Responding to Sexual Assault
Smith College provides a wide range of resources to support students who experience SRV:
EMOTIONAL. Smith College Counseling Service, located in the Schacht Center for Health and Wellness, provides counseling for crisis and healing. Emotional support is a major part of the recovery process. Friends and family can contribute greatly to recovery, but sometimes an objective outsider can be an important support.
MEDICAL. Medical evaluation is a valuable resource if a person is sexually assaulted. Smith students can go to Cooley Dickenson emergency room to be seen by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, who will provide preventive treatment for STIs, treat for injuries and illness, and provide emergency contraception, as well as collect evidence in case you decide to prosecute. It is up to the survivor whether or not to seek medical evaluation.
ACADEMIC and CO-CURRICULAR . Your class dean and the Dean of Students office can assist in arranging accommodations for academic, residential, and other domains of your life at Smith.
LEGAL. Campus Police’s information on prosecuting: perpetrators of sexual violence: “Survivors are involved in all decisions about proceeding with criminal charges. If the survivor of a rape or sexual assault chooses to proceed in this manner, DPS will provide assistance and guidance and will serve as a liaison with the District Attorney’s Office. The survivor name in all reports of sexual assault is kept confidential, by Massachusetts law.”
Supporting a Survivor
Part of the trauma of sexual assault is that the survivor’s freedom to choose what happens to their own body was taken away, so their support system can help by allowing them to have control over what happens next. Regardless of what you may feel is the “right” thing to do, the best course of action is the one that feels safe and right to the survivor. Listen compassionately and without judgment, knowing that assault is never the survivor’s fault!
Center for Women and Community Rape Crisis Hotline – 413.545.0800
Smith College Counseling Services – x2840 for appointments and services.
Preventing Sexual Assault
Stepping up as a bystander is one of the best ways to prevent sexual assault, from unpropping doors to speaking up when you see a sketchy interaction.
“Is there a problem?”
Not knowing when to intervene is one of the main barriers to bystanders stepping up. Cues that a situation is sketchy or even dangerous might be obvious or they might be more subtle:
• Aggressive or violent behavior
• Trying to get someone drunk in order to “hook up”
• Physically separating a person, to get them alone
• Intimately touching someone in public, especially if they’ve just met and/or the other person is drunk
“There’s a problem! What do I do?”
General tips for bystander interventions:
• Be friendly. Antagonism begets antagonism, and we want you to be safe too. Also, being friendly will decrease any awkwardness you might feel. You’re not confronting, you’re just checking in.
• Recruit help – multiple people means more diffusion of the situation.
• And be as intrusive as necessary. You’re making sure both people are safe. If the building were burning down, you’d break up the conversation or knock on the door, right?
Some intervention strategies:
DELEGATE. Find a friend of one of the two people and let them know the situation is uncool. Ask them to step in and help their friend. Or get a friend to step in with one person while you step in with the other.
DIRECT. Take one person aside and talk to them about anything – the party, their drink, your toenails. Or step between the two people to diffuse the situation – you can just say, “Hiya! What’s up?” or “What’s going on?” Your presence will help diffuse the situation.
DISTRACT. Knock on the door. Or just walk in. Better to interrupt a scene than standing around while someone is assaulted. Say, “Hey, we need you downstairs,” or, “Is everybody okay?” or anything to change the mood.
It’s absolutely true that “No means no,” but there’s more to consent than that. “I’m not sure,” means no. “Wait,” “Stop,” and “Hold on” all mean no. Pushing a hand away means no. Pulling away means no. Not responding means no. Silence means no.
|consent IS…||consent IS NOT…|
|An active, ongoing “yes!” between people who want to engage in sexual activity||The absence of a “no”. Just because someone does not say “no” does not mean they are saying “yes!”|
|Communicating every step of the way, every time||Implied or assumed, even in a relationship. Saying “yes!” in the past does not mean “yes!” in the future|
|100% voluntary||When someone is coerced, pressured, forced, or threatened|
|Sober, between adults||Given by someone who doesn’t have the mental or physical capacity to give it (e.g., under the influence of alcohol|
|Everyone involved has willingly agreed on what to do
|Silence, passivity, or lack of active response|
|When everyone involved can freely express their needs and wants without being scared of their partners’ reaction||Definitive. Just because someone has said “yes” does not they can’t also say “no” at any given time|
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