Sexual assault (nonconsensual sexual act, of which both men and women may be victims) can happen to anyone, at any time, or any place. Victims of sexual assault are females and males of all ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Sexual violence is NEVER the victim's fault -- no one asks to be raped or groped.
- Sexual assaults are not "provoked" by victims; it doesn't matter how the victim was dressed, whether she/he was drinking or using drugs, or out on a date with the perpetrator, etc.
- Sexual violence is not about sex, instead it is about power.
- Contrary to images of stranger rapes, date rape accounts for approximately 77% of all rapes. That means that 77% of rape victims knew their perpetrator.
- 7-10% of all adult rape victims are male.
- An estimated 1 in 4 college women has been sexually assaulted.
What to Do If You're Sexually Assaulted
Below are suggestions if you wish to press charges against the perpetrator, whether now or later. Although you may not be ready to press charges at this point, you may opt to proceed with the following so that you have more options in the future.
- Seek immediate medical attention.
- Go to a hospital where special expertise is available. A medical examination is very important in order for evidence to be collected. You can decide later whether to pursue legal action against the attacker.
- If you decide to not seek immediate medical attention, you will not be able to retrieve physical evidence later.
- You should also be tested later for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection, such as HIV.
- Don't wash or change clothes, brush your teeth, or go to the bathroom.
- By doing any of these things, you could be destroying evidence you can use against the attacker.
- Report the crime to the police.
- After a police officer takes your statement, you can decide whether to press charges.
- If your attacker is a SJSU student, please consider reporting to the Director of Student Conduct and Ethical Development, in Administration Building, Room 242, or call 408-924-5985.
- Make an appointment with a professional counselor at SJSU Counseling and Psychological Services in Student Wellness Center, Room 300B (third floor).
- It is especially helpful to talk to a professional who will be supportive and can walk with you through your recovery.
If You Know of Someone Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted
First and Foremost
- Support them.
- More than anything else, they need you to validate their emotional reactions.
- Talk, listen, respect, and be emotionally available. Try not to ask too many questions, which may make the survivor feel like she has to defend herself.
Assure them it was not their fault
- No matter what they said, wore, or where they were, they did not ask for, or desire to be assaulted.
Accept the individual's choice to take the next step
- Ask what is needed, help identify options, and encourage independent decision-making, even if you may disagree.
- Try not to rush the healing process or "make it better."
- Encourage the individual to seek professional help.
If the assault occurred recently, attend to the individual's immediate medical needs
- Also, remind the individual to save clothing they were wearing, not to shower or bathe, or to remove any physical evidence.
Seek support for yourself
- It may be overwhelming to deal with your own feelings in addition to the victim's.
- If you have strong/angry feelings or feelings of blame toward the victim, talk to someone else about this.
For the romantic partner of the survivor
- Pace the intensity of involvement, especially sexual contact, touching, holding.
- Ask permission before touching or holding the survivor.
Sexual assault is a trauma, and victims may react differently. As with other trauma, the experience may disrupt your life for awhile. Survivors/victims of sexual assault may not necessarily experience similar reactions and may not experience them in the sequence listed below. Furthermore, some may experience these very temporarily, while others may have feelings that last for months or longer. In any case, here are some feelings and experiences often identified by many victims.
- This can't be happening
- Fear & shock
- Some may act as if nothing has happened
- I just want to forget what happened
- Dramatic shift in feelings & behavior
- Increase use of alcohol/substances
- Increase promiscuity
- May cry all of a sudden, have increased anxiety, and/or exhibit exaggerated startled responses
- Feeling closed off & family/friends may be fooled
- Feeling ashamed, dirty, violated, vulnerable, self-blaming
- Trying to heal by gaining emotional distance
- I'm so angry and/or depressed; can't seem to get control of my emotions
- Sense that everything is falling apart
- Nightmares, flashbacks, and/or hypervigilance
- Depression (w/ possible change in sleep & eating habits)
- Loss of sexual identity
- May change clothing style, hairstyle, makeup
- Life goes on and I can handle it
- Eventually, begin to accept what has happened
- May still think & talk about what happened, but will feel more in control of emotions
- Trauma plays less of a major role in life
- Though life may have changed, feelings of self-worth and strength will reemerge
- Difficulties with partners
- Sometimes, you may think you have already dealt with the trauma and will no longer experience these previous emotional reactions; however, it is not unusual for strong feelings to occur again when you try to get close to a partner.
Taking Care of Yourself
- Seek support from trusted family members, friends, and professionals.
- Sometimes family and friends may start to question you about the incident, which may appear as if they are blaming you. Remember that it is never your fault if you did not give consent, or if you were not conscious enough to give consent!
- Many sexual assault survivors feel alone and isolated, because they feel as if no one can understand them. Many also find it difficult to talk about and to remember their assault experience, thus they avoid any mention of the incident. However, many who do eventually seek counseling have found it extremely helpful, although initially difficult.
- Use some stress reduction techniques.
- Walking, meditating, deep breathing, listening to music, exercising.
- Take time out to reflect on your experience and your goals in life.
- Some find it helpful to write in a personal journal, or to write a letter to the perpetrator, whether you decide to mail it or not.
It is often very difficult to proceed with life as it was after one has experienced sexual assault, especially rape. Come to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) the Student Wellness Center, Room 300B (third floor), to start your recovery process. You may also find that your academics are negatively impacted; we also have educational counselors who may help with your educational performance. Our personal counselors are available for appointments and walk in crisis counseling. Please call 408-924-5910 to schedule an appointment or for more information.
Other Silicon Valley Resources
- YWCA Rape Crisis 24-Hour Hotlines: 408-287-3000; 650-493-7273
- 24-hour Crisis Line # for Santa Clara County: 408-279-3312