Community provides resources for survivors of sexual assault
February 8, 2022
At UW-River Falls there are many resources available on campus for survivors of sexual assault.
A study done by the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, or RAINN, Organization found that over 80% of sexual assault cases go unreported. Cases are not reported for various reasons, including fear of retaliation, wanting to protect the perpetrator, feeling like the assault was not important enough to report, even the fear of not being believed are just a few of the many reasons, according to RAINN.
Reports made to the university are confidential for individuals who are over 18 years old. The university makes it clear on the web page that no action will be taken against the perpetrator without consent of the survivor.
A Mandated Reporting Form, which is often used as a way to tell law enforcement about a crime, can be accessed and filled out at uwrf.edu/StudentConductAndCommunityStandards. In cases of harassment, assault, violence, exploitation, or stalking, this is a resource that can be used.
Assaults can also be reported to University Police, counseling, student health services, River Falls police, an RA member, or the St. Croix Valley Sexual Assault Response Team (SART). Numbers for many of these resources are listed on the campus website under “Sexual Assault and Harassment.”
For anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable reporting any form of assault or harassment, there are many available resources on campus, specifically SART. SART has a dispatch center that is open 24/7. When called, the phone operator will ask the caller if they would like to speak to an advocate right away. With a yes, the caller will be connected to one of the nurses or advocates on duty. They will then be provided with options based on what they’ve experienced.
Annalise Hughes is the advocacy Coordinator for SART. She said, “We want to support the survivors in what's best for them. Not all survivors want or desire an exam or reporting, and we’re here to support the decision they make.”
Hughes said SART is comfort-oriented and case-specific and tends to the needs of each person in need of assistance.
Some options available after an assault include medical services, which could be a head to toe physical exam, STI medication, and collection of DNA evidence that might be on the body after an assault, according to Hughes. Exams usually begin within one hour of the survivor calling. Every survivor can pick and choose what options they would like, they can even choose just to have one thing done or no physical assistance. If there is serious bodily harm or head injury, the survivor should go to the hospital.
If SART is called directly after an assault, there are some steps the survivor can follow before they go in for an exam. It is recommended that the survivor does not use the bathroom, brush teeth, or do anything to prevent the destruction of forensic evidence or DNA. If clothes are to be removed, it’s important to bring them in a paper or cloth bag, as a plastic bag can corrode evidence. The prime opportunity to collect DNA evidence is just a few hours after the assault, but it’s possible to receive an exam five days after the assault and in some cases 10.
For survivors that would like to report their assault, the SART advocates will go over the survivor’s rights with them and provide an option for an advocate from SART or Turning Point to support the survivor and stay with them through the reporting process. This assistance can be very helpful to the survivor, as the advocates understand the process and can offer comfort and advice. Cases that are reported right away do make it further in the legal system, as there is more bodily evidence, and in some cases security footage from the time around the assault.
The SART center in River Falls is located at 1343 N Main St., and physical exams are provided there. No matter the circumstances, SART listens to all survivors and is there for support, whether the survivor has the desire to report the assault or not.