If someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, domestic/relationship violence, or stalking:
- Believe them. People rarely lie about dealing with these issues.
- Listen and concentrate on understanding their feelings.
- Allow them to be silent; you don’t have to talk every time they stop talking.
- Ask how you can help.
- Don’t ask questions that imply that the rape, abuse, or stalking is their fault, such as “Why did you go to his room?”, “Why are you staying with that person?”, or “Why didn’t you run away?”
- Offer to accompany them to the police, to seek medical attention, or to seek counseling.
- Help them regain a sense of control by letting them decide what to do. Help them explore the options and then support them in making their own decisions about how to proceed.
- Remind them that rape, abuse, and stalking are not their fault.
- Offer shelter or companionship, so they don’t have to be alone.
Immediate help if you've been sexually assaulted
- Go to a safe place.
- If you want to report the assault, notify the GC Police immediately. Reporting the crime can help you regain a sense of personal power and control and can also help to ensure the safety of other potential victims. The quicker a report is made the more likely police will be able to preserve and locate evidence. Note: if you do not report immediately, you can make a report to the police at a later date.
- Call a friend, a family member, or someone else you trust and ask them to stay with you.
- Preserve all physical evidence of the assault. Do not shower, bathe, douche, or brush your teeth. Save all of the clothing you were wearing at the time of the assault. Place each item of clothing in a separate paper bag. Do not use plastic bags. Do not disturb anything in the area where the assault occurred.
- Go to a hospital emergency department or a specialized forensic clinic that provides medical care for sexual assault victims. Those in the GC community are encouraged to go to the Bright House (Milledgeville), Navicent Baldwin Medical Center (Milledgeville), or Crisis Line and Safe House of Central Georgia (Macon) for medical care and evidence collection 24 hours a day. Even if you think you don’t have physical injuries, you should still have a medical examination and discuss with a health care provider the risk of exposure to sexually transmitted diseases and the possibility of pregnancy resulting from the sexual assault. You will not be required to report the sexual assault to the police in order to receive medical care. If you suspect that you may have been given a rape drug, ask the facility where you receive medical care to take a urine sample. The urine sample should be preserved as evidence. Rape drugs, such as Rohypnol and GHB, are more likely to be detected in urine than in blood.
- Talk with a counselor or advocate who is trained to assist rape victims about the emotional and physical impacts of the assault. The Bright House and Crisis Line and Safe House of Central Georgia offer 24/7 advocacy services.
- If you currently are not in the Milledgeville area, but want information about legal issues, medical care, or other concerns related to the assault, a rape treatment center or a rape hotline can assist you. One national victim assistance agency is called RAINN and they can be contacted by calling 1-800-656-HOPE. RAINN will connect you with a rape crisis center in your area. (http://www.rainn.org/).
What to do while in an abusive relationship
If you are currently in an abusive relationship, the immediate concern is your personal safety. Crisis Line and Safe House of Central Georgia advocates can help you make a safety plan. Sometimes people experiencing relationship violence fear that individuals will try to make them leave the relationship. Although some people may have that goal, whether or not you leave, and when, are choices that only you can make. If you do choose to leave the relationship, safety planning can help you figure out how to do so safely; if you are not ready to do so yet, or want to continue in the relationship, these services can help you develop safety plans and cope with the feelings raised by violence.
If you are currently, or have been, abused by your partner, or think you might be, it is important that you talk to someone. There are a number of services available both on and off campus, including the GC Counseling Center, Crisis Line and Safe House of Central Georgia. The Crisis Line and Safe House of Central Georgia is located in Macon, GA and has trained advocates available 24 hours a day. All of these offices are staffed with people who are sensitive to the issues in both opposite-sex and same-sex intimate partner violence and can help you both to recover from the abusive relationship and to find other services and assistance you might need.
What to do after leaving an abusive relationship
One of the biggest fears people experiencing relationship violence have about leaving is that their partner will come after them and hurt them even more. This is a valid fear, as violence does tend to escalate when the survivor leaves. Because of this, it is important to develop a safety plan with the help of friends, family members, counselors, advocates, and the police. Although you do not have to talk to the police unless you want to, they can be helpful in obtaining emergency orders of protection and protecting your safety.
Besides personal safety, survivors of intimate partner violence have to deal with emotional reactions to having been physically, emotionally, and/or sexually abused by a loved one. It is common to experience depression, feelings of helplessness and rage, hopelessness, self-blame, and fear. Support from friends, family members, and often counselors or advocates can help you in your recovery. Shelters are also available to help you get back on your feet, and are especially important if you were economically dependent on your partner. The Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence keeps a list of all shelters in Georgia and can help you find one in your area. Unfortunately, most shelters do not provide residential services for male victims of domestic violence, but most will provide assistance in finding a safe place and accessing other resources.
What can I do if I am being stalked?
- Only you know your own situation and you are the best person to make judgments about what you should do. If you are being stalked, however, you do have a number of options to protect yourself and to recover.
- Discussing stalking with a professional can help you to assess the dangerousness of the situation, become aware of your options, and help you to cope with the stress involved.
- It is also important that you take steps to protect your safety. Some options are:
- Calling the police - stalking is illegal and you have a right to protection under the law. The police can also help you to obtain an emergency order of protection, which will guarantee their response if the stalker violates the order by initiating contact with you. It is important to note, however, that in certain cases restraining type orders can escalate the stalking situation.
- Taking steps to make your environment safer, such as locking doors, installing an alarm system, getting a dog, and getting caller ID or an unlisted number.
- Telling others about the situation so that they can help you (e.g., roommates, friends, family, partner, your employer). It can be useful to provide them with a picture of the person and a copy of a restraining order, if you have one.
- Communicate clearly and directly to the stalker that you do not want him/her to contact you again in any way, including phone calls, emails, gifts, showing up at your work or home, contacting your family, friends, or co-workers, or in any other manner.
- It can also be useful to document stalking behaviors, especially if you intend to press charges against the stalker (and even if you are not currently planning on it, you may change your mind, in which case it will be helpful to have the documentation).
- Save answering machine tapes, gifts, letters, texts, and emails.
- Keep a log of drive-bys, contacts by phone or in-person and other suspicious circumstances.
- Document the date, time and details of an incident, as well as any witnesses and how the incident made you feel (e.g., threatened, scared, unsafe, etc.). If you are safely able to take photographs of the incidents, do so (e.g. if the stalker is sitting outside your work/residence in a vehicle).
- Stalking is often very frightening and can contribute to feelings of being out of control, so it is important that you receive support as you deal with both current or past stalking. Support groups are often helpful, as is talking to a counselor. It is also important that you let the people around you know that you are being stalked, both so that they can provide you emotional support and so that they can call the police if the stalker comes near them or tries to reach you.
For Friends and Family
How do I know if a friend or loved one has been sexually assaulted?
There is no one way to identify if someone has been sexually assaulted unless they or someone close to them tells you that this has occurred. However, there are several signs/symptoms of rape trauma (a type of post-traumatic stress) which may help you to identify if a friend needs help.
- Sleep disturbances: Nightmares, difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Change in appetite (has no appetite or eats more than usual)
- Irritability or outbursts of anger
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fears about personal safety
- Exaggerated startle response (jumps at a small noise, or if their name is called)
- Numbness, uncommunicative
- Depressed - they may experience feelings of hopelessness
- Has difficulty being touched or expressing loving feelings
- Withdrawal or disinterested in participating in activities they once enjoyed (doesn’t feel like going out, going to movies, seeing friends, volunteering or participating in student groups, etc.)
- Seems detached from others
What can I do to help?
No one expects you to be a trained rape counselor, but there are things you can do to help your friend to cope and to find help. Whether the assault occurred recently or a long time ago, it is helpful if you can:
- Believe them
- Maintain a calm manner
- Listen without interrupting
- Allow for tears and expression of feelings
- Convey genuine concern
- Allow them to make her or his own choices
- Set judgments aside
- Maintain confidentiality
- Let them know that “It’s not your fault” (You cannot say this enough!)
- Let them know that there are people who can help and that they don’t have to go through this alone.
- Refer your friend to help and encourage them to go. They trust you. That is why they are talking to you. You can use that influence to help them to reach out for help.
Some common responses to sexual assault are not helpful. These responses are part of a natural attempt to gain control over the situation and cope with your own feelings about rape, but they are ultimately not useful in helping the survivor to get help or to recover. Do not place blame or question the survivor’s actions.
Questions like this may make the person feel blamed or guilty and may decrease the chances of their being willing to speak to a counselor who can help them.
Do not ask for details about what happened or ask too many probing questions. You can be just as helpful without knowing the details of what happened. You can be most helpful by helping to get the assault survivor to a counselor who can assist them.
Do not tell the survivor what to do - they need to feel in control of what is happening to them.
Do not tell others about the assault or gossip about it. Unless you have the survivor’s permission and are making a referral to someone in a professional capacity, do not talk to others about the assault. It is critical that you respect the confidentiality of the person who has been assaulted. Their trust in themselves and others has already been severely damaged by the assault. You don’t want to accidentally make things worse.
Do not dismiss their feelings or minimize what happened by comments like “It’s ok now,” or “I know just how you feel.”
People close to survivors hurt too
People close to survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence often feel that they need to be strong and take care of their friend or loved one. It is normal to want to help and that support is crucial to the survivor, but it is important to remember to take care of yourself as well. If someone you care for has been hurt, especially if in a sudden or violent way, you may feel like a “secondary victim.” Secondary victims have to cope with their own feelings of violation, vulnerability, and helplessness, as well as with the issue of how to treat the primary survivor in a helpful and healing way.
It’s important to remember that even if you have not been directly attacked or injured, you may experience some of the same emotional upset and mental confusion felt by the direct survivor since the victimization of someone close to you threatens your own well-being and sense of security. Secondary victims are particularly likely to have difficulty with feelings of fear, anger, and guilt. You too may need some time and help in recovering from this trauma. Information and referrals are available for people close to survivors at the GC Women’s Center.
On Campus Resources
- Women's Center/Project BRAVE - (478)445-8519
- Counseling Services - (478)445-5331
- Campus Police (Public Safety) - (478)445-4400
- Title IX Coordinator - (478) 445-2037
- Dean of Students/Student Affairs - (478)445-2091
Off-Campus Local Resources
- Crisis Line and Safe House of Central Georgia - (478) 745-9292
- Baldwin County Solicitor General's Office - (478) 445-4445
- Baldwin County District Attorney's Office - (478) 445-5261
- City of Milledgeville Police - (478) 414-4000
- Oconee Regional Medical Center - (478) 454-3505