Responding to Victims of Sexual Assault and Harassment

The following recommendations and guidelines are written to help responders provide immediate support and short-term problem solving.

The primary goals for having a successful interaction with a sexual assault victim are to provide her/him with: a sense of safety and emotional support, an opportunity for short term problem-solving, and information about available options.  Empathic listening, thoughtful speech, and sensitive guidance are necessary when working with a victim.   The person may be in shock and have difficulty staying focused. Be patient, speak slowly, and repeat information when necessary. Self-blame is common with sexual assault victims. Assure the person that he or she did not cause the assault.

Here are some important recommendations:

  • Really listen; don’t make quick judgments, jump to conclusions, or take control of decision-making.

  • Provide safety so the person can feel some control while considering options.

  • Respect the need for confidentiality.

  • Ask if the person willing to consider talking with a counselor or other crisis response person?

  • Remember that individuals can respond differently, or even unexpectedly, to similar situations.

  • Realize that recovery from traumatic incidents can take time and often includes an ebb and flow of feelings, images, and thoughts.

  • Review with the person that she/he will make choices about what happens next.

Here are some of the options to consider:

1.  Make no decisions except ones that immediately insure support, safety, and care.
2.  Go to St. Joseph’s Hospital for medical care and follow-up.
3.  Contact Women’s Aid in Crisis (304 473 0106) for support, advocacy, and counseling (24 hour crisis hotline).
4.  Contact the Health and Counseling Center (304 473 8100) or Chapel Office (304 473 8007) to make arrangements for medical or counseling support.
5.  If after hours, contact Campus Security (304 473 8011) or the Residence Life staff member on duty so that a campus counselor or other crisis response person can be notified.
6.  Contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1 800 656 HOPE
7.  Contact the Buckhannon Police Department by calling 911
8.  Contact a trusted family member or friend who can provide support.