If a Sexual Assault is Reported to You
For Faculty, Staff & Administrators
This page provides information and resources for faculty, staff and administrators who receive reports of sexual assault or rape from students, colleagues or acquaintances.
If someone voluntarily discloses that they* have experienced sexual assault or rape, know that this person likely trusts you and it is important for you to provide support and reassurance as they make decisions about what to do. Survivors of sexual assault can be significantly affected throughout their recovery by the actions and attitudes of the people in their support system. You can provide support in your willingness to listen with a nonjudgmental attitude.
If you find you are unable to respond to a survivor of sexual assault in a supportive manner, please provide the survivor with the phone number of the North Coast Rape Crisis Team: (707) 445-2881.
Information on how to file a police report is also available.
Keep the following in mind when speaking with, listening to, or otherwise offering support to a survivor of sexual assault:
- Very few people lie about sexual assault or rape. In fact, there is severe under-reporting of these crimes. Consider how difficult it is to recount, and by extension often re-live, trauma by talking about an experience of sexual violence. Your ability to listen and respond in nonjudgmental ways can help to change the culture of silence that exists around sexualized violence.
- Remind the survivor that it is not their fault. The responsibility lies with the perpetrator in making a decision to violate the bodily integrity of another person. No matter what the person was wearing or how much they had to drink, they are not responsible for having been sexually assaulted. Asking questions, such as "Why didn’t you scream/leave?" or "Why did you go to that person's house/invite them over?" is "victim blaming", which can be extremely harmful to survivors of sexualized violence.
- Know your role. If you are a Campus Security Authority (CSA), and if the sexual assault occurred on campus, you are required to call the University Police Department, (707) 826-5555, and report the following:
- That a sexual assault occurred.
- The general location, if known.
- The approximate date, if known.
Protect the anonymity of the survivor unless the survivor directs you otherwise. When reporting to UPD, you do not need to disclose the name or any other identifying information about the survivor.
All other members of the campus community are under no obligation to make reports to UPD, although UPD does encourage the gathering of data.
Respect boundaries; establish confidentiality. Let the survivor decide when to tell other people in their life. Ask before touching or hugging the survivor. Establish an understanding of trust and confidentiality: assure the survivor that you will protect their anonymity.
Provide information on support services. Let the survivor know that the North Coast Rape Crisis Team provides free support 24 hours a day and has extensive knowledge about medical and law enforcement agencies in the area. You can offer to make the phone call or write down the phone number for the survivor: (707) 445-2881. NCRCT is also available to accompany survivors who decide to seek medical care or consider legal options. NCRCT advocates explain the options available in each situation and support whatever decisions the survivor makes.
Offer nonjudgmental support. Remember that healing is a highly individual process and whichever decisions the survivor makes are the right ones for him or her at that time. Part of a survivor’s recovery is about regaining control that was lost in the event of violence. Be supportive of whichever decisions the survivor makes. Do ask what you can do to assist the survivor and be clear with both yourself and the survivor about what you do and do not feel comfortable with.
Watch for warning signs and be honest with the survivor. Be aware that if a student’s life is in danger or if a student poses serious risk of harm to himself or herself or to others, you will not be able to maintain confidentiality. If you have determined that they have a clear intent and a plan to harm themselves or others, you must call 911 and report immediately.
Follow up. Ask the survivor if they would like to schedule a follow-up time to talk with you. Depending upon your relationship with the survivor, consider contacting them in a week to ask if there is anything else you can do. Remember not to include possibly private details in a phone or email message. Be careful to notice signs that your help is no longer needed or appreciated. Give the survivor the space they may need.
- A note on confidentiality:
- CSAs, are required to make reports of incidents of sexual assaults to UPD. These reports should protect the anonymity of the survivor if the survivor wishes to remain anonymous.
- If you feel that you need to discuss your own thoughts or feelings after helping a survivor, you are welcome to call the North Coast Rape Crisis Team, 24 hours a day, at (707) 445-2881. If you talk with anyone else, please remember that we live in a very small community and simply mentioning the location of the assault, the date it occurred, or other basic information about the survivor (academic major, athletic affiliations, etc.) can be enough identifying information to destroy anonymity.
*The pronouns "they", "them" and "their" are often used here to replace the third-person singular in part to improve readability, and also as part of a small effort to disrupt the gender binary.
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