Resources for Survivors of Sexual Assault
The month of April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but throughout the year, women and men should be aware of the resources available. According to The Washington Post, about 1 in 5 women on college campuses have been sexually assaulted during their time in college. During a lifetime, one in three women have been sexually assaulted and one in five men have been sexually assaulted.
According to the FSU Committee Against Sexual Assault, victims of sexual assault should follow these procedures:
- Go to a safe place
- To ease shock, wrap yourself in a blanket or coat
- Be sure to preserve all evidence. However, do NOT:
- Take a shower
- Change clothes (If you must change clothes, put them in a paper bag, not plastic.)
- Touch the crime scene
- Brush hair
- Brush your teeth
- Call someone you trust
- Seek medical attention
- Call the police
Survivors of sexual assault are encouraged to report the incident to university police. Students should call the on-campus police (301-687-4222) or the off-campus police (301-689-3000).
Survivors can also contact the Office of Student & Educational Services. According to FSU’s Advisory Council Against Gender-Based Violence, the office can help the victim receive “alternative academic, living or employment situations if such alternatives are available, feasible and appropriate to the facts of the sexual assault reported.” Students can contact Dr. Jesse Ketterman at 301-687-4311.
Those who experience sexual assault should also be aware of their legal rights. If safety is threatened, sexual assault victims can apply for a protective order or a peace order. Protective orders are against perpetrators who are a spouse, former spouse or family member, while peace orders are against non-family members. Peace orders, however, must be applied at least 30 days from when the sexual assault occurred. After receiving in a peace or protective order, if the victim needs to move, Maryland law says tenants can end their lease if they provide 30 day notice and their peace or protective order. Victims can chose to sue the perpetrator as well.
For individuals who wish to learn more about sexual assault awareness, there are several organizations on campus facilitating these conversations. Look out for programs from BURG, V-Day, Greek Life and PACAGBV. FSU also began facilitating the “Welcome to the Party” series, which is a video-based curriculum centered on preventing violence.
Victims of sexual assault should be aware that the assault is NOT their fault. For additional help or guidance, victims are encouraged to contact the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center (240-964-1200), Counseling and Psychological Services (301-687-4234), Brady Health Center (301-687-4310), Family Crisis Resource Center (301-759-9244), and National Sexual Assault 24-Hour Hotline (800-656-4673).
Another option for FSU students is to visit the Western Maryland Health System, located at 12500 Willowbrook Road, Cumberland. Debi Wolford, physician at the hospital, said there are three options for victims of sexual assault. These include filing a report, a Jane Doe report, or a medical exam.
The Jane Doe report differs from a police report in that the victim will write actually their account of the incident on paper and fill out forms. In these reports, the victim does not have to retell their story through word of mouth. There is also a rape kit completed. However, Wolford said, “If they [the victim] don’t actually come forward, the evidence is [then] destroyed.”
According to Wolford, the number of college students who visit the hospital is very low. She said, “I can’t give you an exact number, but students are the lowest number [of sexual assault incidents at the hospital].” Wolford also added, “I haven’t seen a rise in students [who were victims of assault] in the 15 years I’ve been working here.”
Wolford said that on average, there are less than 10 college students who visit the hospital and report sexual assault every year.
April Baer, coordinator of FSU Wellness, is also a certified victim advocate. She said, “My primary goal is their [victims of sexual assault] well-being, that they are safe, and they have access to the resources they need.”
One study Baer has helped facilitate is the FSU National College Health Assessment. The study is supported by American College Health and is set up as an online survey FSU students have access to through their email.
According to the 2013 survey, 8 percent of female participants and 6 percent of male participants said they had been sexually touched without their consent within the last 12 months. Also, 3 percent of female participants and 0 percent of male participants said sexual penetration had occurred without consent within the last 12 months.
Baer also emphasized that students can receive help if needed. She said, “I don’t want any student who has experienced this to feel alone.”
When victims of sexual assault need assistance, Baer said she will “ensure well-being,” as well as provide necessary resources. She said, “I’m happy to know our university has a wealth of resources to be of assistance [to these individuals].”