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What to Do if Someone You Know Has Been Sexually Assaulted

If the assault just happened

Vols Help Vols: You Are Not Alone graphic

Vols Help Vols: You Are Not Alone Support Guide

Encourage your friend to get medical attention.

If your friend is a University of Tennessee student, encourage the person to allow you to contact one of the university resources. If the friend is not a University of Tennessee student, any of the contacts below can assist in connecting them with the right supports.

If your friend does not wish to seek services, it is helpful to remind them that being examined by a medical professional can help protect against sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, and other concerns. You can also share that a proper medical examination can help assist in preserving evidence should s/he decide to pursue prosecution.

Always:

  • Believe your friend.
  • Tell them the assault is not their fault.
  • Realize that, because every person is different, the way a person responds to being sexually assaulted will be unique. Below is a short list of some possible reactions a survivor may have (Remember that there are many other ways that a survivor might react):
    • The survivor may not want to be touched.
    • The survivor may act fearful even though there is no present danger.
    • The survivor may act as if everything is fine and attempt to quickly return to “normal” in an effort to regain a sense of control.
    • The survivor may quickly move through a range of emotions and seem to be breaking down.
    • The survivor may act numb or as if in a daze.
  • Be supportive by actively listening. Remain calm and avoid overreacting.
  • Avoid asking “why?” questions, as these can make the person feel as if they must defend choices they made. This leads to the survivor feeling judged and blamed for what happened.
  • Allow the survivor to tell as much or as little of the incident as they want when they want.
  • Don’t judge the survivor’s actions leading up to, during, or after the incident. The perpetrator is responsible for the assault, regardless of what the survivor was wearing, drinking, etc.
  • Allow the person their own decision about whether or not to report the assault, and support whatever decision they make.
  • Offer resources and encourage the person to get help.
  • Remember that your friend has been through a traumatic event.
  • Take care of yourself and get support for yourself if needed.
Emergency 911
University of Tennessee Police Department 865-974-3114
Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) 865-974-HELP (4357)
Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee 24 Hour Hotline 865-522-5244
Student Counseling Center 865-974-2196

The information on this page summarizes options you have if you have been sexually assaulted. For detailed information on reporting options, confidential resources, medical care, interim measures, complaint procedures, and other issues, please review the university’s Policy on Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence, and Stalking.

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