If someone discloses sexual violence to you, its ok not to have all the answers. You don't need to be an expert to support them.
Try to remember to stay 'STRONG':
What to expect
Each survivor has their own personal experience, emotions, and ways of coping. This is shaped by age, gender, race, ability, class and other social locations.
When they disclose to you, they may:
- Be incredibly sad and crying
- Appear flat or calm
- Exhibit memory loss
- Demonstrate an inability to concentrate
- Have a panic attack
- Be unsure, or questioning
Each is a normal reaction to a traumatic event. There is no right or wrong way to act.
Steps to take
If someone discloses to you that they have been subjected to sexual violence, believe them, listen to them and validate them. Then follow the steps below.
Make sure they are in a safe location away from the perpetrator if the assault has just happened, and that they have a safe place to stay. If they are in immediate danger dial 999 for the emergency services or call 888 from any phone on campus for Security.
If you are approached by an individual for advice and support in relation to any behaviour which was unwanted and which might have amounted to sexual assault or sexual violence, you should support them in contacting a member of the Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Team, based in the Student Services Centre.
If the student won’t be seeking medical or professional support, encourage them to tell a trusted friend or family member. They can independently access counselling through the university's Counselling and Mental Health Support service. There are also various support networks they can access in our resources section.
The Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Team can help with:
- Referral to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre
- Referral to GUM Clinic
- Academic support and adjustments, i.e. exceptional circumstances
- Counseling and mental health support
- Information about University policies and procedures
- Emergency accommodation
- Legal/policy options
- Medical assistance
- University disciplinary processes and procedures
This team is made up of individuals who have received expert and specialist training and who are able to provide sensitive, professional support to individuals who have been victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment. They are able to refer individuals to the most appropriate services whether an incident has recently occurred or is a historic incident.
The team are accessible during office hours (9-5pm) Monday-Friday. Outside of office hours, advice and support will be provided by Security in the first instance, and escalated where necessary.
All information concerning sexual assault and sexual violence should be treated in confidence as far as possible and unnecessary disclosure may give rise to disciplinary action. Information should only be shared on a need-to-know basis.
If you are concerned for an individual’s immediate safety or that of others, you should discuss this with them before any confidential information is disclosed to a third party.
You will need to explain to the individual that they would need to agree to certain information being disclosed to a limited number of University staff in order for support to be put in place. This support may include making arrangements to limit contact between the parties concerned.
There may be circumstances in which confidentiality cannot be maintained, for example where in your opinion the complainant or other members of the community may be in serious or immediate danger. The individual’s consent would normally be sought if disclosure is to be made, and a decision on disclosure without consent would be made at a senior level.
You should always document the decision to disclose without consent and the reasons for this as well as informing the individual of the decision to disclose without their consent. A member of staff might also be called to court in proceedings arising from an allegation of sexual assault or sexual violence, and might be obliged to provide evidence to the court.
These caveats to confidentiality should be explained to the individual concerned. If they are unwilling to accept these caveats, you should support the individual to contact support agencies that will deal with individuals on an anonymous basis detailed in the resources section.
If relevant, let the individual know that there are external personnel who are trained to gather early medical evidence, and inform them that early evidence may be crucial if they want to proceed with a prosecution at any later stage. As well as gathering evidence, important medical treatment can be offered. The individual has three options:
- Option 1: report to the police
- Option 2: self-referral to the SARC
- Option 3: sexual health screening and support
Report to the police - Specialist Trained Officers (STOs)
Non-emergency telephone 101; emergency telephone 999.
Note that approaching the police binds the police to investigate if they believe a crime has been committed.
The STOs will facilitate the care of the individual from initial report, through medical examination, interview and subsequent investigation. They will then identify and engage the most appropriate methods of support.
Self-referral to Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC)
SARCs have specially trained experienced professionals who can give medical help and advice. Keele has specifically assigned health advisers that will support students. They can store forensic results until the individual makes up their mind whether or not to report to the police and can support them through the immediate trauma. Grange Park SARC stores evidence for up to seven years.
A member of the Keele Sexual Violence Prevention and Support team will accompany the student to the SARC if they would like; alternatively, the University Security team will be able to arrange paid transport to and from the SARC should this be required. They can be contacted on ext 888 and require minimal details, other than that a student requires a taxi to Grange Park.
Self-referrals are supported during office hours (9am-5pm) Monday to Friday. Access to the SARC outside of these hours requires police accompaniment (Option 1). This is an important consideration when thinking about preservation of evidence.
Grange Park’s primary aim is to provide access to a comprehensive forensic medical examination for men, women and children who have been sexually assaulted. This service is available whether or not the client chooses to report the assault to the police.
SARC - Cobridge Community Health Centre, Church Terrace, Cobridge, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 2JW
T: 0800 970 0372 (Self-referral line for advice available 24 hours a day)
Sexual health screening and support
In either case, in the event of a recent assault, the individual should be advised not to:
- Use the lavatory or discard underwear or sanitary products
- Wash, shower, bathe or shave
- Wash their hands
- Remove, wash, discard or destroy clothing worn or bedding and towels used at the time of the incident or subsequent to it
- Drink or eat anything, including non-essential medication
- Clean their teeth
- Disturb the scene or allow other people or animals to enter area where the incident took place, where possible
Non-physical evidence, such as relevant texts, social media messages and emails should be preserved.
If attending a SARC or police station, it is important that they bring any underwear or clothing worn at the time of the incident in a plastic bag, if not being worn for the journey.Wherever possible each item should be placed in a separate bag not to contaminate items. Eg. knickers, pants, sheets, condom etc.
The place of the incident should be made secure if possible.
In the event of a historic incident
The guidance above applies; however it is advisable to telephone the SARC before making a journey to establish whether they are likely to be able to gather any medical evidence.
Historic complaints can be taken forward by an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA). They can support students to report to the police and or provide practical and emotional support. This support can be accessed regardless of whether or not the incident has been reported to the police before and they can help to identify needs and options available and make any further referrals. The Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Team can help you arrange contact with an ISVA.
If the individual decides not to report
A decision not to visit a SARC or report to the police is still a valid decision and the individual’s wishes should be respected. However, it is important that they retain relevant evidence, in so far as this is possible, in case they change their mind in the future.
An individual who does not want to go to a SARC or the police, is advised to seek medical attention from their doctor or nurse, local GP or A&E. The local GUM (Genito-Urinary Medicine) Clinic can provide morning-after pills, tests for STIs and anti-retroviral medication. It is important to note here that anti-retrovirial medication for HIV has to be started within 72 hours of an assault. You can phone the clinic for further guidance.
GUM Clinic - Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire Sexual Health Services. Telephone 0300 7900 165
Cobridge Community Health Centre, Church Terrace, Cobridge, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 2JN
The University of Keele is committed to providing a safe learning, working and living environment and will work with victims of sexual violence to ensure they are provided with appropriate support, adjustments and options to enable them to continue with their course.
Trained members of staff in the Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Team are available to meet with students who have disclosed that they have experienced sexual violence to advise them of their options and the support available to them. These include some of the following:
Trained members of staff from Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Team will provide appropriate advice and support throughout the process and will ensure that appropriate referrals for specialist support are made. This may include referral to the following services:
- Sexual Assault Referral centre (SARC)
- Independent Sexual Violence Adviser (ISVA)
- Counselling and Mental Health (Keele)
- Specialist Counselling Services (external to Keele)
- Appropriate specialist medical services
Where possible appropriate adjustments will be made to enable the student to continue with their course. These will include:
- Submission of Exceptional Circumstances forms
- Staff will assist with the completion of ECs and provide letters of supporting evidence outlining that the student has experienced ECs of a personal and confidential nature
- Students can request delayed assessment opportunities or further opportunities for assessment as a first attempt
- Students can request extensions to deadlines for the submission of written assignments
- In some cases alternative modes of assessment, e.g. written work to replace group work or presentations, should be considered
- Staff will liaise with academic Schools and the Examinations Office to arrange:
- Examinations in an individual or smaller room
- 25% extra time
Teaching and attendance at classes
- Staff will liaise with academic schools to explain possible absences from classes
- Notes for any missed lectures will be made available
- Changes to the timetable and alternative teaching slots should also be considered if appropriate
Leave of Absence
- If a student feels taking some time out from their course will be beneficial, a period of Leave of Absence will be authorised.
- Staff will provide appropriate supporting evidence for this and will advise the student of any practical and financial implications of this.
- Staff will provide support through the period of leave, ensuring that contact is maintained following transition back into study.
For students living in university accommodation:
- Changing to another room on campus (if appropriate)
- Financial assistance with any additional costs
- Additional security measures to be considered for existing accommodation (eg, window locks, security patrols, timing on automatic doors)
For students living off campus
- Offer of room on campus
- Financial assistance with additional costs of this
- If students need to move rooms financial assistance will be provided to assist with any additional costs
- If students need to take a Leave of Absence, additional financial support may be provided to assist with living costs if student funding is suspended
- If a student is unable to work, additional financial support may be provided
- Replacement mobile phones will be lent to students if their phones have been taken by police for forensic investigations
- Laptops can also be borrowed if their laptops have been taken by police for forensic investigations
- Students will be given appropriate telephone numbers to access out of hours support including, emergency services, campus security, Residence Support team (if appropriate) as well as provided with details of how to access the University's ‘SafeZone’ App.
- Staff will ensure relevant information is shared with the University’s Security team so that additional Security measures can be introduced. This could include:
- Additional surveillance and visits to Halls
- Information about the alleged perpetrator where appropriate
- If the alleged perpetrator is a Keele student some of the following actions may be taken against them under Regulations B1 / B2:
- Internal Disciplinary Investigation
- Restricted access to campus or specified areas of campus
- Accommodation move
- No contact with victim
- If a student needs a car parking permit this will be approved
- For students with existing parking permits, alternative more centralised parking spaces may also be considered
This can be viewed on our sexual violence home page.
5 things to say:
1. I believe you.
2. It’s not your fault.
3. Consent comes first.
4. You are not alone.
5. You choose what to do next.