Seeking Care and Support
Immediate Safety and Support
Go to a safe place—your own room, a friend’s room, or anywhere you will feel safe. Also, call someone you trust. No matter how late it is, you should not be alone.
To discuss confidentially
- If you wish to maintain your confidentiality at this point, call a close friend, your roommate, or an Advocate (315-244-5466). Advocates are St. Lawrence University students committed to providing a safe and confidential resource for individuals in need of support and information around sexual assault, stalking, dating violence, domestic violence and other personal violations. They are available 24/7.
- You can also contact a counselor. Counselors are confidential resources who can help you sort through your immediate needs, provide emotional support, and help you to connect with other emergency resources. All members of the counseling staff have training and experience with individuals in crisis. There is always a counselor on call through Safety and Security,(315-229-5555). Simply say “I need a counselor on call.” You don't need to disclose the nature of your emergency; provide a phone number at which you can be reached.
To Seek Medical Care
If you may be injured, and/or if you would like to collect possible evidence of an assault, you may seek medical care as soon as possible. Even if you do not feel physical pain, you may have internal injuries that cannot be immediately seen or felt. We encourage you to get medical attention even if you do not want to have evidence collected. Confidential pregnancy testing, emergency contraception, and/or testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted illnesses are services available at Torrey Health Center.
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner
- A sexual trauma exam (or "Rape Kit") should be done immediately following an experience of sexual trauma, because certain kinds of evidence collection, including rape drug testing, are time-sensitive. A sexual trauma exam is conducted by a SANE, or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, who is a professional with special training in working with individuals who may have experienced sexual trauma. A SANE can care for injuries, test for sexually transmitted infections and/or pregnancy, and collect evidence (if requested). You do not have to be certain that you were sexually assaulted to request a SANE exam or any other kind of medical or emotional care. A SANE exam rape kit must be done at Canton- Potsdam Hospital, which has the legal facilities necessary. SANE exams are free of charge. The evidence from a sexual trauma exam, however, is not processed by authorities unless criminal charges are filed with the police.
- Considering a SANE exam. Even if you are not sure about reporting your experience or pressing charges, you may wish to preserve the option of reporting later by having evidence collected. It is best to obtain a SANE exam in the first 24 hours following a sexual assault, but while some evidence may have degraded after 24 hours, SANE exams can still be completed for up to 120 hours (5 days).
- Arranging to meet with a SANE. If you need to meet with a SANE while Torrey Health and Counseling Center is open, please call Torrey at 315-229-5392, and the staff will arrange to connect you with the SANE as soon as possible. If you need to meet with a SANE after hours, the SANE is generally on call and may be able to meet you at the Health Center. Campus Safety and Security staff will transport you to Canton- Potsdam Hospital and will not require you to disclose the reason you're seeking care. You can also call Renewal House 24/7 (315-379-9845) for assistance obtaining a SANE exam, at no cost or fee.
- Before a medical exam, try to preserve the evidence. Resist the urge to cleanse yourself before you seek treatment. It may be difficult to keep from washing yourself, but if you do you may destroy evidence that could be useful should you decide to report the experience. Do not wash, change clothes, eat, drink, smoke, brush your teeth, go to the bathroom, or brush your hair. Bring a change of clothing with you to the exam, since your clothes may be collected as evidence.
- For many LGBTQIA people, the critical questions about treatment options are followed immediately by concerns about social stigma. The all-important question of “Will I be healthy?” is compounded by an additional slew of worries. New questions such as “Should I come out to my doctor?” “Will I be safe if I do?” “Will my chosen family be welcome?” and “Will I be offered the information I need to know to take care of my relationship, my sexuality, my fertility, and my family?” are thrust into the forefront. St. Lawrence is sensitive to these concerns.
What To Do Within the First 24 Hours
All of the options listed on the previous pages are available to you (although some evidence may be more difficult to collect, depending on which option you choose).
- Talk with someone who can share information and help you to figure out what you need. People and organizations that serve as resources can be found on page 8. Choose whichever resources feel most useful to you. Remember that there is no “correct” path for responding or reacting to sexual trauma—whatever works best for you is a good option.
Are there any needs that should be taken care of immediately?
- Enhancing your sense of safety: Temporary No Contact Orders restricting encounters and communication between you and the other individual(s) can be secured through the associate dean of student life. If you are not comfortable sharing the details of your experience with either of these parties, a member of our counseling or medical staff, both of whom are confidential resources, can assist you. It is also possible to arrange for temporary or permanent room changes, class changes, etc.; again, a confidential resource can help you with this.
- Academic extensions: The associate dean of student life can provide dean's excuses for academic extensions or missed classes.
It is important to care for yourself after a sexual assault, and after any event you have experienced as sexually violating.
What should I consider doing that I might not have thought of?
- Be patient with yourself. The healing process takes time and includes your physical, emotional, and psychological health.
- Don’t neglect your physical health and well-being. Getting adequate sleep, using exercise for stress relief and eating well can advance your healing process. If you are having trouble sleeping, talk to a health professional; sleep is essential for self-care.
- Try not to let others make decisions for you. It is important that you re-establish a sense of control over your choices.
- Seek support from a counselor, so that you may express your thoughts and feelings in a neutral setting where you do not feel that you have to protect the listener, worry about how the other person is feeling, or risk judgment.
- Don’t look for simple answers to explain what happened.
- Know your rights and how to get the support you need.
- Try to do things you enjoy; give yourself permission to have positive experiences.
- Some people find it useful to keep a journal, to write stories or poems, or to express themselves through drawings. Use any outlet that feels helpful to explore your emotions.
Common Responses to Sexual Assault
Although each person is unique and there is no standard or correct response to sexual assault, there are some feelings and reactions that most sexual assault survivors experience. The emotional trauma caused by a sexual assault can be severe and long- lasting. They may occur immediately, or you may have a delayed reaction weeks or months later. Sometimes the feelings seem to go away for a while and then come back again. Certain situations, such as seeing the assailant or speaking to an investigator, may intensify the symptoms or cause them to reoccur after a period during which you had been feeling better.
Common natural responses to sexual assault may include:
- Fear and anxiety: feeling unsafe, nervous, fear of the situation or the place linked with the assault, compulsive behavior
- Shock and disbelief: numb, unemotional, surreal feelings
- Helplessness, depression: feeling powerless, overwhelmed, unable to make choices, self-hatred
- Anger: fury, desire to retaliate against assailant
- Shame and embarrassment: feeling “bad,” feeling that everyone will “know”
- Self-blame or guilt: feeling at fault, responsible for the attack
- Hypersexualization: engaging in increased and/or risky sexual activity, partly to regain a sense of control of one's decisions
- Flashbacks: being preoccupied with the attack, remembering and reliving the assault
- Isolation: feeling alone or that no one else can relate to your experience
- Physical responses: difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, headaches, listlessness
Survivors sometimes also experience an impulse to protect their alleged assailant, which may influence their decisions to report the assault or to seek care for themselves. Survivors who are members of underrepresented identity groups may feel especially conflicted about reporting an assault when a member of their group is the alleged assailant; they may feel anxious about perceived group loyalty or compromising the reputation of that group. These normal responses can be lessened when you seek support from any of the resources listed.
In addition, we know that LGBTQIA persons, and particularly transgender persons, face significant barriers to equal, consistent, high-quality health care. From instances of humiliation and degradation to outright refusals to provide care, many institutions—consciously or not—have made it very difficult for transgender people to receive respectful, knowledgeable treatment. We are committed to regularly training our community and encouraging our local health care providers to be trained as well.
We are socialized to see sexual assault as a crime against women, not men. Because of this, many men have a hard time understanding that sexual assault is a crime that is motivated by the wish for power and control, and can happen to anyone, and by anyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
Although many reactions to sexual assault are shared by survivors of all genders, there may be some additional responses that are different for survivors who identify as male. Men may experience concerns about what being sexually assaulted means to their sexuality or masculinity. There is a myth in our culture that only gay men rape other men, that men cannot be raped by women, or that only gay men are raped. This is not true: sexual assault has no boundaries. It is important to know that strong or weak, outgoing or shy, gay, straight, transgender or bisexual, you have done nothing that has caused or justified being assaulted. The responsibility lies with the assailant.
Risk Reduction and Sexual Respect
Risk reduction tips can often take a victim-blaming tone, even unintentionally. With recognition that only those who commit sexual violence are responsible for those actions, these suggestions may help reduce your risk of experiencing a non-consensual sexual act:
- If you have limits or wishes, make them known as early as possible.
- Tell a sexual aggressor “NO” clearly and firmly.
- Try to remove yourself from the physical presence of a sexual aggressor.
- Find someone nearby and ask for help.
- Take affirmative responsibility for your alcohol intake/ drug use and acknowledge that alcohol and/or drugs lower your sexual inhibitions and may make you vulnerable to someone who views a drunk or “high” person as a sexual opportunity.
- Take care of your friends and ask that they take care of you. A real friend will challenge you if you are about to make a mistake. Respect them when they do.
If you find yourself in the position of being the initiator of sexual behavior, you owe sexual respect to your potential partner. These suggestions may help you to reduce your risk for being accused of sexual misconduct.
Remember: if your partner is incapacitated by drugs, alcohol or sleep, your partner cannot consent and your initiation of sexual contact is not excused. Consent can only be given if both people are clear-headed (not incapacitated by drugs or alcohol), give and receive clear verbal and non-verbal cues, and feel no coercion.
- Clearly communicate your intentions to your sexual partner and give them a chance to clearly relate their intentions to you.
- Understand and respect personal boundaries.
- DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS about consent; about how far you can go; or about whether they are physically and/or mentally able to consent. If there are any questions or ambiguity, then you DO NOT have consent.
- Mixed messages from your partner are a clear indication that you should stop, defuse any sexual tension and communicate better. You may be misreading them. They may not have figured out how far they want to go with you yet. You must respect the timeline for sexual behaviors with which they are comfortable.
- Drug or alcohol use can render one incapable to give consent in sexual encounters, even if those substances were consumed knowingly.
- Realize that your potential partner could be intimidated by you, or fearful. You may have a power advantage simply because of your gender or size. Don’t abuse that power.
- Understand that consent to some form of sexual behavior does not automatically imply consent to any other forms of sexual behavior.
- Silence and passivity cannot be interpreted as an indication of consent.
Read your potential partner carefully, paying attention to verbal and non-verbal communication and body language.