Survivor Support Guide
The following information was compiled to assist Texas A&M University faculty and staff in working with survivors of sexual violence. Many survivors feel loss of control over their lives. Therefore, the ultimate goal for University faculty and staff when approached by students is to empower the student to make her/his own decision(s) in a supportive and nonjudgmental manner.
There is no one way a survivor will feel or act after being victimized. However, oftentimes survivors are unsure how to deal with their feelings and the behaviors that stem from these feelings. They may also be confused about their legal, administrative, health, and social support options. If members of the University community are aware of the options available to survivors, they will be in a better position to assist survivors.
UNDERSTANDING SEXUAL ASSAULT
Who Commits Sexual Assault?
Ninety percent of college women who are survivors of rape or attempted rape know their assailant. Their attacker is often a classmate, friend, boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000). In the case of male survivors, the assailant is almost always a heterosexual-identified male (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998), but sexual assault can be perpetrated by either gender and upon individuals of either gender.
Who Are The Survivors?
More than ninety percent of all sexual assault survivors are female, but men can also be sexually assaulted or raped. Regardless of gender, sexual assault is never the fault of the victim. Offenders are always responsible for the choice to assault someone else. The only person who can prevent this crime from occurring is the perpetrator.
What is the Difference Between a Victim and a Survivor?
The terms ‘victim’ and ‘survivor’ are typically interchanged words for the injured party in a sexual violence incident. However, there is a subtle difference. A victim is someone who has recently been attacked, or is currently in an abusive situation, while a survivor has begun to move past the experience and seek help. Please try to use the term “survivor” following an assault.
TIPS FOR SUPPORTING SURVIVORS
When dealing with students who have encountered any form of sexual violence, it is important to keep the following things in mind:
Assume that what s/he tells you did happen. According to the FBI, 99% of reports are true.
Be a patient and active listener.
Do not press for details.
Offer comfort, but do not touch the survivor unless invited to do so.
Reassure her/him that what happened is NOT okay and that s/he is not at fault nor alone.
Allow the survivor to take CONTROL– do not make decisions for her/him.
Offer information regarding available resources.
Remind the survivor that s/he has options.
Offer support – Remember that you are not serving in the role of a therapist; however, the survivor may need your continued support.
Find information if you do not know the answers – it’s okay not to be the expert, but be sure to help the survivor find someone who is.
Educate yourself about sexual violence – seek information and utilize the resources available before an incident is reported to you.
Know the University’s protocol for reporting a sexual assault – As an employee, you have a legal obligation to report a sexual assault if you are given the alleged perpetrator’s identifying information.
- Refer to the Sexual Violence Resource Guide for a list of on- and off-campus resources.
University Conduct Process
If student conduct proceedings results through Texas A&M University’s Student Conduct Office, a victim/survivor has the following rights (as outlined in the TAMU Student Rules, Section 26.2):
Right to be in attendance at the student conduct proceeding.
Right to submit a victim impact statement that details the alleged consequences suffered by the victim.
Right to have a personal advisor/counselor accompany him/her during the student conduct proceeding. An attorney may appear at a student conduct proceeding with the victim to provide advice, but may not represent the victim or directly question or cross-examine witnesses, except in a case where the university is represented by an attorney.
Right to be informed of the outcome of the student conduct conference. The proceedings and outcome of all student conduct proceedings are considered confidential information in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974.
Right not to have his/her past behavioral history discussed during the student conduct proceeding. Questions of relevancy shall be determined by the student conduct conference officer.
- Right to make a record of the proceeding at the victim’s own expense. The victim is NOT allowed to retain a copy of this recording. The recording will become a part of the charged student’s disciplinary file.
For more information contact the Student Conduct Office 979-847-7272
University Accommodations for Survivors
Texas A&M has a variety of accommodations for survivors. Student Assistance Services (979) 845.3113, Bizzell Hall West can help survivors with any of the following:
an immediate on-campus housing relocation
a change of academic course sections (transfer of classes), and other steps to prevent unnecessary or unwanted contact or proximity to the accused.
a restriction of registration information This will allow only University officials to access such information as schedules, addresses, phone numbers, etc.
- a change of directory/Howdy information. Taking this action can prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing and changing student registration information.
NOTE: Texas A&M University acknowledges the importance of officially reporting all crimes and will provide assistance with reporting. The university also knows that reporting a crime is different from pressing charges. AS PROVIDED UNDER FEDERAL LAW, THE UNIVERSITY REQUIRES ALL TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY ADMINISTRATORS, OFFICIALS, EMPLOYEES, AND FACULTY TO REPORT ANY AND ALL CRIMES THAT STUDENTS MAY REPORT TO THEM. When the student reports a crime in confidence it may be reported anonymously to campus law enforcement. Licensed and religious counselors are exempt from these reporting requirements. However, the university encourages anonymous reporting when at the discretion of the counselor, he or she feels it is appropriate. The university stresses the importance of supporting victims in whatever decision they make with regard to pressing charges. Services are available to help victims whether or not they choose to press charges.
Fisher, Bonnie S., Francis T. Cullen, and Michael G. Turner. (2000). The sexual victimization of college women. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice available at www.ncjrs.org/pdffiles1/nij/182369.pdf.
Tjaden, Patricia and Nancy Thoennes. Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1998