What kinds of emotional responses are common for someone who has been raped?
Unwanted sexual experiences (of any kind) can elicit many reactions. You may feel guilt, shame, shock, sadness, anger, confusion, worthlessness, self-doubt, fear, loss of trust, helplessness, or numbness. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to feel after a sexual violation. In addition to your feelings, you may notice poor concentration, nightmares, changes in eating or sleeping habits, excessive crying, mood swings, anxiety or worry, or sexual problems. Another area of concern in the aftermath of a sexual assault involves spiritual issues.
Many victims (mistakenly) believe they should “just forget it and move on with life.” This may work temporarily, but in the long term feelings will surface and need to be addressed. Please keep in mind that it is never too late to talk to a counselor. Some people aren’t ready to share their story for days, weeks or even years. You can take your time and decide to talk about it whenever you are ready.
Is there psychological counseling available on campus?
Yes, SU has counselors available to meet with students, and all are experienced in helping people heal from traumas such as rape. Counseling services are free and confidential, and there are both male and female counselors available. You can call 863-1252 to make an appointment with a counselor. The counseling service is located in the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Center for Lifelong Learning, Suite 200, in the same suite as the nurse.
If I tell a counselor what happened to me, will they have to report it to the University or the police?
No. Confidentiality laws protect the conversations you have with a counselor, and no report will be made to campus police or to administrators without your written consent. You may talk to a counselor about your options, and he/she will help you to make decisions about what you want to do – whether it’s to do nothing, to file criminal charges, or go through the campus disciplinary process.
What will meeting with an SU counselor be like?
Your first appointment with SU Counseling Services starts with some brief paperwork, including a checklist of your current concerns and information about our confidentiality policies. Texas law is very strict about confidentiality, and anything you talk about with one of our counselors is protected by this law (with a few exceptions regarding safety of a child or vulnerable adult or an assault by someone in the counseling profession).
Your initial meeting with a counselor may be 50 minutes long, and is an opportunity to share whatever is on your mind. You can choose to reveal as much or as little information about your situation as you’d like. Near the end of the session, you and the counselor will discuss together what your options are and what you’d like to do next. For some students, just coming in once feels like enough; other students choose a period of short-term counseling to work on concerns about the sexual assault and how it has affected their emotional well-being and relationships.
If I’m not comfortable seeing a counselor on campus, are there any off-campus options?
Yes. Williamson County Crisis Center (Hope Alliance)) has a 24-hour hotline you can call to discuss your concerns (800-460-SAFE). They will inform you of free and confidential counseling options that they offer at their center in Round Rock. Similar services are also available in Austin at SafePlace (512-267-SAFE).
Another option is to seek counseling from a mental health provider in your hometown or in the Austin/Georgetown community. There are psychologists, social workers, and licensed professional counselors who specialize in treatment of traumas such as sexual assault. If you would like to pursue medication treatment of your symptoms, you can consult with a psychiatrist. You can obtain a referral to a private therapist from either the Williamson County Crisis Center or the SU counselors. If you’d like to use your insurance benefits to cover therapy, you can bring the list of approved therapists from your insurance provider and a counselor can assist you in finding a referral.
If you’ve made a police report regarding your sexual assault, you may qualify for Texas’ Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund to help pay for your counseling and/or medical costs.
If you are not yet ready to talk to a counselor, there are also national hotlines that provide information and support about sexual violence issues. Austin’s SafePlace has a hotline (512-267-SAFE) and a website with lots of information (www.austin-safeplace.org/info.htm). RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) has a 24 hour hotline (800) 656-HOPE and a website (www.rainn.org).
I have a lot of spiritual questions about what happened to me. Is there someone I can talk to who specializes in these concerns?
It is very common to have spiritual or faith concerns in the aftermath of a sexual assault. Common concerns include questions about virginity or whether the assault was some sort of punishment. Many victims wonder what role God or their faith can play in their healing and recovery.
Dr. Beverly Jones is the University Chaplain. She is trained to provide spiritual and moral support to students of all faiths, including students who are not affiliated with any particular church or religion. They will listen as you talk about what happened (you can share with them as much or as little as you feel comfortable), and they will help you to sort out issues that make you feel fearful, angry, or embarrassed. All discussions with Religious Life are completely confidential and are free. Students may consult with Religious Life before seeking further guidance from their own spiritual leader or tradition. They can also help you find local resources in your particular faith, or refer you to a pastoral counseling service.
The Religious Life office is located in the Howry Center, or you can make an appointment by calling (512) 863-1527.
I am in need of medical or psychological care for the aftermath of the rape – can I get any help in paying for this?
As the victim of a violent crime, the injury you received because of the assault may require medical and/or psychological care. While the local police department will pay for the emergency medical exam and the rape kit (as long as you file a report), you may also ask the State of Texas to reimburse you for any medical, emotional, or financial losses you suffered as a result of being the victim of a violent crime, even if the physical or emotional problems do not develop immediately. This is called the Crime Victims’ Compensation (CVC) program.
To qualify for the CVC, the crime must occur in Texas or be committed by a Texas resident. The crime must be reported to the police within a “reasonable period” after the incident. You must file for compensation within three years of the crime. Finally, the crime victim must have cooperated fully with law enforcement officials in the investigation and prosecution of the case. Total claims must not exceed $50,000.
To find out the qualifications and application procedure in detail, please contact the Office of the Attorney General at 1 (800) 983-9933 or www.oag.state.tx.us/victims/cvc.shtml.