If you think someone you know has been sexually assaulted, there are lots of ways in which you can help them.
If someone has been sexually assaulted their reactions can vary; they may be afraid, angry or have no outward reaction at all. They might even act in ways that seem unusual to you, even laughing at seemingly inappropriate times.
Disclosures can come in many forms; it could be something said jokingly, a story that someone starts to tell then stops and says it doesn't matter, or it could be a question. You are not expected to be a professional counsellor; however how someone responds to a first disclosure can be really important. It can take time for a person to decide what they want to do and how they want to move forward.
- Are they in immediate danger? If they are in immediate danger or seriously injured, you can call 999 (or 112 from a mobile).
- Find a safe space. If an incident has just happened, try and find somewhere they feel safe. If this isn't possible and they are scared or fearful you can suggest they call security on 01772 892068.
- The AAA Taxis ‘Take Me Home’ scheme allows you to use your UCLan ID Card as a deposit for journeys of £8 and under around Preston City Centre and the university area and pay later. You can reclaim your Card later from the Student Union Finance Office. The number for AAA Taxis is 01772 555444.
- What is sexual assault? This section describes the different types of sexual assault that a person can experience.
- Sexual assault is a crime of power and control. The most important thing is to respond in a way that maximises their choice and control over what happens next. You can simply ask them what they need or want. They might not make the same decision you would; however, only they can decide what is best for them. You can help them explore options but avoid telling them what they should do.
- Listen. Just taking the time to listen to someone and talk about what has happened can help. These six active listening tips might help you support them.
- Give options. When they have finished talking, ask them if they are ok to talk through some possible options and next steps. Remember, it is important that they decide what they want to do.
- Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs). The Safe Centre, Trust House and Lancashire Victim Services all have ISVAs who are trained to look after the needs of a survivor of rape or sexual violence to ensure they receive the best possible care and understanding. If the person is willing to, they can contact them and ask to speak to an advisor. ISVAs are there to provide information to ensure an individual can make a decision that is right for them.
- To a Wellbeing Advisor. In addition to providing wellbeing support for a range of issues that affect students, a Wellbeing advisor can talk through how to make a complaint and what support is available, in confidence.
- To Human Resources who can provide advice, guidance and signposting for staff.
- UCLan Students' Union Advice and Representation Centre. This is a free, confidential, impartial service where students can get advice and information on academic and personal issues, including advice on procedures and representation at hearings. The Advice and Representation Centre is also a third party Hate Crime reporting centre.
- Reporting to the police If they're thinking of reporting to the police, Rape Crisis has produced a useful list of things to think about. If the incident occurred outside of Lancashire they can ring the Counselling, Mental Health and Wellbeing team on 01772 893020 to discuss how to contact their local Police force if they are unsure.
- Reporting the incident anonymously. Crime stoppers can be called at any point on 0800 555 111 or use their online form.
- Report and Support Students and staff can report an incident using the University’s Report and Support system. This can be done anonymously or they can request support from an advisor. If they choose to talk to an advisor they will be able to talk through the options and support available, in confidence.
- They might not want to report the assault to the police or the University. There are a lot of reasons why someone may choose not to report sexual violence. See the section below for information on support without reporting to the Police.
- In most cases of sexual assault, the offender is known to the victim.
- They might be concerned that people won’t believe them or may not identify what occurred as a sexual assault
- They may be concerned about who else might be informed.
- They may be afraid of, or confused about, the criminal justice system or what happens if you report it to the University.
- If drugs or alcohol were involved, they may choose not to report because they are worried they will get in trouble as well.
- It is up to them to decide what they want to disclose and to whom. Your support can help them talk through their concerns.
- Let them know that you believe them and support their decisions.
- Remind them that no one, regardless of relationship or status, has the right to hurt them and that no matter what, it is not their fault that this occurred.
- Connect them with resources that can help them understand what happens if you report to the police and or the University.
If they're not ready to report to the Police
If they are unsure about what they want to do, you may wish to let them know that they can go to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC). A SARC is where you can get advice, make a statement, have forensic samples taken, get medical support (including tests for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy) without having to report the matter to the police.
The forensic evidence is stored at the SARC in case they want to report the rape to the police in the future.
The SAFE Centre is the SARC for Lancashire. More details about their service and how to access them is available on their website.
If they want to go to a SARC, it's important to try to go as soon as possible so that important evidence can be preserved. They can also get help from an Independent Sexual Violence Adviser (ISVA) who can provide specialist advice and support. An ISVA can be found by speaking to your local Sexual Assault Referral Centre, or Rape Crisis Centre.
Things to avoid
- Just saying "it’s not your fault" (without listening to the survivor's story)
- Using key ‘catch phrases’ or common sayings – e.g. “it will all be better with time"
- Probing for details. Let them tell you what has happened in their own time
- Blaming them – e.g. “what were you wearing?” and “were you drinking?” or “did you text them to come over?”
- Showing disgust or shock
- Smirking and showing obvious disbelief
- "Why didn’t you say straight away? Why are you only coming forward now?"
- Trivialising the experience – “it was only a bit of fumbling”
- Find out what support is available if you have been sexually assaulted
- Rape Crisis provides further information on supporting a survivor.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
1 in 4 people is affected by a mental health problem in any year and it is estimated that around 1 in 5 people has contemplated suicide or self-harm. Experiencing sexual assault can have detrimental effect on a person’s mental wellbeing. If you are worried or concerned about the impact on someone’s mental wellbeing, find out more about how you can help them.
Take care of yourself.
It’s important that you take care of yourself. If you’ve heard something distressing or if something is troubling you, the University's Student Wellbeing Service offers confidential help to students. If you are a member of staff, you can email the Staff Counselling service to request an appointment.