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Sexual Assault & Violence Reporting For Parents & Peers

Helpful Steps

This page is designed to help parents and peers when a loved one discloses to them. It is natural to feel many different things when someone discloses, but it is important to keep their health and safety the first priority. Below are some helpful tips to follow if someone discloses to you.

Remain calm: you may feel shock or anger, or want to retaliate, but expressing this will not be helpful.

Believe them: survivors often tell no one because they are afraid no one will believe them or they will be blamed. False reports of assault are extremely rare. According to American Prosecutor's Research Institute, false reporting rates are similar to that of other felony crimes - between 2-8%.

Don't blame them: survivors often blame themselves and anticipate being blamed by others. No matter what they did or did not do, it is not their fault. They cannot be responsible for someone else's behavior. Survivors need to know they are not to blame.

Listen: allow them to talk but do not push for details. Survivors will tell you as much as they are comfortable with sharing. Listen in a nonjudgmental way.

Be patient: recovery takes time. You may think they should be "over it" by now, but for many people the effects of an assault will last over their lifetime. You can help find them support to positively cope and heal from the assault.

Allow the survivor to make decisions about what to do. Supporting their choices helps to re-establish their sense of control.

Encourage follow-up: encourage your friend to get medical attention and other needed services. Make them aware of resources; offer help in accessing services. Actively encourage your friend to seek help and offer to accompany them.


Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a broad term that encompasses any forcible sexual activity that occurs without the victim's consent. It is a crime of violence, power and control, and it is one of the most under-reported crimes in the United States (only about 16% of sexual assaults are ever reported to police).

Sexual assault is defined at Old Dominion University as rape; forcible sodomy; sexual penetration with an inanimate object; fondling or touching of an unwilling person's intimate parts (genitalia, groin, breast or buttocks, covered or uncovered); or forcing an unwilling person to touch another's intimate parts. Included in the offense of any of these acts are persons known to the victim as well as persons unknown to the victim. The offending acts can be committed through the use of force, the threat of force, by intimidation or not forcibly or against the person's will if the victim is incapable of giving consent (due to the substantiated use of alcohol or drugs or for other verified reasons).


Stalking on college campuses is occurring at an alarming rate, and it now appears that college students are at a higher risk of being stalked than other populations.

Old Dominion University defines stalking as repeatedly contacting, following or remaining in the physical presence of another person when the contacting person knows or should know that the contact is unwanted, that the contact causes the other person reasonable expectation of imminent physical harm or that the contact causes substantial impairment of the other person's ability to perform the activities of daily life. Contacting includes, but is not limited to, telephoning, transmitting letters or notes or contacting through the use of electronic media.

Relationship Violence

Relationship or dating violence is a pattern of physically, sexually and/or emotionally abusive behaviors used to assert power or maintain control over another in the context of an intimate relationship. These behaviors can include verbal as well as physical behaviors.

Sexual Harassment

Old Dominion University defines sexual harassment as unwelcomed and unsolicited conduct of a sexual nature, physical or verbal by a member of the university community. A variety of sexual conduct directed at another may be considered sexual harassment including, but not limited to: offensive sexual innuendos, advances, propositions, threats, jokes, suggestive comments; graphic or degrading comments of a sexual nature about a person's appearance, whistling in a suggestive manner or obscene gestures; uninvited physical contact or touching; solicitation of sexual favors through implicit or explicit promises of rewards or threats of punishment.

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