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Sexual Assault

Don’t Go It Alone

Support is Available

Urbana provides on-campus support for victims of sexual assault. In addition to counseling, we can provide contact information for additional help, as well as tips for what to do during and after sexual assault. 

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Ways To Avoid Sexual Assault

While you can never completely protect yourself from sexual assault, there are some things you can do to help reduce your risk of being assaulted. Thinking and talking about the different types of sexual assault, and what you might do if you ever find yourself in a bad situation, can increase your chances of avoiding rape:

  • Remember that being in this situation is not your fault. You did not do anything wrong, it is the person who is making you uncomfortable that is to blame.
  • Be true to yourself. Don't feel obligated to do anything you don't want to do. "I don't want to" is always a good enough reason. Do what feels right to you and what you are comfortable with.
  • Have a code word with your friends or family so that if you don’t feel comfortable you can call them and communicate your discomfort without the person you are with knowing. Your friends or family can then come to get you or make up an excuse for you to leave.
  • Lie. If you don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings it is better to lie and make up a reason to leave than to stay and be uncomfortable, scared, or worse. Some excuses you could use are: needing to take care of a friend or family member, not feeling well, having somewhere else that you need to be, etc.
  • Try to think of an escape route. How would you try to get out of the room? Where are the doors? Windows? Are there people around who might be able to help you? Is there an emergency phone nearby?
  • If you and/or the other person have been drinking, you can say that you would rather wait until you both have your full judgment before doing anything you may regret later.
  • Stay calm, consider your options and how safe it would be to resist.
  • Say “NO” strongly. Do not smile; do not act polite or friendly.
  • Say something like “Stop it. This is Rape!” This might shock the rapist into stopping.
  • If the rapist is unarmed, fight back physically, shout “NO!” and run away as soon as possible.
  • If the rapist is armed, try to talk him out of continuing the assault, or try passive resistance (pretend to faint/vomit/urinate).

What To Do In Case Of A Rape

  • In the immediate aftermath of a sexual assault, the most important thing is for the victim to get to a safe place. Whether it be the victim’s home, a friend’s home or with a family member, immediate safety is what matters most.
  • When a feeling of safety has been achieved, it is vital for the victim to receive medical attention, regardless of his or her decision to report the crime to the police. For the victim’s health and self-protection, it is important to be checked and treated for possible injuries, even if none are visible.
    • This includes testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as well as receiving preventative treatments that may be available, depending upon the local response and resources. For instance, medications to prevent STIs and pregnancy and protect against HIV transmission may be offered.
  • In addition to receiving medical attention, victims are encouraged to receive a forensic examination. This exam is important because preserving DNA evidence can be key to identifying the perpetrator in a sexual assault case, especially those in which the offender is a stranger. DNA evidence is an integral part of a law enforcement investigation that can build a strong case to show that a sexual assault occurred and to show that the defendant is the source of biological material left on the victim’s body. Victims have the right to accept or decline any or all parts of the exam, however, it is important to remember that critical evidence may be missed if not collected or analyzed.
  • Victims should make every effort to save anything that might contain the perpetrator’s DNA, therefore a victim should not:
    • Bathe or shower
    • Use the restroom
    • Change clothes
    • Comb hair
    • Clean up the crime scene
    • Move anything the offender may have touched
    • Even if the victim has not yet decided to report the crime, receiving a forensic medical exam and keeping the evidence safe from damage will improve the chances that the police can access and test the stored evidence at a later date.

How To Help

It is also important to note that having a friend or family member who is raped or assaulted can be a very upsetting experience. For this reason it is also important that you take care of yourself. Even if your friend and family member isn’t ready to talk to a specialist, you can get support for yourself. You can also get ideas about ways to help your friend or family member through the recovery process.

Self-Care for Survivors

Good self-care is a challenge for many people and it can be especially challenging for survivors of rape, sexual assault, incest and sexual abuse. It can also be an important part of the healing process.

Physical Self-Care

  • Food is a type of self-care that people often overlook. People are often so busy that they don’t have time to eat regularly or that they substitute fast food for regular meals. It’s not always reasonable to expect people to get three square meals a day (plus snacks!) but everyone should make sure they get adequate nutrition.
  • Exercise is one of the most overlooked types of self-care. The CDC recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week. Exercise, even if it’s just a quick walk at lunchtime, can help combat feelings of sadness or depression and prevent chronic health problems.
  • Although everyone has different needs, a reasonable guideline is that most people need between 7-10 hours of sleep per night.
  • Getting medical attention when you need it is an important form of physical self-care. Some survivors put off getting medical care until problems that might have been relatively easy to take care of have become more complicated.

Emotional Self-Care

  • Counseling: This could mean seeing a psychologist, a clinical social worker or therapist. Local rape crisis centers often provide counseling or can connect you with a provider. Call (800) 656-HOPE or go to to find a center near you.
  • Keeping a journal: Some survivors find that recording their thoughts and feelings in a journal or diary helps them manage their emotions after an assault.
  • Meditation or relaxation exercises: Relaxation techniques or meditation help many survivors with their emotional self-care. For example:
    • Sit or stand comfortably, with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight.
    • Place one hand over your belly button.
    • Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose and let your stomach expand as you inhale.
    • Hold your breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth, sighing as you breathe out.
    • Concentrate on relaxing your stomach muscles as you breathe in. When you are doing this exercise correctly, you will feel your stomach rise and fall about an inch as you breathe in and out.
    • Try to keep the rest of your body relaxed — your shoulders should not rise and fall as you breathe!
    • Slowly count to four as you inhale and to four again as you exhale.
    • At the end of the exhalation, take another deep breath.
    • After three or four cycles of breathing, you should begin to feel the calming effects.
  • Emotional self-care can also involve the people around you.
    • Make sure that the people in your life are supportive.
    • Nurture relationships with people that make you feel good about yourself!
    • Make spending time with friends and family a priority.
    • If you have trouble finding people who can support your experience as a survivor, consider joining a support group for survivors.

Be Wary Of:

  • Friends or family who only call when they need something
  • People who always leave you feeling tired or depressed when you see them
  • Friends who never have the time to listen to you
  • Anyone who dismisses or belittles your experience as a survivor
    • You can deal with these people by setting limits.
    • You don’t have to cut them out of your life (especially with family, that may not even be an option!) but choose the time you will spend with them carefully.
    • Make sure that your time with these people has a clear end.
    • Cut back on the time you spend with people who don’t make you feel good, or spend time with them in a group rather than one-on-one.
    • Screen your calls!! There’s no rule that says you have to answer your phone every time it rings. If you don’t feel like talking on the phone, call people back at a time that’s more convenient for you.
    • You can deal with these people by letting some go.
      • If there are people in your life who consistently make you feel bad about yourself, consider letting those friendships or relationships go. This can be a difficult decision. Remember that you deserve to have people around you who genuinely care about you and who support you.

Another challenge can be in finding time for fun leisure activities. Many survivors have full time jobs, go to school, volunteer and have families. Finding time to do activities that you enjoy is an important aspect of self-care.

  • Get involved in a sport or hobby that you love!! Find other people who are doing the same thing!
  • Knowing that people are counting on you to show up can help motivate you.
  • If you have a spouse or partner, make a date night and stick with it.
  • Turn off your cell phone (within reason).
  • Treat leisure appointments as seriously as business appointments. If you have plans to do something for fun, mark it on your calendar!
  • Make your self-care a priority, not something that happens (or doesn’t happen!) by accident.

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