Penn State has numerous resources available to help victims of sexual assault

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), 30 days focused on raising public awareness about sexual violence and educating communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.

Planned events on Penn State's University Park campus — such as the 6th Annual Program to Honor Survivors of Violence on April 2, “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” on April 11, by the Men Against Violence Peer Education group; a 6:30 p.m. consent panel and discussion group on April 15 in room 129 HUB-Robeson Center; and University Health Services' (UHS) month-long awareness campaign — are a few examples of how Penn State is helping to spread awareness this month. But Jill Buchanan, a women’s health nurse practitioner at University Health Services, wants Penn State students to know help for victims of sexual violence, male or female, is always available.

Buchanan and a group of select care providers, nurses and clinicians trained to treat victims of sexual violence are available at UHS when help is needed. These services are accessible regardless of the duration of time since the assault took place. Within 96 hours after an assault has occurred, a female or male has an option to go to the emergency room at Mount Nittany Medical Center, where nurses can perform a forensic exam to collect evidence of the assault. Buchanan said if an assault victim seeks treatment within 120 hours of the attack emergency contraception, available over the counter, could decrease risk of pregnancy. At UHS, services are accessible regardless of the duration of time since the assault occurred. Though UHS does not collect evidence, UHS does offer medical care and information on resources for emotional and legal support for men and women who have been assaulted. Appointments can be made online or by calling the advice nurse at 814-863-4463. The decision on where to seek care can be hard; more information is available on the UHS website.

Penn State also has a policy that covers standard evaluations and follow-up care for a first-time sexual assault victim, which includes emergency room fees not covered by a state Victims Compensation Assistance Program for sexual assaults.

“Confidentiality is a huge issue for people. They are in crisis about what happened and don’t want to freak their parents out, so it’s critical in meeting a victim’s needs,” said Buchanan. “There are certain situations where we are mandated to report an attack. If a stranger jumped out of the bushes and is deemed a risk to the community, or if there are significant injuries or if a person is under 18, we will report it, but otherwise, everything we do is up to the victim.”

While medical treatment of sexual assault is a good first step, Buchanan said staff also will recommend that students seek additional treatment for emotional or legal needs (if they chose to) at the Center for Women Students, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and the Centre County Women’s Resource Center in downtown State College.

Susan DelPonte, student advocacy specialist at Penn State’s Center for Women Students, noted that it's unfortunate that a month of spring renewal coincides with the events that bring wide attention to the sobering reality of sexual violence, but added, “Until there is no more of this crime we will continue to bring awareness to it.

“This month is important because hopefully it helps to make communicating about sexual violence easier. It’s not something to be embarrassed about or to hide away without help,” DelPonte added. “If it’s not discussed, there will be less awareness. This month and throughout the year our center is always available for presentations to any groups, and our speaker events are always open to the public.”

More information about what Penn State is doing about sexual assault can be found at http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/womenscenter/awareness/rapeandassault.shtml#WTD.

Last Updated April 16, 2013