It’s Sexual abuse and sexual violence awareness week, 4-10 February and time to reaffirm that NO student should experience sexual violence or abuse! The Disclosure Response Team are here to support you and advise on your options should you choose to report…
Immediately after an incident it is normal to feel shock, pain, anger, numbness and denial. Some students will want to keep themselves busy, some will want to talk about their experience, others will want to keep it to themselves. There is not a right or wrong way to respond. For more information, please search ‘violence and abuse‘ on the Intranet.
The following are some things to consider if you have experienced sexual violence or abuse.
It is your choice if you want to get support, but it is important to be aware of the different options available to you.
For all students who have experienced violence and abuse, or any other form of unacceptable behaviour, we want to offer you practical guidance and support. If you are comfortable enough to do so, you can choose to disclose what happened using our disclosure response tool – either anonymously or or by identifying yourself. Identified disclosure will be responded to directly, whereas anonymous disclosures are used to identify patterns of violence and abuse on campus.
Be assured – every disclosure is taken seriously and blame is not attributed to any survivor. Our specialist trained disclosure response team members are here to listen to you, believe you and provide you with practical advice.
Receive medical attention…
If you have sustained an injury that requires urgent medical attention call the Emergency Services on 999. If you do not require urgent medical attention it is still recommended that you see your GP for a medical examination and check-up.
You do not have to go in to detail about what happened to you with a medical professional, if you don’t want to. If you do choose to disclose, the information will be treated in confidence, unless you are considered to be at risk of further serious harm.
A medical professional can arrange:
- A sexual health appointment and advice
- Blood and urine tests
- Pregnancy tests.
If it is helpful, you could also request the gender of the medical professional you would like to see and in some instances, if you would like to avoid a physical examination, there are certain tests you can do yourself (swabs, urine tests and some STI tests). Whilst having a medical appointment can be daunting, it can reduce the likelihood of long-term health complications.
If you are not sure whether you require a medical appointment you can seek medical advice through calling 111 or accessing www.nhs24.com.
Preserve forensic evidence with SARC…
If you have been raped or sexually assaulted in the last 7 days, you may be able to preserve forensic evidence. Many students are unsure about reporting a rape or sexual assault to the police. You can still preserve evidence, even if you do not want to report what has happened. The Cardiff and Vale Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) can assist you and can discuss next steps in reporting the incident to the police, if you want to. SARC is an organisation that provides support and advice to people who have experienced rape and sexual assault.
For the best evidence to be preserved it should be collected within 72 hours of the assault occurring and you should try to avoid:
- Brushing your teeth (or keep your toothbrush in a sealed bag if you do)
- Eating or Drinking
- Going to the toilet
If you are unsure or have any questions you can get in touch with SARC by phone: 029 2033 5795
Reporting to the Police
- If the assault has just occurred you might want to consider whether you feel safe where you are. If you feel that you or others are at risk or consider the situation to be an emergency, you can call the police or an ambulance on 999.
If you are in university accommodation or on campus it is advisable to call security on 02920 874444, to let them know that the emergency services have been called so that they can give them access.
If it is not an emergency but you still want to report the incident to the police you can call South Police on 101.
The police can take you to Yns Saff – the local Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) based within Cardiff Royal Infirmary, where you can have a forensic medical examination and get medical and emotional help.
Time limits to be aware of:
- If you suspect you were given any type of drug, it is best to be tested within 24 hours.
- If you want emergency contraception, the medication should be started within 72 hours.
- If you would like HIV prophylaxis, the medication should be started within 72 hours
- Any forensic evidence collected can be stored for up to 7 years whilst you decide what to do next.
It is up to you to choose what kind of support you want to access, but you might want to consider getting medical attention even if you do not want to report the assault to the Police.
If you are thinking about telling the police about what you have experienced, it can be helpful to make a note of:
- What happened?
- Where did the incident take place?
- What the person responsible said to you and any details of their appearance?
- If there was a car involved write down can you remember anything about it?
- Was there anyone else around who might have seen or heard something?
It is normal to struggle to remember details of the assault in the order it happened. If you are not entirely clear just write down how you felt and anything else you saw or heard.
Many people do not wish to report immediately, but decide after a while that they want to do so. This is perfectly acceptable and there are steps you can take to make this easier.
SARC can store forensic evidence for you until you make up your mind about reporting. If you wish, they can keep DNA results on record and let you know if it matches with other reported assaults, still with no obligation on you to report. SARC also provides medical and emotional help, which you can access without reporting to the Police.
What if I don’t want to report to the Police?
If you do not want to report to the Police you still have the option to contact the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC). Even if you are not currently thinking about reporting to the police you can still access support from SARC and gain their assistance in preserving evidence that could later be used in an investigation.
SARC can also make direct referrals to sexual health services and specialist counsellors who can help your recovery. SARC staff can share details of the incident, such as location of assault, description of perpetrator with the Police. This can be done anonymously or with your details, but no action will be taken without your full, prior consent. Sharing of this sort of information can help the Police to identify trends in assault and may help prevent future incidents.
Other safety concerns…
- Were your keys or ID taken and does the perpetrator know where you live? If so, you may want to get urgent advice about changing your locks.
- Does the person responsible still pose a threat?
- Do they live with you or know where you live? If so you may want to ask the University about Safe Accommodation and any financial needs associated with moving.
Taking care of yourself after sexual assault
Looking after yourself is essential. Whether it happened recently or years ago, self-care can help you cope with the short and long-term effects of a trauma like sexual assault.
There is no right or wrong emotional response, each individual will have their own reaction. It is common to experience a mix of emotion and feelings; it is therefore important to seek support and practice active self-care. The following advice may be helpful:
- Be patient with yourself. You have had a traumatic experience and need to give yourself time, try to be kind to yourself.
- Get support from friends, family and/or from professional support services, whatever you feel comfortable with. One way of getting your feelings out is talking about how you feel. If you find it too traumatic to talk to others try writing it down or expressing your feelings through other creative outputs.
- It is not uncommon to feel isolated but it is important for you to reach out to those that are close to you.
- Sexual assault is extremely traumatic and may interrupt your life at university and can affect your relationships with your friends and family. Try not to go through this alone and allow others to help you explore the emotions and concerns you will have.
- It is important to look after your physical health. Try to maintain a balanced diet and sleep cycle as much as possible; looking after your physical health will help you deal with the emotional stress.
- Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities you enjoy and find relaxing. Try some stress reduction techniques including relaxation exercise such as yoga and meditation. Do something for yourself everyday.
WE KNOW, violence and abuse affects our students. IT’S NOT ON, and we are addressing it. WE CAN HELP, our Disclosure Response Team offer practical support. YOU CAN HELP, recognise the signs, tell us if you know a student is at risk.
WE CAN HELP
If you have experienced violence or abuse of any kind, you are entitled to free, non-judgmental support. Please don’t be afraid to reach out to us.
The Disclosure Response Team:
Let us know using the online disclosure tool.
hours: Monday to Friday, 09:00 – 16:30
phone: 029 2087 4844
out of hours: 0808 8010 800 (Live Fear Free Helpline)
search: ‘Violence and Abuse‘ on the student Intranet for more.
YOU CAN HELP
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Nichola (Placement Student) and Sophie (HEFCE Marketing Project Lead),
Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Team.
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