Support for Survivors of Relationship and Sexual Violence
Support For Survivors of Relationship and Sexual Violence
The Women’s Educational Center supports survivors of sexual and gender violence. If you have experienced sexual and gender violence, please feel free to walk-in, email or call us for an appointment. We can provide information, advocacy and referral services to survivors of sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, sexual harassment, stalking and any other form of gender and sexual violence. The WEC is a confidential reporting resource on campus and a WEC staff member will meet with you to discuss campus and community options, regardless of whether or not you choose to officially report an incident. We are also available as a survivor advocate to assist students, faculty, and staff in understanding various resources, policies, and procedures related to violence and safety at the University of Michigan-Flint.
What is Sexual Assault?
Forcing -- physically, verbally or emotionally -- someone to engage in any given sexual activity they do not want to, have not consented to or have not been in a position to give full consent to -- usually manual sex, oral sex, vaginal or anal sex or fondling -- is rape and/or sexual assault. Rape is a specific kind of sexual assault that involves penetration. When a rapist is known to the person who has been raped, it is called acquaintance, partner/spouse or date rape. It is sexual assault if a person consents to a sexual activity at one point then later, rescinds that consent -- changes their mind and says no -- and their partner continues with the sexual activity despite their protests. It is sexual assault ANY time one partner does not want to be engaging in sex and the other engages in it to or on them anyway. Coercion is also a form of sexual assault. For example, arguing for or initiating a sexual activity to the point that a person gives consent by being worn down. When someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they cannot consent to sexual activity.
What is Relationship Violence?
Unwanted or unwelcomed touching of a sexual nature or use of physical violence, coercion, threats, intimidation, isolation, stalking, or other forms of emotional, sexual or economic abuse directed towards a partner in an intimate relationship, including dating and domestic violence.
How the WEC Can Help
The WEC advocates have expertise in working with sexual assault and relationship violence survivors and can assist in coordinating appropriate on and off-campus resources and services.
They can discuss options and alternatives, help identify the most appropriate resources, and answer any questions that may arise. WEC staff can accompany the survivor in seeking medical treatment, counseling, or filing police reports.
Contacting the WEC does not mean that the survivor will be required to file a police report.
If you’d like to set up an appointment with our Sexual Assault & Gender Violence Advocate, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (810) 424-5343. Please feel free to come into the WEC without an appointment to speak to someone.
Supporting a Survivor of Sexual Violence
Believe your friend. Tell your friend that you believe them and you want to support them in any way that you can. Do not judge your friend, regardless of the circumstances.
Be a good listener. Listen non-judgmentally to what your friend is saying and accept the experience as your friend describes it. You may want to ask questions and get details about what happened, but remember that your role is to support your friend, and it is best to allow the survivor to decide what and how much they would like to tell you about the incident.
Assure your friend that it is not their fault. Self-blame is common among victims of sexual violence. It is important that, as their friend, you help the survivor understand that no matter what happened—it was not their fault.
Do not make judgmental comments. Do not comment on what could have been done differently or make statements that imply that your friend could have avoided the assault.
Give your friend control. Let them choose the next steps. You may provide advice, guidance, and information about their options, but allow your friend to decide if, when, and how they will pursue these resources.
Provide resources. Resources are available on campus and off that can give your friend the help and support needed. The Women’s Educational Center and CAPS both are confidential reporting locations on campus. The YWCA of Greater Flint provides free specialized counseling for survivors.
Offer continued support. If your friend is hesitant to get help, offer to accompany them in seeking medical attention, counseling, going to the police or to university resource personnel. Sometimes that's all it takes to help a friend begin to take action. Recognize that your friend’s needs may change over time, so keep “checking in” to renew your offer of help and support.
Respect privacy and confidentiality. Do not share your friend's story with other people unless you have their permission to do so.
Supporting a Survivor of Relationship Violence
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend who you think needs help. Tell them you're concerned for their safety and want to help.
- Be supportive and listen patiently. Acknowledge their feelings and be respectful of their decisions.
- Help your friend recognize that the abuse is not “normal” and is NOT their fault. Everyone deserves a healthy, non-violent relationship.
- Focus on your friend or family member, not the abusive partner. Even if your loved one stays with their partner, it's important they still feel comfortable talking to you about it.
- Connect your friend to resources in their community that can give them information and guidance.
- Help them develop a safety plan.
- If they break up with the abusive partner, continue to be supportive after the relationship is over.
- Even when you feel like there’s nothing you can do, don’t forget that by being supportive and caring -- you're already doing a lot.