Though individual experiences vary, two decades of research make it clear that sexual assault survivors are more likely to experience better outcomes in the legal and medical systems when they are supported by well-trained, confidential advocates. They also report experiencing less isolation, anxiety and re-victimization when they work with confidential advocates.
And yet, our own campus climate survey of students tells us that, right now, fewer than 5 percent of students share information about sexual misconduct with the University. Even more heartbreaking, the majority of students who experience a sexual assault tell no one about what happened to them.
The University of Michigan is not unique in this regard, and other studies report that sexual assault survivors on college campuses are more likely to stay silent than share their information with anyone.
If we care about the lives and futures of sexual assault survivors, we must do everything in our power to reduce their isolation and increase their access to trained, experienced and confidential advocates.
At the University’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, we are committed to empowering survivors by providing clear and accurate information about their options in a confidential environment, and supporting their decisions — whether that be to formally report the experience to the University, to law enforcement or to not report their experience to either entity.
We walk with survivors along the path that they choose, offering encouragement, resources and support at each step. We do not share any information with other officials at the University, or take any action, unless given explicit direction to do so by the survivor.
If someone you love is sexually assaulted, we strongly encourage you to listen to them without judgment, believe them and affirm their experience, support their decisions and connect them to trained confidential advocates like those at SAPAC.
We are available for students, staff, faculty and parents 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 734-936-3333.
Holly Rider-Milkovich is the director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center at the University of Michigan.