As part of UC Berkeley’s commitment to preventing and responding to incidents of sexual violence and harassment on campus, UHS strives to reduce the impact of harm when incidents occur and provide guidance and information to the campus community.
What to do if you are sexually assaulted
IF YOU ARE IN IMMEDIATE DANGER, CALL 911.
IF YOU ARE OUT OF THE COUNTRY, please go to Pathways to Safety International
For URGENT 24/7 Confidential Support, call the Path to Care Line at (510) 643-2005.
See UC Berkeley's Path to Care website and review the quick guides on how and where to get support.
- Go to a safe place. Consider calling a trusted friend, family member, or advocate for support. This is not the time to be alone; 24-hour crisis lines have trained staff who can provide support and options.
- Get medical attention. As soon as possible, go to an emergency room or the Urgent Care center at University Health Services to be examined and treated for any injuries. If you decide to report, physical specimens collected soon after the sexual assault will be valuable evidence. Do not shower or clean yourself first. UHS is not an "evidence collection" site, so if you do want to file charges, arrangements will be made for you to go to Highland Hospital, which is designated as the "evidence collection" site for sexual assaults that occur in the Berkeley/Oakland area.
- Consider reporting the assault to police and university officials, whether or not you plan to request that charges be filed. Reporting a sexual assault does not commit you to a full legal process, but keeps options open. When you make your report, you may take someone with you. You can go the next day, but the sooner the better. Rarely do rapists attack one person only.
- If the person who hurt you is a student, consider whether you want to file a report with the police and/or with campus authorities. This does not change what happened to you, but taking action to seek justice can be empowering. It can also be a hard process. Each person must decide for themselves, based on their own circumstances, whether it makes sense to take this step. Social Services staff are available to help you consider the pros and cons of making an official report. You may also speak with the UC Police, the campus Title IX Officer, or the Center for Student Conduct about what will happen before making your decision.
- Make space for healing. You have been through a trauma that has likely impacted your emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being. You may experience many different emotions - fear, grief, guilt, shame, rage. There are many options for support: Talk with a counselor at the Tang Center; join a survivors group (offered at the Tang Center) or talk with friends and family. People who receive counseling tend to recover faster and with fewer lasting effects than those who get no help. Recovery from rape doesn't change the fact that the rape happened. It does mean that, over time, the survivor is not thinking about the rape as much, and their emotions are not dominated by it. The survivor is able to envision a future, to set goals, and work to achieve them. Their life moves forward.
- Be compassionate with yourself; you are not to blame for the rape. Even if your body responded sexually or you believe you were naïve, not cautious, or even foolish, it is not your fault. Your behavior did not cause the rape; the rapist caused the rape.
What to do if you had sex when you didn't really want to
- Be compassionate with yourself. Sex with a partner can be confusing and involve lots of unclear or misunderstood communication. Even if you didn't say no, or believe you could have stopped having sex if you had tried harder, it is not your fault if you did not give explicit consent. A prior intimate relationship with someone does not imply consent. Furthermore, California law says you cannot give consent when you are impaired by alcohol or another substance.
- Make space for healing. Just as in the case of sexual assault, you have been through an unpleasant, intimate experience, a violation, and we encourage you to make space for your own emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual healing. If your sexual partner is someone in an intimate relationship with you. there may be an additional sense of violation – a loss of safety or trust. Just as in the case of sexual assault, you may be overwhelmed by many different emotions – fear, grief, guilt, shame, rage, self-blame. It is important to seek support, and your partner is not likely to be able to provide the support you need. See the section above for suggestions or visit the RAINN.
- Evaluate what has happened to you. Use your support system to think about what happened. Unwanted sex is a violation, and what happened to you could have been rape or sexual assault, even if you are reluctant to use these terms. A recent national survey showed that nearly half of college-age women who underwent actual or attempted rape could not bring themselves to define it as such. If this occurred in the context of a short- or long-term relationship, what does it say about your relationship? What would you want to tell your partner? Is it safe to tell your partner this? If you decide on boundaries, will your partner respect them? And the bottom-line question is: are you safe in this relationship? For help in exploring these questions, contact the Tang Center or other support systems.
- Your Physical, Emotional, and Sexual Safety is First and Foremost. You have the absolute right to be safe from unwanted sex and to have your safety and boundaries respected by your friends, dates, and other relationships.
How advisers and faculty can help a student who has been assaulted
- Be supportive by listening and taking what the student says seriously. Don't press for details. Let the student decide how much to share about the assault and its impact.
- Avoid "why" questions; they can make a person feel judged.
- If you have the opportunity, tell the student it's not her/his fault. Most survivors will blame themselves for what happened, particularly if they were drinking at the time or taking any kind of risk. It is important to counter this with strong messages that the assault was the fault and responsibility of the assailant and not the survivor, no matter what the circumstances.
- Encourage the student to make her/his own decisions about whether or not to report the assault, who to tell, etc. Support those decisions. Taking back control is an important part of a survivor's healing process.
- Offer options. Be clear as to what you can and cannot do. For example, as an advisor, you can help the student adjust her course load, withdraw from school, change her grading options, and offer referrals for other types of support, but you cannot be her counselor.
- Offer resources. Encourage the student to get support. Suggest talking with a counselor on the phone if the student is not ready to come to the Tang Center. Help the student identify people in her/his life who are sources of support that s/he may be comfortable talking to. Help the student look up a 24-hour hotline # to carry.
- Encourage the student to seek medical care if this seems warranted. If the assault is recent, it may be possible to do an evidentiary exam and keep the option of legal prosecution open. Forensic exams are paid for by the State of California and are appropriate in the first few days following an assault. Medical care may still be appropriate for assaults that occurred more distantly.
- Protect the student's privacy. As much as we all need to de-brief when we hear about upsetting situations, it is possible to do so without names and details. It is important to let the student decide whom to confide in. If you are a Campus Security Authority and have a reporting responsibility under the Clery Act, let the student know this as early in the conversation as possible.
- Be mindful of your own needs and self-care. People in supporting roles may benefit from consultation or counseling with a professional.
How you can help a friend who has been sexually assaulted
- Offer support by actively listening and taking what your friend says seriously. Avoid "why" questions; they can make a person feel judged. Practice compassion; this is not the time to point out life lessons.
- Let your friend know the assault was not their fault. Many survivors blame themselves by looking backward and seeing opportunities to have done something differently that may (or may not) have changed the outcome. Challenge this belief with the message that the fault and responsibility lie with the person who created the harm, not the survivor. This is true even if your friend engaged in risky behavior, regardless of what s/he was wearing, drinking, etc.
- Encourage your friend to seek medical attention, and offer to accompany her or him to a medical clinic or emergency room. Federal law requires that states offer free forensic exams following a sexual assault, even if the survivor does not choose to make a police report. This is known as a Non-Investigative Report (NIR).
- If you want to hug or touch your friend to show your support, ask if this is okay first. Remember, your friend was violated and did not have control over what was done to his/her body. By asking you begin to help your friend take back control and avoid any re-traumatizing.
- Allow your friend to make her/his own decisions about whether or not to report the assault, who to tell, etc., but offer options (see Resources). Support those decisions, even if you don't agree with them. Taking back control is an important part of the survivor's healing process. Do not offer your opinion unless asked.
- Allow the survivor to share what they want when they want. Don't pressure your friend to reveal information before they are ready, and don't judge her/his actions leading up to, during, or after the assault. Offer resources (See Campus and Community Resources). Your friend is entitled to support. Ask if they would like to speak to an advocate, mental health professional, or other person(s) they trust.
- If the survivor thinks that they may want to report the assault, or at least keep that option open, it is important to preserve all evidence. Methods for preserving evidence that you can share: don't wash, shower, or brush your teeth. If your friend has to change clothes, keep each item of clothing in separate paper bags. Do not launder items or disturb the area where the assault occurred, e.g. bed sheets.
- Be mindful of your own needs and self-care. People in supporting roles may benefit from consultation or counseling with a professional.
Unwanted sex and sexual assault: advice and resources for men and the transgender community
Society has become increasingly accepting of the fact that girls and women are not the only victims of sexual assault. However, there remains a general denial that adolescent and adult men are susceptible to victimization. This invisibility creates some unique challenges for the 10% or more of male survivors who are trying to heal. Additionally, the sexual violence experienced by transgender and non-conforming individuals is often minimized or disregarded, which impacts the safety and visibility of this community in a myriad of ways.
The following are some common responses and feelings to sexual assault experienced by both men and women:
- Self-blame. It’s very easy in hindsight to review a situation and see where one may have acted differently and the outcome may have been changed. This leads to inappropriately putting the responsibility for the assault on oneself rather than on the person who created harm, where it belongs.
- Disbelief. Initially, many people become numb or go into a mild state of shock and try to ‘bury’ the incident. This is particularly true when the victim knew the attacker in some capacity. As the majority of sexual assault is between acquaintances, and often within a trusted relationship, this is a common response and contributes to the low reporting rate in the country.
- Powerlessness. During an assault, the victim has lost control of their life and body. This feeling often carries over into other aspects of one’s life after the assault is over, leaving one feeling weak and unsafe.
- Shame, guilt. Men, in particular, may feel they should have been able to protect themselves. This is our cultural expectation. Many factors may contribute to a heightened sense of responsibility and embarrassment; use of substances, trusting someone not well known, not heeding a warning, and so on.
- Intimacy issues. Most survivors withdraw from others for a period of time following an assault. It is not uncommon to experience sexual difficulties with partners due to flashbacks and memories.
- Lowered self-esteem. People often feel tainted in some way after being victimized. They may wonder if others will want to be with them. For those with little sexual experience, the violence of an assault is very confusing and may get tied to their future sexual development.
- Anger. At some point, most victims become angry. This is a normal and appropriate response but can end up being expressed in self-destructive ways.
- Anxiety, depression. It is normal for survivors to experience psychological challenges following an assault. This often results in sleep and eating disturbances. Men may find it harder to seek help than women, but all survivors have a right to support and healing.
- Physical preoccupation. For survivors who do not seek medical treatment, (and even some who do), worry about one’s health can become obsessive. Individuals fear they have contracted HIV or other serious sexually transmitted infections and look for signs to confirm this.
Additional issues that may be experienced by men:
It’s not easy to come to terms with being victimized, and this is particularly true for men who are raised to believe they should be able to protect themselves and others. This challenge to one’s masculinity goes deep and can leave one feeling inadequate on a very core level.
A Gay or Bisexual Man
- May tie the assault to his sexual orientation and view this as deserved in some way or as a punishment.
- May be reluctant to report due to the potential backlash on the gay community and enhanced homophobia. He may also be worried about being treated insensitively by law enforcement or health care professionals.
- May have experienced particularly severe and damaging violence if this was a hate crime.
- May well feel targeted and less safe within his community if the assault was perpetrated by another gay man.
- May worry he is broadcasting his “secret sexual identity” to others if he is not yet out of the closet.
Research is limited, but there is evidence that the rate of sexual assault upon this community is very high. It is often part of a hate crime with a high degree of violence that may cause serious injury. Here are some resources for further information:
A Heterosexual "Straight" Man
- May question his sexuality and how he is perceived by other men if he was assaulted by another man. This could result in a “homosexual panic” in which he fears the assault will change his orientation. This worry may be enhanced if the victim became aroused at any point during the assault. There is absolutely no evidence supporting this fear. Rape is primarily prompted by anger or a desire to harm, intimidate or dominate, rather than by sexual attraction or a rapist's assumption about his intended victim's sexual preference. Because of society's confusion about the role that attraction plays in sexual assault and about whether victims are responsible for provoking an assault, even heterosexual male survivors may worry that they somehow gave off "gay vibes" that the rapist picked up and acted upon.
- May not know how to talk about his experience if he was assaulted by a woman. Although the majority of sexual assault is perpetrated by men, a small % of women are also assailants. Often there is an age differential in these cases (older woman to a boy or adolescent), but not always. View this article to learn more about the range of female-to-male assault and its impact.
- May find it difficult to seek support out of embarrassment, and worry about being judged. This is also true for those who are LGBT.