How to Support Sexual Assault Survivors

It’s easy to respond to a speaker who prompts the audience to say “cat,” “hat” and “bicycle.” But why does everyone hesitate when the word is “rape”? DePaul student Anna Nettie Hanson, a sexual assault survivor and author, says she knows why: “Rape is absolutely a difficult subject to talk about.” But, as she discussed at a DePaul Women’s Network Brown Bag luncheon on April 24, people must get past that fear in order to discuss an important topic.

The “Empowering through Assistance” event had two parts. First, Hanson told her personal story of surviving sexual assault and answered questions from the audience. Then, Rima Shaw, sexual health and violence prevention coordinator with DePaul’s Office of Health Promotion & Wellness, shared best practices and university resources that staff and faculty can embrace to show more support to friends in their own lives and to university students.

The event provided the following insight on how to support sexual assault survivors.

Anna Nettie Hanson book1. Start talking (Even if It’s Uncomfortable)

Hanson, who is studying communications and Spanish in DePaul’s honors program, told her personal story of being raped as a high school senior in 2011. To deal with the experience, she wrote a book, “For Now: Words of the Girl Who Fought Back.” Hanson acknowledged that sharing her story, as tough as it is, is part of what helps her heal and is a way to connect with others: “I don’t do it because it’s easy. I do it because it’s important.”

2. Raise Awareness

In her presentation, Hanson shared important statistics about sexual assault:

  • In America, one in six women will experience sexual assault or attempted sexual assault in her lifetime. In the world, that ratio is one in three.
  • Of 100 rapes, only five to 20 are ever reported. Of those reported, just 0.2 to five include a conviction. Unlike many cases that go unprosecuted, Hanson was able to see her attacker convicted and jailed.
  • In the United States, there are 400,000 untested rape kits.

3. Lend Your Support

During the question portion, an audience member asked how to help a loved one after an assault. Hanson talked about the importance of being supportive if you’re unsure of how to act: “I give you the permission to not know what to say. … You can just say, ‘I’m here.’”

Shah echoed that sentiment in her presentation on “Supporting Our Student Survivors.”

  • Begin by offering emotional support when someone comes to you with news of an assault. Listen and let the person know you are supportive: “I believe you.” “You did not deserve this.” “It was not your fault.”
  • Give the person options and let them make decisions. For example, provide referrals to on- and off-campus support services.
  • Don’t tell the person how to feel.
  • Don’t worry too much about saying the right thing; just focus on being there.

4. Do Your Research: Resources for Supporting Students

The Office of Health Promotion & Wellness has a number of handouts for faculty and staff who want to learn more about supporting students. Here are just a few resources DePaul faculty and staff should remember:

There’s Still Time to Join DWN!

If you want to share you talents with the DePaul Women’s Network in the coming year but missed our earlier recruitment deadlines, don’t fret: there’s still time!

Thinking about joining DWN but not sure where you fit? Join the Mission & Service team. Mission & Service keeps our Vincentian and Catholic heritage alive by actively seeking out service partnerships and service opportunities within and outside of the DePaul community.

If that doesn’t appeal to you, then join the Outreach team. Outreach is our resident “fun squad” (who couldn’t use a little fun?). Outreach supports our overall mission of connecting DePaul women faculty and staff through informal networking events. If you consider yourself high energy and love meeting new people, this is the team for you.

Don’t like either of those options? Join the Events team. Events is responsible for our annual Women’s Conference and Women of Spirit and Action Awards. If you thought last year’s conference was good, wait until next year’s conference.

Basic stuff: DWN doesn’t ask members to pay dues. Instead we ask that you contribute your time and your talents to our work. The average member spends about an hour a week on DWN activities. Can you spare an hour? In return for your hour of service, you will have access to a network of interesting and dynamic women who are committed to quality service and personal development.

How to Apply

1. Download the application materials:

2. Email the signed manager support and completed member application forms, along with your resume, to DWN​ with attention to president-elect Joy Boggs. Please also email us if you have any questions.

DWN team members
DWN team members from FY13 smile after a successful event.

DePaul’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month by the Numbers

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and DePaul has numerous activities to help the university community address this important topic. See the calendar below for events to catch through the end of the month, including DWN’s Brown Bag Luncheon, “Empowering Through Assistance.”

Highlights and key numbers for the month of programming:

  • 17 events are scheduled across the Lincoln Park and Loop campuses.
  • The month has been made possible through 24 collaborations with campus departments and student groups, as well as through collaborations with 7 community partners.
  • There has been a special effort to bring 3 different events that are targeted specifically at men, engaging them in conversations around consent and as role models on campus.
  • 1 event is specifically targeted at staff and faculty: DWN’s Brown Bag Lunceon on April 24, which came out of need to discuss ways staff and faculty can best support survivors.

For more information, please contact DePaul’s Office of Health Promotion & Wellness at (773) 325-7295.

How will you participate in DePaul’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month? Please tell us in the comments below.

SAAM 2013 calendar

DWN Membership, Explained

Are you confused about what it means to become a DWN Member? By reading on, you’ll discover 7 answers to 7 of your most frequently asked questions about DWN Membership—just in time to apply to join us for 2013-14!

1. Aren’t I already a member?

We answer this question by explaining the difference between DWN participants and DWN members. Both are avenues for getting involved with DWN and supporting the overall DePaul community.

DWN Participants

DWN events are open to all DePaul faculty and staff (including part-time workers) regardless of gender. Without DWN participants to attend events, we would not have a DePaul Women’s Network.

Participants contribute a great deal to DWN’s success:

  • Participants help keep the network alive by encouraging co-workers to attend events, sharing ideas and perspectives, and completing the DWN event evaluation forms.
  • Participants make networking with women across the university possible.

DWN Members

DWN membership is limited to women faculty and staff. DWN members make up the group of volunteers who help plan and execute DWN events throughout the year. Any woman on DePaul’s faculty or staff is welcome to apply to join DWN as a director or general member within 1 of 6 DWN areas.

2. What are the different DWN areas to which members can contribute?

There are 6 areas of DWN that encourage members to share their strengths:

  1. Programming
  2. Communications
  3. Events
  4. Mission & Service (New for 2013-14)
  5. Outreach (New for 2013-14)
  6. Operations

For detailed descriptions of the 6 DWN areas, review the How to Join DWN page or DWN Area Summaries.

3. What is the difference between a director position and a general member position?

Director Position

The directors help mentor the next generation of DWN leaders. This position requires previous project management and/or supervisor experience. The director manages a team of general members within 1 of the 6 areas of DWN.

General Member Position

A general member is a volunteer on 1 of the 6 DWN areas under the guidance of an area director. When applying for a position, please express at least 2 DWN areas that interest you.

4. What are the benefits of DWN membership?

  • Broaden your professional and personal network
  • Support and contribute to Vision 2018 diversity goals
  • Sharpen your skills and build your resume
  • Join an insanely fun group of women!

5. How long does my membership last?

After being selected to be a member of DWN, you are expected to commit to one year of service to the DePaul Women’s Network: July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014.

6. How do I apply for a director or general member position?

Review Application Instructions

Submit Your Application

Send the completed Member Application Form and signed Direct Manager Support Form along with your resume to with attention to next year’s DWN President, Joy Boggs.

7. What if I am still confused about what it means to be a member?

Applications are being accepted through April 5, 2013 – apply today!