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Mental Health

SEXUAL VIOLENCE

Sexual assault or abuse can be defined as any sexual contact that occurs without explicit permission or consent. This includes contact that occurs as a result of manipulation, coercion or when unable to consent as a result of drug or alcohol intoxication. Sexual assault can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation or gender identity. Anyone could be a perpetrator of sexual violence, even people familiar to you like co-workers, neighbors, teachers, clergy, relatives, partners and acquaintances.

FACTS (American Association of University Women)

  • 20-25% of women will be assaulted during their college career.
  • 65% of attacks will go unreported.
  • 13% of women will be stalked during the academic year, and each stalking episode lasts an average of 60 days.
  • 90% of women know the person who sexually assaulted or raped them.
  • 75% of the time, the offender, the victim, or both have been drinking.
  • 42% of college women who are raped tell no one of the assault.
  • 5% of rape incidents are reported to the police.
  • 42% of women expect to be raped again.

There is no right or wrong way to feel after a sexual assault. Many victims report feeling numbness, anger, fear or depression. It is not uncommon to experience sleep disturbance, appetite changes, isolation, physical pain and increased use of drugs or alcohol. Often students who have been assaulted experience changes in their academic performance (decreased concentration, missing classes, and impaired attention). Sexual violence can also have a dramatic impact on social and intimate relationships. Guilt, shame and issues of trust are not uncommon and can strain existing relationships.

What can you do if you are assaulted?
(University of Mary Washington-"Preventing and Responding to Sexual Assault?")
  • Get to a place you feel safe.
  • Consider getting a physical and forensic exam.
    It is important to be evaluated for potential STD's. Also, if you decide to report the assault a qualified medical provider will evaluate your injuries and collect physical evidence that could be used in criminal proceedings.
  • Talk with someone you trust.
  • Consider reporting the assault to University Police or Local Police.
    Friends or NHC Counseling Staff can be advocates/supports if you decide to report.
  • Seek Counseling.
    Early intervention helps with recovery. NHC staff is available for counseling as well as referral to community providers and campus resources.
What if a friend has been assaulted?
(University of Mary Washington-"Preventing and Responding to Sexual Assault?")
  • Understand the myths and realities of sexual assault.
    Sexual assault is an act of violence and aggression and not about sexual needs or attraction. Victims are not responsible for the assault even if they have been drinking, walking alone, been out on date or dressed in any particular fashion.
  • Understand your friend's immediate and long-term needs.
    Don't assume you should know what kind of support is needed. It is O.K. to ask. Immediate needs may be medical attention, help with decisions about reporting, and how to tell others. Ultimately she/he will value your support as she/he attempt to regain a sense of normalcy.
  • Recognize and accept his/her feelings.
    Believe your friend! Allow her/him to feel whatever she/he is feeling in that moment. Avoid trying to talk her/him out of her/his feelings because you don't understand or are uncomfortable. Don't make supporting your friend contingent on her/him feeling a certain way.
  • Recognize and accept your feelings.
    Your feelings are natural as well but don't let those feelings interfere with supporting your friend.
  • Communicate compassion and support
    Don't interrogate your friend about what happened but be available if your friend wishes to talk.
  • Encourage autonomy.
    Victims of assault may feel a temporary loss of control over their lives and bodies. It is important that their decisions are respected now, even if you disagree with their choices. Do not pressure or use guilt.
What if an intimate partner has been assaulted?
(University of Mary Washington-"Preventing and Responding to Sexual Assault?")
  • Don't Pressure.
    Don't pressure your partner to resume sexual activity before she/he is ready, but don't withdraw physically either. Understand that her/his responses and desires may be different for awhile. Don't personalize this. Be open, receptive, patient and emotionally available.

ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT RESOURCES ON CAMPUS OR IN THE COMMUNTIY CAN BE DIRECTED TO NORRIS HEALTH CENTER CRISIS COUNSELOR AT 229-4716 OR UWM WOMEN'S RESOURCE CENTER AT 229-2852.

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