How to help myself
If you have been sexually assaulted:
- Are you safe? Your safety and well-being are the highest priority. If you are unsure where to go or can't think of anywhere that is safe for you at this time, please consider calling the YWCA Counseling and Shelter for Domestic and Sexual Assault at (269) 385-3587, or the Gryphon Place Helpline at 381-HELP (381-4357), both available 24 hours a day. You may also ask the WMU Department of Public Safety at (269) 387-5555 to contact the Dean of Students, who can help you with housing arrangements.
- Consider calling a trusted friend, relative, or a counselor. These people can provide you with the support and care you may need at this time. Help is available 24 hours at the YWCA and the Gryphon Place, and during business hours at the WMU Counseling Center: (269) 387-1850.
- Consider seeking medical care. You may need to receive basic medical treatment for injuries, and you may have injuries of which you are not aware at this time. Sindecuse Health Center can provide you with screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STI) and/or pregnancy. They also provide free emergency contraception, which can be used within 72 to 96 hours of an assault to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. Trained nurses with the YWCA Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program are available 24 hours a day and can provide safe, comfortable examinations (rape kits), which are incredibly useful in terms of securing evidence for possible criminal/legal proceedings. Many survivors find that—due to its caring and confidential atmosphere—the services provided by the YWCA SANE program are significantly more preferable than those provided at the ER. If you are not suffering severe physical injuries, you may want to consider utilizing the YWCA’s free services, whether instead of or in conjunction with, emergency room services. NOTE: the YWCA will pay for cab fare to their facility downtown, should you find yourself without transportation.
- You may choose to file a report with the police, either campus police or local law enforcement. To contact the WMU Department of Public Safety, call (269) 387-5555; for Kalamazoo County Victim Assistance, call (269) 383-8677. You may also choose to contact the Director of the Office of Student Conduct at (269) 387-2160, or the office of Institutional Equity at (269) 387-6316.
- If you choose to file a report with the police, it will be most helpful if you can preserve evidence; it is suggested that you avoid: bathing, showering, brushing your teeth, drinking, or even using the restroom. All these things destroy physical evidence that may be helpful in a criminal investigation. Ultimately, however, you should do what is best for you. If you do any of these things, there still may be collectible evidence and you can still report. If possible, before reporting, do not change your clothes. If you do decide to change your clothes, bring the clothes you were wearing at the time of the assault with you, stored in a paper bag (NOT a plastic bag, as plastic interacts with the chemical composition of the evidence).
- You may contact the Associate Dean of Students Office. The Associate Dean's staff works closely with campus resources and may assist you in determining what, if any, steps you wish to take. The Associate Dean can put you in touch with the Student Health Center staff, the WMU Police, and the Counseling Center, as well as off-campus resources. The Associate Dean's Office will respect your decision as to whether you wish for this matter to be reported officially and how you want to proceed. To contact the Associate Dean of Students, call (269) 387-2150.
For emotional support:
- Please seek some form of emotional support. While taking care of your physical needs may be the first step in taking care of yourself, it is important not to neglect the emotions you may be experiencing as a result of the assault.
- Know that you are not alone. There are people who can help you process what you are experiencing and explain the options that are available to you at this time.
- Consider visiting FIRE Place, our on-campus support and resource service center. The center is a safe place for students that supports survivors and friends of survivors of sexual assault and other bias incidents. From here you can easily reach a network of campus programs, offices, and registered student organizations. Caring staff will assist you and provide direct connections to the most beneficial options. The center maintains a collection of resources and educational publications on the topics of sexual assault, bias incidents, and other forms of violence. You may also come to contribute to ongoing healing art and awareness projects.
- It is your choice to determine when and in what manner you recover from your trauma. It is up to you to make the decisions that will be the best for you.
- Remember, the assault was not your fault.
Information on How to Help Myself adapted from the College of William & Mary Sexual Assault Resources and Education Web site, 2007