions: Victims may desire to avoid any feelings or thoughts that might recall to mind events about the rape.
Increased Physiological Arousal Characteristics: This symptom can be marked by an exaggerated startle response, hyper-vigilance, sleep disorders or difficulty concentrating.
It is important to recognize and treat Rape-Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but it is also necessary to remember that all individuals, and therefore all victims of sexual assault, deal with trauma in unique ways. Some, especially children and young adults, move through an abnormal event in what seems to be a very normal way, but this does not mean they are not internally experiencing some of the effects.
Other negative consequences of experiencing a sexual assault include the following increased tendencies:
Victims of sexual assault are...
- Three times more likely to suffer from depression.
- Six times more likely to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.
- Thirteen times more likely to abuse alcohol.
- Twenty-six times more likely to abuse drugs.
- Four times more likely to contemplate suicide.
Dealing with such severe struggles on your own can often be too difficult to bear. That is why it is good for victims of sexual assault to receive treatment and counseling.
There are times when the emotions and pain associated with a rape or sexual assault can be overwhelming. These feelings can come immediately after the assault or many years later. The following are things that you can do to help take care of yourself as you recover from the assault that you experienced.
- Make yourself a cup of tea, or a soothing warm drink.
- If it is safe to do so, go for a walk.
- Spend time talking with a trusted friend or family member.
- Take a bath.
- Spend time with a favorite pet.
- Workout, exercise helps to increase your bodies production of endorphins which help you to feel better.
- Read a favorite book.
- Write in your journal.
- Find a creative outlet- music, painting, writing poems, etc.
- Sign up for a self-defense course- it may help you to feel more in control.
- Eat healthy food
- Most importantly, remind yourself that it is alright for you to feel these emotions, they are normal reactions to an abnormal event.
There are also some things that victims of rape or sexual assault do to cope that are better to avoid:
- Relying on alcohol or drug use.
- Disclosing personal information in chat rooms or blogs.
- Seeking out situations in which you feel unsafe.
- Taking actions that undermine your self-worth.
- Using food and unhealthy eating as a way to control your body and emotional state.
- Inflicting harm on your body.
- Blaming yourself for what happened.
Avoiding Dangerous Situations
While you can never completely protect yourself from sexual assault, there are some things you can do to help reduce your risk of being assaulted.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you to find a way to get out of a bad situation.
- Try to avoid isolated areas. It is more difficult to get help if no one is around.
- Walk with purpose. Even if you don't know where you are going, act like you do.
- Trust your instincts. If a situation or location feels unsafe or uncomfortable, it probably isn't the best place to be.
- Try not to load yourself down with packages or bags, because this can make you appear more vulnerable.
- Make sure your cell phone is with you and charged and that you have cab money.
- Try not to allow yourself to be isolated with someone you don't trust or don't know.
- Avoid putting music headphones in both ears so that you can be more aware of your surroundings, especially if you are walking alone.
What Can Men Do?
While individuals of both genders are perpetrators of sexual assault, the majority of those who commit sexual assaults are men. Even so, it is important to remember that the vast majority of men are not rapists.
There are many things men (and women) can do to help prevent sexual violence.
If you see someone in danger of being assaulted:
- Step in and ask if the person needs help. Offer your assistance.
NOTE: First evaluate the risk. Don't put yourself in danger - call 911 instead.
- Don't leave. With you as a potential witness, the perpetrator is less likely to do anything.
- If you know the perpetrator, tell him or her that you don't approve of his or her actions, and to leave the potential victim alone.
Be an ally:
- Go to parties with a group of trusted friends. Arrive together, check in with each other frequently, and leave together.
- Use a buddy system. Don't be afraid to let a friend know you're worried about his or her safety.
- Offer to call a cab for someone you see is intoxicated.
If someone you know has been assaulted:
- Listen. Be there. Don't be judgmental.
- Be patient. Remember, it will take some time for your friend to begin to deal with the assault.
- Help to empower. Sexual assault is a crime that takes away one's power; it's important not to compound the experience by pressuring the person to do things he or she isn't yet ready to do.
- Encourage your friend to report the rape to law enforcement. He or she can ask questions about the criminal justice process at the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE and at WISE 231-796-6600 or 800-374-9473.
- Inform your friend that professional help is available through WISE 231-796-6600 or 800-374-9473 or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE.
- If or when your friend is ready to seek medical attention or to report the assault, offer to accompany him or her wherever is needed (hospital, police station, campus security, etc.).
- Encourage your friend to contact one of the hotlines, but realize that only he or she can make the decision to do so.
Changing the culture:
Certain things in our culture make sexual assault more possible. By speaking out and educating ourselves and others, we can help decrease the number of sexual assaults.
- Become knowledgeable about the issue and share your knowledge with others.
- Volunteer for RAINN or your local rape crisis center (WISE 231-796-6600 or 800-374-9473) and help educate your community about preventing sexual violence.
Self Care for Friends and Family
If a loved one has been assaulted, you may have many questions and emotions on your mind. This is normal. Seeing someone you love in pain can lead to a wide range of feelings, including:
- Anger at the person who hurt your loved one. This can include:
- Desire for revenge
- Desire for justice
- Anger at the loved one. This can include:
- Anger that he or she wasn't able to get out of the situation
- Anger that he or she got into a dangerous situation
- Frustration that he or she isn't doing everything you suggest
- Anger that he or she isn't 'over it' yet
- Anger at yourself for not being able to protect your loved one. This can include:
- Guilt for not being around at the time of the assault
- Anger at yourself for not teaching the loved one how to protect himself or herself
- Guilt for not being the one assaulted (known as survivor guilt)
- Frustration at not knowing how to help
- Anger at yourself for having any of these feelings
- Sadness that the victim is in so much pain
- Sadness that the victim's innocence or purity has been taken away
- Sadness at how this has and will influence your relationship with the loved one
- Fear of the shame that this assault may bring on your family or community
So what do I do?
- First, it is important to understand that these feelings are normal, and that seeing someone you care about hurt in this way can be a very confusing and difficult thing
- Read information about helping a loved one
- Make sure you are taking care of yourself; you can't be much help to the person you love if you're not okay yourself
- Call the national Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE, or contact WISE 231-796-6600 or 800-374-9473 to get support for yourself
- Recognize that it's okay to take a break; if you're rejuvenated, you'll be able to help more
- Go for a walk
- Listen to relaxing music
- Make a cup of tea
- Take a warm bath
- If you need additional counseling, contact The Counseling Center and set up an appointment with a counselor