Helping Sexual Assault Victims Speak Out
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The University Of South Dakota released a victim involved in a sexual assault investigation, did not file a complaint against the suspects in fear of being met with backlash. Instead, the head coach at USD received an anonymous tip. Experts say when it comes to sexual assault, this is common; and it’s up to everyone to stop “victim shaming.”
“Too often we tell people don’t rape, or don’t hit somebody and they say, well I’m not going to do that, and they think their job is done,” says Executive Director at The Compass Center Michelle Markgraf. The Compass Center provides guidance and recovery for sexual and domestic violence victims.
Markgraf says when it comes to keeping people safe, “everyone is responsible.”
This is especially true on college campuses.
“If you see someone who is approached by someone and they seem uncomfortable, it’s up to us to go to that person and say ‘hey are you comfortable with that person’,” says Markgraf.
Markgraf says they see a lot of sexual assault cases involve freshman.
“You have young adults who are, for the first time, away from their home and are in an environment where they’re not sure who’s safe, who’s not safe around them,” she says.
Add on the fear of being victim-shamed, Markgraf says it’s hard for victims to speak up about an assault.
“We’ve had a lot of people come to us in tears,” says Markgraf. “They’ve told someone and the first question you get was ‘why were you there or what were you drinking?”
Markgraf says as a culture, this needs to change.
“Nothing that you did meant that that should happen to you,” she says. “I think that people need to start saying that more and more to victims as they come forward to make them feel comfortable.”
If someone is sexually assaulted, Markgraf says it’s key for them to get a rape kit done — even if they aren’t ready to report what happened.
“So somebody can get certainly the evidence collected, wait six month until they feel they’re ready to talk to somebody, and at that point, report to law enforcement,” says Markgraf. “Law enforcement will go to the ER, collect the evidence and be ready to go forward.”
For those who are not ready to report an incident, Markgraf says their kits will be put under ‘Jane or John Doe’, so their name won’t be affiliated with the test results, only a phone number. Emergency services can hold these kits for up to a year. Sioux Falls Police say detectives investigate rape or sexual assault cases that were reported late frequently.