If you think someone you know has been sexually assaulted, there are lots of ways in which you can help them.
If someone has been sexually assaulted their reactions can vary; they may be afraid, angry or have no outward reaction at all. They might even act in ways that seem unusual to you, even laughing at seemingly inappropriate times.
Disclosures can come in many forms; it could be something said jokingly, a story that someone starts to tell then stops and says it doesn't matter, or it could be a question. You are not expected to be a professional counsellor; however how someone responds to a first disclosure can be really important. It can take time for a person to decide what they want to do and how they want to move forward.
- Are they in immediate danger? If they are in immediate danger or seriously injured, you can call 999 (or 112 from a mobile).
- Find a safe space. If an incident has just happened try and find somewhere they feel safe. If this isn't possible and they are scared or fearful you can suggest they call security on extension 555 from the internal black phones located by the photocopiers in reception or on the 2nd, 3rd & 4th floors. Alternatively visit the 24 hour security desk in the Brunei Gallery.
The SOAS First Aid Room on the first floor of the main building can be used. The code can be found in the Directorate (115) or the Diversity Office (108) or from the Security Desk (ext 555).
- What is sexual assault? This section describes the different types of sexual assault that a person can experience.
- Sexual assault is a crime of power and control. The most important thing is to respond in a way that maximizes their choice and control over what happens next. You can simply ask them what they need or want. They might not make the same decision you would; however, only they can decide what is best for them. You can help them explore options, but avoid telling them what they should do.
- Listen. Just taking the time to listen to someone and talk about what has happened can help. These six active listening tips might help you support them.
- Published on Oct 4, 2015 Based on the Samaritans guidelines for active listening.
- Give options. When they have finished talking ask them if they are ok to talk through some possible options and next steps. Remember, it is important that they decide what they want to do.
- Independent Domestic & Sexual Violence Advisors (IDSVAs). Camden Safety Net have IDSVAs who are trained to look after the needs of a survivor of rape or sexual violence to ensure they receive the best possible care and understanding. Contact them and ask to speak to an advisor in confidence. ISVAs are there to provide information to ensure an individual can make a decision that is right for them.
- Rape Crisis Emotional Support. A representative from Rape Crisis South London is available fortnightly offering free, confidential support for self-identifying women and non-binary people who have survived any kind of sexual violence, at any point in their lives.
Survivors UK are available at SOAS once a month and they hold free appointments with an ISVA for self-defining men and non-binary people. Booking an appointment is facilitated by Student Advice and Wellbeing : firstname.lastname@example.org (no details needed).
- Reporting to the police. If you're thinking of reporting to the police, rape crisis has produced a useful list of things to think about.
- Reporting the incident anonymously. You can call crime stoppers at any point on 0800 555 111 or use their online form
- Report and Support. Students and staff can report an incident using the University’s Report and Support system. You can choose to do this anonymously.
- Serious Sexual Assault. If a student or member of staff wishes to make a complaint about a serious sexual assault they can contact the Head of Human Resources directly.Find out more about the different types of sexual assault.
- They might not want to report the assault to the police or the University. There are a lot of reasons why someone may choose not to report sexual violence.
- In most cases of sexual assault, the offender is known to the victim.
- They might be concerned that people won’t believe them or may not identify what occurred as a sexual assault
- They may be concerned who else might be informed.
- They may have fear of or confusion about the criminal justice system or what happens if you report it to the University.
- If drugs or alcohol were involved, they may choose not to report because they are worried they will get in trouble as well.
- It is up to them to decide what they want to disclose and to whom. Your support can help them talk through their concerns.
- Let them know that you believe them and support their decisions.
- Remind them that no one, regardless of relationship or status, has the right to hurt them and that no matter what, it is not their fault that this occurred.
- Connect them with resources that can help them understand what happens if you report to the police and or the University.
Things to avoid
- Just saying "it’s not your fault" (without listening to the survivor's story)
- Using key ‘catch phrases’ or common sayings – e.g. “it will all be better with time"
- Probing for details. Let them tell you what has happened in their own time
- Blaming them – e.g. “what were you wearing?” and “were you drinking?” or “did you text him to come over?”
- Showing disgust or shock
- Smirking and showing obvious disbelief
- "Why didn’t you say straight away? Why are you only coming forward now?"
- Trivialising the experience – “it was only a bit of fumbling”
- Find out what support is available if you have been sexually assaulted
- Rape Crisis provides further information on supporting a survivor.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
1 in 4 people is affected by a mental health problem in any year and it is estimated that around 1 in 5 people has contemplated suicide or self-harm.
- If you are worried or concerned find out more about how you can help them.
- Take care of yourself. It’s important that you take care of yourself. If you’ve heard something distressing or if something is troubling you, the University's Student Advice and Wellbeing Service offers confidential help