Weekend Check-up, Winfield Daily Courier, April 24, 2010

By Jennifer Irwin

   Jennifer is a client advocate for Safe Homes, Inc., which serves Cowley and surrounding counties.

   Sexual assault is a personal tragedy. A friend or family member is often the first person a victim will turn to for advice or support. How this person responds can make a difference in the recovery process. Of course, no one wants to make a terrible situation worse by saying or doing the wrong thing. If a victim of sexual assault confides in you, consider the following:

Listen without prying or judging. Put aside your personal feelings and respect the person's decisions. Your primary goal should be to provide support, not take control. Be careful with nonverbal messages as well.

Offer information. Victims may not be aware of the choices available, such as counseling and temporary shelter. Kansas law does not require contacting law enforcement in adult situations. However, the victim may request confidential collection and storage of evidence for possible future prosecution.

Be available. The victim may ask you to make calls to the police, personal doctor or Safe Homes hotline. Offer to research local services and accompany the person in accessing them. Talking can be therapeutic, so be accessible at odd hours. The victim may also appreciate simple help with daily tasks or screening phone calls.

Provide reassurance. Remind the victim that she or he is not to blame and that professional help is always available.

Respect privacy. Sharing information without permission not only breaks the trust placed with you, it is another assault on the victim.

   South Central Kansas is fortunate to have a strong network of resources, providing services and hope to those experiencing sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. Victims have access to experienced professionals and volunteers, safe quarters and legal services. For more information call 221-7079 or go to For immediate assistance, call 221-HELP or (800) 794-7672.