Helping a Survivor
Sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault, no matter what; no matter how much alcohol was consumed. Alcohol may increase the risk of sexual assault, and may make someone incapable of giving consent or protecting themselves, but it is not the cause of the assault. Responsibility lies with the perpetrator; the survivor is never responsible for the assailant's behavior (75% of admitted date rapists said they used alcohol to get dates drunk so they could have sex; 40% of men in one study thought it was acceptable behavior to force sex on a woman who was drunk).
In the vast majority of sexual assaults against college students, the offender is known to the victim (acquaintance sexual assault accounts for 90% of college rapes). This means that the offender was not a close or intimate friend, but someone recognized by the victim such as a classmate, friend of a friend, lab partner, someone seen around campus, or person met at a party.
Survivors of a sexual assault may experience a range of emotional, physical, and mental reactions to the trauma of being victimized, which may include the following:
- Eating difficulties
- Difficulties concentrating
- Mood Swings
- Loss of interest in activities
- Withdrawal from others
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feelings of worthlessness
If a friend has been sexually assaulted:
- Believe your friend.
- Listen non-judgmentally.
- Assure your friend that he or she is not to blame for the sexual assault.
- Encourage your friend to immediately reach out for help (reporting options).
- Empower your friend to make his or her own choices.
- Stay with your friend during interviews and examinations if she or he wants you to do so.
- Take care of yourself. You may need to talk to someone about how this has affected you.
If you have been sexually assaulted:
- Go to a safe location.
- Do not blame yourself. The sexual assault was not your fault.
- If you are injured, seek medical attention immediately.
- Reach out for help (reporting options).
- Understand that you have choices, and you should make the choice that is best for you.
- In order to preserve evidence, do not shower, bathe, douche, or brush your teeth.
- Recognize that healing from a sexual assault will take time. Give yourself the time you need.
- Remember, it is never too late to seek help. Many victims do not realize they need help until months or years later.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol/Drug Abuse
Substance Use Disorders (as summarized from DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria)
Dependence- recurrent substance use resulting in at least 3 of the following symptoms in a 12-month period:
- Tolerance- a need for increased amounts of a substance to achieve desired effect OR significant decrease in effect using the same amount.
- Withdrawal- as shown by the specific symptoms characteristic of a particular substance OR using a substance to avoid or relieve the particular withdrawal symptoms.
- The substance is taken in larger amounts or over longer periods of time.
- Persistent desire to control the substance use is unsuccessful.
- Considerable time is spent associated with the substance, i.e. obtaining, using, etc.
- Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are reduced or avoided.
- Continued use despite knowledge of having recurrent physical or psychological problems caused by the substance, i.e. depression or ulcer.
Abuse- recurrent substance use resulting in significant impairment or distress expressed by 1 or more of the following in a 12-month period (and the symptoms have never met the criteria for dependence).
- Failure to meet obligations at work, school, or home, i.e. repeated absences, expulsion, etc.
- Using in hazardous conditions, i.e. while driving.
- Legal problems, i.e. arrests.
- Continued use despite creation or exacerbation of social or interpersonal problems.