Finding Help on Campus

Sexual violence continues to be a prevalent problem on college campuses. The effects of experiencing sexual assault are profound, emotionally and often physically. RAINN’s Campus Sexual Violence page shows the magnitude of the problem on universities. Experiencing sexual assault while managing a full load of courses may create additional stress and anxiety.

Colleges and universities generally offer several places survivors can go for help. It’s important to know that if you were sexually assaulted on campus, it is not your fault and there is help to assist you during the semester.

What resources can students go to after experiencing sexual violence?

The following resources may help students when reaching out for support and guidance after experiencing sexual violence on campus. Resources may look different and may vary depending on the university a student attends.

  • Title IX Office: The Title IX office is often the first stop on campus, and can help a student navigate resources. At the Title IX office, students are able to share a concern, access supportive measures, file a formal complaint, and implement safety measures. Students will also have the opportunity to meet with a Title IX coordinator who can tailor a plan for them moving forward.

Ariana Alvarez, title IX officer and director at UC Santa Barbara said, “It’s always a good practice for an institution to have a couple of different offices and resources on campus to help facilitate an accommodation for the person so that a person doesn’t feel obligated to go to one office or one person and share their accommodation request for their experience with anyone. When they feel they have a couple of choices available to them, they can choose the resource they are most comfortable with.”

  • Advocacy and Support Centers: Schools may have an advocacy center on campus that can connect students with a confidential advocate. Advocates at these centers may have lists of resources available on campus and in the community that can help with ongoing emotional support, campus and community reporting options, safety planning, medical resources, immigration and visa support, academic support, and navigating additional challenges and needs.
  • Police or Safety Department: Students can speak with police on campus at any time (but bear in mind that confidentiality practices vary). You may be able to report confidentially or anonymously, in which case the school will generally not investigate the incident. You can always make an official report, in which case the school is required to investigate (and may bring in local law enforcement, depending on the circumstances and location).

What additional resources are available on campus for students that experience sexual violence?

It is important to check the university website for resources available. Ariana Alvarez says that “on our website, we do have a list of resources for impacted parties. Our full list provides what resources are available on campus and in the community and the list will specify which resources are confidential first.” This may not be the case for every school, so it is important to research what resources are confidential and what resources may trigger a university response. This can apply to both on-campus and off-campus resources.

  • Counseling Centers and Psychological Services: Counselors on campus can offer students a safe place to process emotions. Trained professionals and counselors are available to help students process experiences of interpersonal violence, including, sexual assault, harassment, interpersonal partner violence, and stalking.
  • Student Health Services: Health services on campus may provide accessible and affordable health care services after experiencing sexual violence. Many health services may be able to provide STI testing, diagnosis and treatment, and immunizations. HIV testing may also be available along with resources for planned and unplanned pregnancies.
  • Academic Departments: Students, staff, and faculty have access to programs and departments on campus to learn more about sexual violence as well as issues related to gender, sexuality, class, and race. Many schools also offer programs and events about gender equity, LGTBQ issues, immigration and other topics which might overlap with sexual violence.
  • Visa and Immigration Assistance: Many universities provide free immigration legal services to students and immediate family members. A student may choose to seek a leave of absence or a reduced course load, which in turn can impact a student’s immigration, visa, and/or financial aid status. These offices can help students know their rights, provide direct representation, and offer other immigration relief services.
  • Financial Aid Services: In addition to its emotional toll, sexual violence can have financial consequences for survivors — from not being able to work at a job to extra costs like legal and counseling fees. Students can seek support services that offer direct intervention services and prevention in areas of financial well-being.

The type of support and level of support can evolve over time. Alvarez says that, “we are willing to continue in that evolution…not only in terms of what an individual needs over time because what they might need immediately after the incident could be very different from what they need two years later. We are happy to continue that process with them and the list of the available resources changes over time as well and we are always updating the list.”

While the services discussed here are offered by many schools, offerings vary a lot based on the size of the school and the resources the school has devoted to caring for survivors. So students should also check their own school’s website to learn what is available there. They can also turn to the National Sexual Assault Hotline, which provides compassionate support at no cost, 24/7.

If you’ve experienced sexual assault, you’re not alone. To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.

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