How to Help a Friend Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted
Medical follow-up after an assault
Encourage your friend to seek medical attention immediately after an assault. Within 24 to 48 hours the most evidence can be collected at a hospital emergency room; however, some evidence can be collected for up to 72 hours. There is no fee for the survivor for this exam. Your friend should not bathe or shower, change clothes, douche, brush teeth, urinate, defecate, etc., prior to the exam, and should bring a set of clothes to change into after the exam. The hospital might want to keep some/all of the clothes worn during the assault for evidence. Even if someone is not sure they want to prosecute, they might want to consider an evidence exam to collect and store physical evidence in case they do decide to prosecute at a later time. Both Mercy and Unity Point St. Luke's in Cedar Rapids, and the UI Hospitals & Clinics in Iowa City, have specially trained sexual assault response nurses on staff.
IMPORTANT: Some hospitals may notify the police when a sexual assault victim seeks emergency room services. However, just because the police are called does not mean that the survivor must report the assault. The police will come to the hospital to take a report and the survivor can give or decline to give a statement at that time. The individual will still be able to receive medical care.
Within 72 hours the survivor can be treated prophylactically for certain STDs and within 120 hours for pregnancy (if that is a concern). Most hospital ERs offer this treatment; Unity Point St. Luke's and Mercy offer emergency pregnancy prophylaxis. Most physician offices, Planned Parenthood, and The Emma Goldman Clinic can also provide this treatment. There might or might not be a charge for this service somewhere other than a hospital ER. If it's more than 72 hours after the assault, still encourage the survivor to seek medical attention if they have not already done so. It is important to make sure no internal damage was done. Also important is follow-up testing for STDs such as HIV.
Mental health follow-up after an assault
- On-campus free, individual counseling is available, whether the assault occurred recently or years ago. You might offer to help the survivor by accompanying her or him to the Counseling Center for the first visit. For more information call ext. 4292.
- Riverview Center in Cedar Rapids provides free advocacy & support to survivors of sexual assault (540-0080).
Legal and adjudicatory concerns following a sexual assault
- In the State of Iowa, a survivor has 10 years from the date of the sexual assault (or 10 years after their 18th birthday if they are a minor when assaulted) to report the assault to the police and pursue prosecution. A report should be made as soon as possible after the assault, because the longer someone waits to make a report of a rape, the less likely there will be a successful prosecution. A survivor can make a report & choose not to prosecute, but still have the report on file.
- Currently, on-campus options for reporting include:
2) Filing a formal complaint with the Dean of Students.
For more information, see the complete sexual misconduct policy. Prompt reporting is crucial to help ensure full investigation of complaints and is thus encouraged. If a survivor is uncertain about reporting or would like to discuss options, she or he can consult with the College Sexual Misconduct Liaison or the Dean of Students.
- Civil court proceedings are another option available to a survivor. This course does not result in criminal action against the accused. Rather, monetary damages can be sought through this avenue. A survivor should check with a qualified attorney to pursue this option.
- If medical or other monetary losses result from the assault, the survivor might be able to recoup some losses through the Crime Victim Compensation Program (1-800-373-5044).
Judicial System in Iowa
What to do to help the survivor
Let the person be in control of her/his own decisions. Support these decisions.
Tell her/him over and over again that the assault was not her/his fault.
Tell her/him that no matter what she/he did when the rape happened,
she/he acted in the best manner she/he could.
Ask the survivor how she/he wants to be treated, especially when doing
anything that may violate her/his personal space.
Be a good listener. Be non-judgmental and non-blaming.
Assist her/him in getting the help she/he wants and needs.
Realize you, too, have been affected and seek support/counseling if necessary.
What NOT to do
Don't force her/him to talk about the assault.
Don't give advice or try to tell her/him what to do.
Don't tell her/him what you would have done.
Don't ask why she/he didn't scream, fight, etc. This is blaming.
Don't ask her/him what they did to "lead him on."
Don't spread gossip to friends about "what happened."
Don't expect her/him to "get back to normal" right away.
Don't threaten to, or attempt to, seek revenge.
Important Contact Numbers:
.....from campus phone x4299
.....from non-campus phone 895-4299
Mt. Vernon Police 895-6141
Cedar Rapids Police 286-5491
Counseling Center x4292 (895-4292)
Health Center x4292 (895-4292)
Unity Point St. Luke's ER 369-7105
Mercy Medical Center ER 398-6041
Riverview Center (sexual assault services) 540-0080 or 888-557-0310
.....(24-hour crisis line for sexual assault issues)
Foundation II Crisis Line 362-2174 or 800-332-4224
.....(24-hour crisis line for any concern)
Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP)
.....(in Iowa City) 319-335-6000 or 800-284-7821