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If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you may find the following information helpful:

  • Get to a safe place.

  • Remember that eating or drinking, showering, brushing your teeth, going to the bathroom, and changing or altering your clothes could destroy physical evidence that may be helpful if you later decide to pursue criminal action.

  • Consider contacting ACCESS (515-29-ALERT) to talk about and possibly report the assault. These agencies can provide you with medical attention, emotional support, and law enforcement services and can help you explore your options.
  • Even if you don't want to file a police report, consider receiving medical attention. A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner could conduct a sexual assault forensic exam and will help ensure that you are healthy, provide options to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections, and collect valuable evidence that may be useful in the future, even if you are unsure about pursuing legal action now. Physical evidence can only be collected for a short period of time after an assault, but in many cases, a survivor has ten years to decide whether to pursue a criminal case (or ten years after one’s 18th birthday if the assault took place prior to the survivor turning 18).
  • The medical exam and follow up visits are free in Iowa, even if you do not report the assault to the police.
  • The Dean of Students Office can provide information, support, and resources to a student even if you do not wish to disclose or move forward with any investigation or criminal/university process.

How to support someone who has experienced or disclosed a sexual assault, other sexual misconduct, domestic or intimate partner violence, or stalking:

It can be difficult to know what to say when someone tells you they were sexually assaulted or were involved in some other type of gender-based violence. You might worry about saying the “wrong thing,” or somehow making the situation worse.

The best responses are often the simplest ones:

“I believe you. I’m sorry this happened to you. How can I help?”

It is important to let your friend decide what they want to tell you about the assault – don’t force them to talk about it if they aren’t ready.  Also, try not to ask “why” questions. For example: Why didn’t you call me for a ride? Even if you are asking this type of question with the best intentions, it can sound accusatory and may cause further self-blame for the survivor.

When in doubt, just ask how you can help. For example, ask if they want you to stay with them or go to the health care facility or speak to someone to make a report, or offer to meet with an ACCESS advocate with them. Let them know you are there for them, but always let them make the choice to accept your help or not. 

You may want to get more information and learn about gender-based violence and sexual assault, especially the reporting process, available services, how best to support a survivor, etc. Educating yourself will help you better support your friend.

* Information adapted from the website: https://www.seekthenspeak.org/.