If you are a survivor, please know that there is a community of people ready to believe you, trust you, and support you. Your experience is valid, it’s not your fault, and you are not alone. Whatever your healing process is, it should be respected and honored by those around you. If you are struggling to explain your wishes to your community, please feel free to direct them to our resources for friends or resources for parents.
For survivors of sexual assault
EROC can assist survivors of campus sexual assault in several different ways, and you can learn about them here. For additional resources, please visit some of the organizations below:
- Arte Sana: Victim Advocacy SIN Fronteras for those who identify as latin@/chican@
- Joyful Heart Foundation – Effects of Sexual Assault and Rape
- National Sexual Assault Hotline – 1.800.656.HOPE
- National Alliance to End Sexual Violence
- National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center
- Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network
- Safe Helpline Sexual Assault for The DoD Community (For survivors of military sexual assault and their families)
For survivors of domestic violence
Relationship violence, dating violence, domestic violence, and interpersonal violence are dangers students face on a daily basis, but because the people involved often know each other, institutions sometimes take this type of violence less seriously. We teamed up with the One Love Foundation to address this critical issue.
Thanks to the One Love Foundation, for providing the following information:
How common is relationship abuse?
More than 1 in 3 women and more than 1 in 4 men in the United States have experienced relationship abuse by an intimate partner and young women ages 16 – 24 are at 3x greater risk.*
What is relationship abuse?
The United States Department of Justice defines relationship abuse as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Relationship abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone. Relationship abuse can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Relationship abuse affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels and occurs in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships.
Join the movement to end relationship violence: The One Love Foundation in honor of Yeardley Love
One Love was created to honor Yeardley Love, a University of Virginia senior who was beaten to death by her ex-boyfriend just three weeks before graduation. After her death, her friends and family grew committed to honoring Yeardley’s life by working on prevention of relationship violence. Today, the One Love Foundation is dedicated to ending relationship violence by educating, empowering and activating young people in a movement for change.
To do this, One Love brings powerful, engaging content primarily to college students where they are – at school and on the internet. Our lead product is a powerful film workshop called Escalation that began being shown at campuses across the country in 2015. One Love also launched a digital campaign #ThatsNotLove in 2015. View it and share it to help keep the movement going!
Get Help – Love is Respect and the National Domestic Violence Hotline
If you need help now or want to consult someone about a friend or family member’s situation, reach out by doing the following:
Live Chat: Go to Loveisrespect.org for a confidential chat (Instant message style) with a peer advocate available 24/7
Text Message: Get a quick response from a LoveisRespect peer advocate by texting “LoveIs” (capitalization does not matter) to 22522
Call a Peer Advocate:Speak with a LoveisRespect advocate for education and support for you or someone you love who is in a violent relationship by calling 866-331-9474
Call the Hotline: Reach a trained expert advocate 24/7 for education and support for you or someone you love by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233
Download One Love’s “My Plan App”: Assess the danger level of a relationship, determine if a relationship is unsafe, and create an action plan to leave safely through The One Love Foundation’s phone app
*Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.C., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen. J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
For survivors of stalking
What is Stalking?
The Department of Justice describes stalking as “a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.”
The media’s portrayal of stalking can be very different from reality. Over 85% of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know. 66% of female victims and 44% of male victims are stalked by a former intimate partner. (Colorado State Women and Gender Advocacy Center)
Stalking is a form of violence that can occur independently from or in conjunction with other forms of relationship or interpersonal violence.
Stalking behaviors can include, but are not limited to:
- unwanted communications in any form from the perpetrator (calls, texts, social media, mail, and/or email)
- unwanted gifts, notes, flowers, or other items
- following or otherwise surveilling the individual
- making threats to harm the individual, their friends, family, pets, or loved ones
- damaging, or threatening to damage, the individual’s home or property
- spreading rumors about the individual through any platform (internet or word of mouth)
- harassment of the individual online or in person
- obtaining information about the individual through search engines, public records, private investigators, personal items or trash, family, friends, and/or following the individual
Some of these behaviors may not seem problematic on an individual basis. However, when conducted repeatedly and/or in conjunction with other behaviors they may indicate a pattern of stalking.
What is cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking — the persistent use of internet technologies to annoy, harass, or threaten an individual — has been labeled “psychological terrorism”. It falls into three primary categories: direct communication, indirect communication, and misrepresentation online.
Members of the LGBTQ community are twice as likely to experience cyberstalking and email harassment as their non-LGBTQ counterparts. (Finn, 2004)
Cyberstalking is dangerous and should be taken seriously.
If you or a friend is concerned about stalking:
- If you feel safe doing so, call 911
- Save evidence such as emails, gifts, texts, letters, etc.
- Document the times, dates, and witnesses of incidents
- Inform your friends and/or family you are being stalked
- If you are being followed, DO NOT go home
- Screen unfamiliar numbers through voicemail
- Block unwanted numbers
You are not alone and it is never your fault. EROC provides support to all survivors of sexual and interpersonal violence.
How to help a friend
The first person a survivor discloses to can define their healing process and greatly impact the years following their assault. Your role as a supporter is critical. If you are concerned that someone you know is contemplating suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 800-273-8255.
Believe the survivor.
The rate of ‘false’ reporting is between 2-8%, which is the same rate as that of other violent crimes. No one asks for or deserves to be sexually assaulted, and it’s important to let your friend or loved one know that you believe them. Your role is not to define sexual assault or to “prove” that it happened. Questions like, “Well, was it really rape?” “Did you hook up with him before?” or “That doesn’t sound so serious” shows survivors that you don’t trust or believe them.
Additionally, when comforting a friend who discloses a sexual assault, it’s important not to minimize their experience. In many other situations, it’s common to comfort a friend by getting the person to “see the bright side” or try to make the experience seem less serious, bad, or important. This is the opposite of what you should do in cases of sexual violence. If a survivor comes forward to you, support them by listening to them, validating their experience, and saying that you believe them.
It’s difficult to come forward, even — or especially — to close friends and family members. It’s your responsibility to ensure that the disclosure is not re-traumatizing.
Listen and do not interrupt.
It can be hard to resist asking questions, but remember to give the survivor control of the conversation. Allow them to say as much or as little as they feel comfortable disclosing, and be prepared to simply listen. If you would like to hug or reach out to the survivor physically, be sure to ask for permission. Try simply asking, “Can I give you a hug?”
There is no one “right” way for survivors to respond to sexual violence. For instance, some survivors may choose not to discuss the trauma with anyone, whereas others are more comfortable sharing their stories immediately.
Regardless of how or when the survivor discloses their experience to you, it’s important to validate their emotions. This means acknowledging that it’s valid for them to feel the way that they are feeling, even if you wish that they didn’t. For example, if a survivor says that they wish that they had not gone to the party where the assault happened, a supportive friend could respond by saying, “That’s valid, I can see why you would feel that way. I just want you to know though that it’s really not your fault – it’s the perpetrator’s, and while you have every right to feel how you’re feeling, it’s important for you to know that, truly, you are not to blame for what happened.”
Validating the survivor’s emotions helps them see that what they are feeling is neither wrong nor shameful, and also gives the survivor the space to process their thoughts, reactions, and feelings. Avoid phrases like, “Well it happened a long time ago, why are you still angry?” “It must not have been that bad, since you aren’t crying and don’t have bruises“, and “It doesn’t seem to be serious enough to be this upset about“, etc.
Support the survivor’s decisions
No matter how you feel that the situation should be handled, be sure to support your friend or loved one’s choices. Yes, it can be difficult to feel helpless when your friend does not want to go to the police, seek counseling, or get a forensic examination at the hospital. But remember that trauma impacts each person differently and that sharing an experience of sexual assault with the police or undergoing a physical examination can be harmful to survivors if they are not ready. Some survivors never feel ready to take those steps, and that’s okay.
If your friend or loved one does decide to seek help, support their decision to do so. For instance, you can ask if they would like you to accompany them to the office of a mental health professional, to the Title IX coordinator, or to the police. That being said, remember to make it clear that you will not judge them negatively for their decision on whether or not to seek outside help. Prioritize supporting them in whatever way is best for them to move forward.
You may disagree with a survivor’s choice not to seek traditional forms of help, but remember that sexual violence is about power. Letting survivors make the decisions that are best for them is critical to empowering survivors to heal from their traumatic experiences.
Let your friend or loved one know that you are there for them and respect their choices as they try to regain power in their lives.
There is no formula for overcoming trauma and there is no established timeline for healing. It’s common for survivors to be triggered for years after an assault, so be understanding and don’t push for a quick recovery. It’s common for a friend or loved one to need time to process and heal, so remember to be patient. Treat your friend or loved one the same way that you did before the assault, and refrain from judging their decisions. For example, encourage your friend or loved one to take care of themselves by supporting their decision to take time off from work or school. Don’t push them to talk about it, just let them know that you’re there if they need you.
It’s not their fault.
Sexual violence is often isolating. Letting your friend or loved one know that they aren’t alone and that what happened to them is not their fault are two of the most important ways to support survivors. Survivors commonly blame themselves to cope with the traumatic experience and loss of control, so it’s important not to ask victim-blaming questions or to demand to know every detail of the trauma. The details are not what matters.
Take care of yourself.
It can be very difficult to hear that a friend or loved one was hurt. Take the time to digest what you hear, and seek help if you feel that it would be helpful or necessary for you. Refrain from disclosing these emotions to survivors though, as it can add to existing guilty feelings, but don’t be afraid to take time for yourself. You can only help others if you help yourself.
Silence isn’t always scary.
If you don’t know what to say, that’s okay. Don’t speak to fill the space. If that makes you uncomfortable, you can say things like, “I’m going to sit quietly here with you. You can be quiet, too” or “I don’t know what to say and I care about you, so I’m not going to say anything until I figure out what the best thing is to say.”
For Parents of survivors
It is very common for survivors of sexual assault to refrain from immediately disclosing their experiences to others, including parents. There are many reasons for this, including, but not limited to, self-doubt, shame, and fear of how the other person will react.
When survivors do share their stories, some choose to tell only their closest friends and family members, while others may tell a wide circle of friends, family, and community members. Some may never tell anyone.
It can also take varying amounts of time for survivors to acknowledge what happened, let alone to disclose it to others. Some survivors tell their friends and family immediately, while for others, it may take weeks, months, or even years. No matter whether or not a survivor chooses to tell others about their assault, it is important to support the survivor and their decisions.
A secondary survivor is a friend, partner, parent/guardian, sibling, child, or person who is otherwise close to survivors of sexual violence, interpersonal violence, or abuse. Although secondary survivors are often the foundation of indispensable support systems for survivors, we encourage secondary survivors to prioritize their health during this difficult time too. Secondary survivors may experience a range of emotions after learning that their relative, close friend, or partner has been hurt. These feelings often include anger, disbelief, pain, sadness, and helplessness.
In addition to practicing self-care, it can also be helpful for secondary survivors to process and talk about their roles as supporters of survivors. EROC’s services, including referrals to mental health professionals and legal counsel, extend to secondary survivors as well. We believe that the best way to support survivors is to empower their communities to support them as well.
We can help secondary survivors in many ways, but the two most common can be found below.
Parents’ Support Group + Resources
We regularly connect parents and guardians who are secondary survivors to either local in-person or online support groups. EROC works with an unaffiliated grassroots group of parents called, Parents Take Action to End Rape On Campus, or PTA-EROC, which serves as a small and growing private group for parents and guardians who are interested in sharing advice, as well as talking and listening to each other.
If you would like to learn more about this group or find out if you would be the right fit, please check out more on their website.
Additionally, for any parents who may be looking for a resource guide, please check out After Campus Sexual Assault: A Guide for Parents. This guide address how, when, and why students tell their parents about having been sexually assaulted and how parents can show up for their child with respect to stability and safety when navigating what is often a vulnerable time that follows an assault.
Filing Federal Complaints to the U.S. Department of Education on a Survivor’s Behalf
Some survivors might want to take action, but writing down one’s story, while empowering for some, can be extremely triggering and difficult for others. If desired,a survivor’s parent or guardian can file a federal complaint on their behalf.
EROC has worked with many secondary survivors on federal complaints. However, please note we will not work on complaints or take any action without the explicit consent of the survivor. If you are interested in contacting EROC about filing a federal complaint, please fill out our form here.
Academic institutions must help LGBTQ survivors
In 2014, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced that Title IX prohibits discrimination not only on the basis of sex, but also on the basis of gender identity or the failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity. Just as with sexual assault and harassment cases, such claims may merit a federal investigation into the institution perpetuating such discrimination. A school should investigate and resolve allegations of sexual violence regarding LGBTQ students and MUST treat claims of harassment and violence equally to that of heterosexual students.
How EROC can help
EROC has helped students who identify as queer, transgender, and gender-nonconforming file federal Title IX and Clery Act complaints against their institutions for mishandling sexual assault cases. As we do for each survivor we assist, we can help queer survivors with:
- learning their rights under Title IX and the Clery Act
- sharing their stories with the media if they wish to do so
- filing federal complaints to the U.S. Department of Education
- getting connected with legal counsel, mental health professionals, or other survivors
1 in 8 lesbian women and nearly 50% of bisexual women and men experience sexual violence in their lifetime. Nearly four in ten gay men experience sexual violence in their lifetime. As with most hate-based violence, transgender individuals are the most likely to be affected in the LGBTQ+ community, with an alarming 64% of transgender people having experienced sexual assault in their lifetimes.
A 2009 report on hate crimes revealed that 50 percent of victims who died in LGBTQ hate crimes were transgender women. The remaining half were male-identified, many of whom were gender nonconforming. Many of these homicides were preceded by violent sexual assaults.
In addition, 17% percent of all reported violent hate crimes against LGBTQ people were directed towards victims who identified transgender, with most (11 percent of all reported hate crimes) identifying as transgender women. Many of the remaining survivors of these crimes identified as transgender men, genderqueer, gender questioning, or intersex.
A quick list of resources can be found below or click here to access them quickly.
Intimate parter violence
The passage of the Campus SaVE Act has increased the pressure on institutions to address intimate partner violence. Certain communities, such as the LGBTQ community, are disproportionately likely to experience intimate partner violence. According to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, “bisexual women experienced significantly higher lifetime prevalence of rape and other sexual violence by an intimate partner when compared to heterosexual women” and “significantly higher lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner when compared to lesbian and heterosexual women.” Bisexual men are also at very high risk with 37.3% reporting experiences with interpersonal violence in the NIPSV 2010 study.
Some studies indicate that between 20 and 35 percent of LGBTQ couples experience domestic violence. According to another, 50 percent of transgender people have been physically abused by a partner after coming out as transgender. Strikingly, only one in five LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence or sexual assault get help from service providers.
Common problems with criminal statutes regarding sexual assault and violence against queer-identified individuals
Unfortunately, many criminal rape and sexual assault statutes do not accommodate non-heterosexual violence. For instance, a number of states reduce incidents of same-gender assault — regardless of the severity of the violence — from felonies to misdemeanors.
Moreover, in many states, only certain types of penetration — even if the victim was assigned female at birth, and the perpetrator was assigned male at birth — are considered rape.
However, while these narrow definitions are often encoded in states’ criminal statutes, the campus adjudication standards, as outlined in Title IX and the Clery Act, are much more broad. In addition, under the Clery Act, institutions are required to report several types of violence, including hate crimes, stalking, intimate partner violence, and all types of sexual violence, regardless of the genders of the perpetrator and the victim.
Institutions must report the number of sexual assaults and intimate partner violence incidents, including any instances that do not fit into the confines of the individual state’s criminal sexual assault statutes. Moreover, institutions cannot deny queer students the right to academic or living accommodations, or the right to a fair and timely investigation. A school cannot ignore a claim of sexual violence on the basis of a survivor or perpetrator’s real or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation.
Additional Resources For Trans* and Gender Non-Conforming Survivors
- 20 Common Barriers to Serving Transgender Sexual Assault Victims
- Tips for Trans* Survivors Seeking Services
- Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals
- The Trevor Project
- Transgender Law Center
- Trans Sexual Violence Survivors: A Self-Help Guide to Healing and Understanding
- Trans-specific Safety Planning Tool
If you are a student visiting a university in the U.S., you are protected under Title IX and the Clery Act just like any American student. You have the right to:
- File a complaint anonymously with your institution, or with the federal government under Title IX or the Clery Act.
- Not have your immigration status used against you, or to have it invoked as a means of intimidation. This is a violation of Title IX.
- Report your assault to the authorities. Your student visa cannot be revoked for reporting a crime to the police. You have the right to have a representative from your embassy present during questioning and can request a translator/interpreter at any time, regardless of your level of English fluency. The immediate availability of translators/interpreters and embassy representatives depends on where you are in the U.S. and the nature of your requests.
- Most student visas require students maintain a full course-load (usually 12 units) in order to maintain eligibility. However, trauma can affect a student’s performance, and may harm the survivor’s academics. It is important to speak with a campus administrator regarding your visa if you feel you are struggling to maintain eligibility. There are designated school officials that can provide approval for students with visas to reduce their course load. You can ask that your school’s Title IX coordinator approach your designated school official on your behalf or provide you with their contact information. See your school’s online resources for international students for more specific information.
Source: Your Rights as a Student
You have the right to:
- Not be threatened with deportation by your institution, or to disclose your immigration status. This is considered a violation of both Title IX and the Clery Act, as it actively discourages undocumented survivors from reporting.
- File a complaint anonymously either with the federal government or with your institution. If you fear exposing your undocumented status, you are under no obligation to include your name or identifying information in your complaints.
- Report your case to law enforcement. Undocumented sexual assault survivors can apply for federal U-Visas that protects survivors working with law enforcement from being deported. However, U-Visas have a nationwide cap and can be difficult to obtain. However, this should not limit you from seeking a U-Visa.
Coupled with the fear of immigration-related problems, sexual violence can often seem insurmountable for undocumented survivors, as well as survivors with undocumented perpetrators. Know that you are not alone, and you do have rights and resources. Your safety and well-being are the most important thing, always do what you feel is best. For more information for undocumented students, click visit casa de esperanza.
If You’ve Suffered Pregnancy Discrimination
A very pervasive form of sex discrimination is pregnancy discrimination. The right to equal access to education for pregnant students and student parents is guaranteed explicitly by Title IX regulations.*
Thanks to the Center for WorkLife Law at U.C. Hastings College of the Law’sPregnant Scholar initiative for providing the following information:
What does pregnancy discrimination look like?
Actions taken against you because you are (or were) pregnant that have a negative impact on your ability to get an education is pregnancy discrimination—a type of sex discrimination. Because pregnancy (and parenting) discrimination isn’t talked about often in college, it is important to know the obvious—and not so obvious—signs.
Discrimination against pregnant people can look like:
- Telling a student that she should “be home with their baby,” that she isn’t “a serious student,” embarrassing or threatening comments about her sexuality, or other hostile comments that lead someone to believe they are no longer welcome.
- Getting fired from on-campus employment while or shortly after being pregnant or welcoming a new child into the home.
- Being asked to not participate in extracurricular activities.
- Changes in assignments to less important work.
- Refusal to make accommodations needed for pregnant women to continue their education while preserving their health.
- Refusal to grant a medically necessary absence/leave, penalizing a student for her absence, or forcing a student to reapply after taking leave.
What is my school required to do?
As a statute, Title IX guarantees students an education free from sex discrimination, and that includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or parental status. Under Title IX, pregnancy discrimination is specifically prohibited within admissions, coursework accommodations and completion, hiring, pregnancy leave policies, and workplace protection and health insurance coverage in educational programs and activities. Schools are required to meet these core requirements:
- Excuse medically necessary absences related to pregnancy and childbirth, and allow the student to return to class without being penalized.
- Provide accommodations similar to those given to other temporarily disabled students. Accommodations can be anything the student needs to be able to continue her studies on equal footing—examples include flexible scheduling or video conferencing, a seat closer to the bathroom, the ability to carry a water bottle or take breaks, closer parking spaces, etc.
- Provide a complaint/grievance process for the university to address any pregnancy/parental discrimination, just like any other aspect of Title IX.
Also, as many university students and post-docs are also employees of their school, other federal laws provide protection, including Title VII (A federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion) and the FMLA (Federal Medical Leave Act). Further, the Americans with Disabilities Act protects students from discrimination on the basis of disability, including pregnancy-related impairments; pregnant employees are entitled to coverage under disability policies. The status as a pregnant person at an educational institution can involve many intersecting laws and types of discrimination. Groups such as EROC and WLL can help you navigate this often complicated and painful experience.
Get Help and Spread the Word – The Pregnant Scholar: An Online Toolkit for University Students, Faculty, and Administrators on Pregnancy and Parenting
The Pregnant Scholar is a recent endeavor created by leaders in this area of law. This site contains information on Title IX basics with regard to pregnancy and parenting discrimination. It contains resource portals for university students, postdocs, faculty, and administrators, to learn their rights and responsibilities. Here, you can get help, learn about the laws nationally and in your area, take action on your campus, share your story, or help them spread the word.
Visit them online: thepregnantscholar.org
Call: (415) 565-4873 (The Center for WorkLife Law, UC Hastings College of the Law)
*See 34 C.F.R. Part 106 (1980), 34 C.F.R. § 106.31 – 106.43.
**Title IX & STEM: A Guide for Conducting Title IX Self-Evaluation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Programs, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, (June 2012), http://odeo.hq.nasa.gov/documents/TITLE_IX_STEM_Self-Evaluation.pdf.
Source: Erika and Wil Rist
If you or someone you know is suicidal
It can be difficult to balance respecting survivors wishes with their safety, but if you feel someone you know may be intending to harm themselves, seek help. Below are some resources if someone you know is in danger and you are unsure of what to do:
Please check out Technology Safety’s list of National Hotlines to talk to someone who can help answer your questions and support you.