Resources available to survivors of sexual violence

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In a survey nationally representing the U.S., nearly one in five women and one in 71 men reported experiencing rape at some point, according to data from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention.

The same survey also showed that approximately one in 20 men and women had experienced sexual assault other than rape, such as being made to penetrate someone else, sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact or non-contact unwanted sexual experiences within 12 months of the survey.

These problems are not foreign to K-State. According to information disclosed by K-State’s Office of Student Life under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (aka the Clery Act), there were five reported incidents of forcible sexual offenses on K-State’s campus in 2013. Of the five, two incidents were reported in residential facilities. K-State also had 10 reported incidents of domestic violence in 2013, eight of which were reported on residential facilities.

For those who have experienced these and other types of sexual violence, K-State and Manhattan have many resources available.

Medical attention

Judy Davis, executive director of the Crisis Center, Inc., a domestic violence and sexual assault helpline, said there are several facilities available for students who wish to seek medical attention after experiencing sexual assault.

“Students can go to Lafene Health Center or Mercy Regional Health Center,” Davis said. “Students are lucky to have the Women’s Center at Lafene as well (for follow-up treatment).”

Jessica Haymaker and Jenna Tripodi, coordinators of the Center for Advocacy, Response and Education, said there are several steps students can take when dealing with sexual assault.

“You have options,” Haymaker said. “You can choose to get a sexual assault forensic exam; Mercy Regional is the closest location of a sexual assault nurse examiner. (The procedure) collects evidence, but it also gives you a chance as a survivor to make sure that you don’t need further medical attention, to get tested for (sexually transmitted diseases) and to get tested for pregnancy eventually. The only thing with that is that anything beyond the exam is going to fall onto your insurance, or onto you if you don’t have insurance.”

According to the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, a sexual abuse nurse examiner is a registered nurse trained to provide care to a victim of sexual assault and perform duties such as conducting a thorough and complete physical exam, collecting and documenting and forensic evidence, helping to provide a victim with information and referrals to additional care and providing a courtroom testimony when necessary.

Tips for a sexual assault forensic exam

There are several things that can be done to help protect evidence of your assault. Before the exam, the coalition recommends avoiding bathing, showering, brushing your teeth or using mouthwash, using the restroom or otherwise cleaning your genitals, changing your clothes and eating, drinking or smoking. Even if you do any of these, however, it is still suggested that you receive a forensic exam conducted to gather as much evidence as possible.

According to Haymaker, a forensic exam can be conducted anywhere from 72-96 hours after an assault. In addition to this, Haymaker said victims have the right to deny any part of the medical exam if they are not comfortable with it.

After the exam, you will be given follow-up care instructions and time to ask any remaining questions you may have. If you do not choose to file your case immediately, your kit will be given a unique identification number and stored with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Your kit, which remains anonymous except for its identification number, will be kept at the KBI for up to five years. At any time within those five years, you have the right to file a case with law enforcement.

According to Kansas law, the county in which the assault happened is required to pay for the forensic exam, although the survivor is responsible for any additional care as mentioned previously.

According to Haymaker and Tripodi, although medical evidence is needed if you wish to file a criminal complaint, there is no requirement to file a charge if you don’t want to.

“When you think about an individual who has experienced sexual assault, I think you want to start with the medical options, so if you go and have the exam done it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to file a criminal complaint,” Tripodi said. “You can just have the kit done and still make a decision from there. That’s talking about the evidence collection part, but a survivor might also need immediate medical attention if the assault was physically violent, so they might need (additional) medical attention. So those are two different processes.”

Haymaker also said that advocates from both CARE and the crisis center are available as support to a survivor throughout any part of the process, both medical and legal.

Psychological, therapy services

According to Tripodi, there are many services available for students and faculty who have experienced sexual violence at any time in their life. The services offered by CARE are available confidentially, and no information given within the center shall be revealed without the permission of the survivor.

“We can provide immediate peer-to-peer support, or we can do crisis intervention,” Tripodi said. “We talk about triggers and how to manage those, and do some of those immediate focus things. If they would like more long term, (we offer) therapeutic support to process what’s happened to them, to help them think about how to move forward and heal. Counseling services are available on campus, and there’s also the (K-State) Family Center on campus. Our office does have a therapy fund that individuals can access if money is a barrier to receiving services … those are the immediate, on-campus resources.”

Other items of consideration

To Tripodi, one of the biggest reasons someone decides not to access these services or file charges is because they fear a lack of support or the possibility of retribution.

“I think the biggest barrier that’s reflected to me about accessing services is people are afraid they won’t be believed, or that they will somehow be blamed for what happened to them, or if they are underage … and they were drinking during the time of whatever happened to them, that will somehow get them in trouble legally,” Tripodi said. “I think specifically our office and the university want survivors to know CARE is a safe place to come, and there are safe resources, if this office doesn’t feel like the right place to go … They will be believed, we won’t blame them for what happened, and there is certainly no consequences if they were underage drinking.”

Haymaker said even if law enforcement chooses to file charges against underage drinking, it is not a priority within the case.

“I don’t want to speak for law enforcement, but I have a feeling they would reflect the same sentiment, that if you were underage drinking and you were assaulted, law enforcement would rather you come forward,” Haymaker said. “In my conversation (with them), that’s what I get. They would rather you come forward with that report, and I don’t think it’s a ‘we’ll never charge someone for drinking’ (situation), but I think it’s more ‘that’s not our main priority in that moment.'”

Haymaker and Tripodi also said that under no circumstances will a survivor be blamed for what they experienced, and that CARE is available to help them with any aspect of their experience with sexual violence, including confidential support, education about their legal rights as a survivor and even help with putting a label on a bad incident if they are unsure if it was sexual assault or not.

“We certainly educate them of their rights as survivors, both through university reporting systems and the legal system, but we will not force anyone to (file a report),” Tripodi said. “We will always respect their opinion about what feels best for them and their process; we’re simply here to be a resource and help for whatever they need.”

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