Oakland University Counseling Center

Graham Health Center, East Wing
408 Meadow Brook Road
Rochester, MI 48309-4452
(location map)
(248) 370-3465

Sexual Assault

Signs of Distress & How to Help

What to Do If You Have Been Sexually Assaulted
  • Go to a safe place. Call a support person. 
  • Don't try to go through this alone. You are not to blame! 
  • Call HAVEN’s Toll-Free Crisis Line at 877.922.1274, 911 or 248-370-3333 for the OU police.
  • Do not change clothes, shower, bathe, or douche even though you may feel a strong need to do so. If there has been oral penetration, do not brush your teeth, smoke, chew gum, or eat anything. 
  • It is crucial that you do not destroy evidence in case you decide to press charges. If your injuries are severe, have someone call 911 or take you directly to an Emergency Room (such as Crittenton Hospital).

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Why Go For Help?
You may have serious internal injuries; you need to have a physical examination. The risks for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy need to be discussed. Additionally, the assault needs to be legally documented and evidence collected; this is referred to as the Medical-Legal Exam.

Even if your initial thought is you would never go to court, it is best to have the evidence collected in case you change your mind later. The sooner you have the exam done, the better.
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Police Investigation: What To Expect
In order to investigate the crime, a police detective will question you, collect evidence from the crime scene, receive the evidence obtained by the nurse examiner at the Graham Health Center or the hospital, and take a formal statement. The police will protect your anonymity.

Questioning will usually focus on the events prior to the initial contact with the assailant, a detailed account of the behavior and words used by the assailant, circumstances of the assault, and a description of the assailant. They may also ask about when you last had consensual sex. Questioning is done in a non-judgmental manner. In preparation for this interview, you may wish to write down your account in advance.
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The Law in Michigan
Michigan’s Criminal Sexual Conduct Code (CSC) prohibits forced or coerced sexual activity, the extent of which may range from the touching of sexual parts of the body to penetration of any oral, vaginal, or anal body cavity. The survivor may be female or male. Consent must be clear and freely given. A person under the influence of drugs or alcohol is considered incapable of giving the consent. A rape shield provision in the law restricts admissible evidence concerning the survivor's prior sexual history.
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The Healing Process
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, reaching out for help is a crucial step in your recovery and in the healing process. It is up to you to decide who and how to reach out for help. We recommend:
  1. Tell someone you trust. Sexual assaults can be terrifying, traumatic, and an enormous burden to bear alone. Think about whom you might trust to tell that you believe will be supportive. You can also call Haven’s  24 hours a day, 7 days a week Crisis Support Line at 248.334.1274 or toll-free at  877.922.1274. You may also meet with a counselor at the OU Counseling Center, Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm.  The most important thing is finding someone to talk to and not staying silent about what has happened to you. 
     
  2. Request a medical examination. Even if you don’t think you were physically hurt, you may want to be checked for internal injuries, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases as soon as possible. Having a medical exam within 72 hours is best for collecting physical evidence of the sexual assault. 
     
  3. Report to the Police. You can contact Haven (877.922.1274) for assistance in reviewing your reporting options. Whether to file a police report is your decision, and you do not have to make it immediately. However, if you decide to file a report, it would be advantageous to your case to do this as soon as possible. 
     
  4. Seek additional supportive counseling. Regardless of whether you get a medical examination or report the assault, you may want help to deal with the impact of the assault. The OU Counseling Center offers comprehensive, expert therapeutic services to help you through the recovery process. You can come in to the Counseling Center on a walk-in crisis basis and be seen by a counselor as soon as possible the same day.

It is crucial that you remember that no matter what the circumstances were, you are not to blame for what happened to you. Give yourself permission to do what you need to do to take care of yourself. And most of all, reach out for help! There are people in your life who care about you and professionals who can help you heal.
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Telling Family and Significant Others
When considering whether to tell your family and others close to you, anticipating their possible reactions is helpful. Review your past and current relationships and history of support.

If your family and/or significant others are not told, you may experience feelings of isolation and guilt over keeping this from them. Your family may find out from another source at a later date. It is also important to note that you may be denying yourself a major source of support. You may wish to discuss this and other decisions with a trusted friend or counselor.
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Seeking Professional Counseling

Each survivor has his/her own recovery timetable. Some people are ready for counseling right away and others are not. Being heard by someone who is objective, supportive, and non-judgmental can be extremely beneficial.  Confidential counseling is available for students through the OU Counseling Center.
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A Word to Support Persons
The survivor of sexual assault has been through a very traumatic experience and it is important that she/he receive support, assistance, and accurate information. Your being there in a supportive way is immensely valuable.

Allow the survivor to make choices and remain in control. Give reassurance that she/he is not to blame. Listen as she/he talks about the experience. Be accepting of the survivor's many emotional reactions including anger, fear, anxiety, and depression.

Believe what the survivor tells you. Know that revealing this experience takes a great deal of strength and courage. Letting the survivor know that you believe what they have told you and that the assault was not their fault is extremely important.

Be respectful of privacy. Don’t tell anyone about the assault without the survivor’s permission. The survivor has only chosen to tell you and it may be hurtful or detrimental to their healing process and recovery.

Be a good listener. Here are some things to keep in mind when a survivor chooses to talk with you:

  • DO concentrate on understanding the survivor’s feelings
  • DO allow silences
  • DO let the survivor know you are glad s/he told you
  • DON'T interrogate or ask for specific details about the sexual assault
  • DON'T ask "why" questions such as "why did you go there?" or "why didn’t you scream?" or "why didn’t you go to the hospital right away?"
  • DON'T tell the survivor what you would have done or what they should have done

Let the survivor make their own decisions. Always let survivors weigh their options and decide how to proceed in their own recovery process. Telling a survivor what you think they “should do” about the options available to them can contribute to a survivor’s sense of being disempowered. Instead of taking charge, ask how you can help. Support the decisions the survivor makes, even if you don’t agree with them!

Remind the survivor that you care. Being “there” for survivors is very important. You can do this in a number of ways; by being a good listener; accompanying them if they seek medical attention or walking over with them to get counseling or crisis support at the Counseling Center; making arrangements to have dinner or coffee with them; asking the survivor “how can I be helpful”; voicing your concern by saying things like “I’m sorry that this has happened”; telling them how courageous they are; or telling them that you don’t see the survivor any differently may all be tangible ways to show that you care about the survivor.

Give the survivor space if s/he needs it. Be sensitive to the fact that the survivor might want to spend some time alone. Don’t take it personally. Survivors may just need some time to pay attention to their own needs from time to time.  

If you are a romantic partner of the survivor, ask for permission before touching or holding the survivor. Do not rush sexual contact. The survivor needs to decide when it is right to have sexual contact and to pace the intensity of involvement. Accept the fact that the survivor’s renewal of sexual interest may occur at a slow pace. Discuss the subject of sex in a non-sexual environment.
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