Consider talking with a confidential counselor on or off campus. You have complete control over what information you do or do not choose to share. You may or may not not feel ready to talk about what happened, but in either case, counselors can provide a confidential and safe space to explore any feelings or challenges that have arisen for you after your experience. They can also provide you with information and support as you consider your needs, and can help you to connect with other resources.
Center for Health and Wellness Counseling Services (Middlebury Students)
Short-term and crisis counseling is available through the Center for Health and Wellness for students who have been sexually assaulted, have had an upsetting sexual encounter, or have been affected by domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking. These services are confidential, except that mental health professionals are required to report to law enforcement authorities the sexual assault of a person under the age of 18, or where there is risk of immediate danger to self, others, or property. Consequently, in some circumstances, providers may not be able—legally or ethically—to maintain confidentiality.
Faculty and staff who are supporting a student and are in need of advice from a counselor may also use this resource.
When the Center for Health and Wellness is closed, students may access confidential counseling phone support. To access a counselor by phone after hours (evenings and weekends), call the counseling number (802-443-5141) and press 1 when instructed to do so. Students may also call Public Safety (802-443-5911) and ask to be connected with a counselor.
Employee and Family Assistance Plan (Middlebury Faculty and Staff)
Middlebury’s Employee and Family Assistance Plan (EFAP) provides confidential counseling and referral services to reduce stress and improve the quality of life for employees. The EFAP provides confidential assessment and referral services, and short-term counseling. The services of the EFAP are free to employees, up to the limits of the plan. All assistance is confidential; no one at Middlebury College will know that an employee has used the EFAP.
Counseling Services of Addison County
The Counseling Service provides 24-hour emergency services for residents of Addison County experiencing a mental health crisis.
Financial Concerns for Support Services
Many of the services noted above, such as Parton and EFAP, are free. If concerns about expenses are keeping you from seeking care, please talk with a confidential MiddSafe or WomenSafe advocate, and, for employees, with EFAP, all of whom can advise you about cost coverage for those services that do require payment, and possible reimbursement through the Vermont Victim Compensation Program.
Self-Care after a Sexual Assault
It is important to care for yourself after a sexual assault, and after any event you have experienced as sexually violating. Consider the following:
- Be patient with yourself. The healing process takes time and includes your physical, emotional, and psychological health.
- Don’t neglect your physical health and well-being. Getting adequate sleep, using exercise for stress relief, and eating well can advance your healing process. If you are having trouble sleeping, talk to a health professional; sleep is essential for self-care.
- Try not to let others make decisions for you, as it is important that you re-establish a sense of control over your choices.
- Seek support from a counselor, so that you may express your thoughts and feelings in a neutral setting where you do not feel that you have to protect the listener, worry about how the other person is feeling, or risk judgment.
- Don’t look for simple answers to explain what happened.
- Know your rights and how to get the support you need.
- Try to do things you enjoy, and give yourself permission to have positive experiences.
- Some people find it useful to keep a journal, to write stories or poems, or to express themselves through drawings. Use any outlet that feels helpful to explore your emotions.
Common Survivor Responses to Sexual Assault
Although each person is unique and there is no standard or correct response to sexual assault, there are some feelings and reactions that sexual assault survivors may experience. The emotional trauma caused by a sexual assault can be severe and long-lasting. It may occur immediately, or you may have a delayed reaction weeks or months later. Sometimes the feelings seem to go away for a while and then come back again. Certain situations, such as seeing the perpetrator or providing information during an investigation, may intensify the symptoms or cause them to reoccur after a period during which you had been feeling better.
Common natural responses to sexual assault may include the following:
- Fear and anxiety: feeling unsafe, nervous, fearful of the situation or the place linked with the assault; exhibiting compulsive behavior
- Shock and disbelief: numb, unemotional, having surreal feelings
- Helplessness, depression: feeling powerless, overwhelmed, unable to make choices, self-hating
- Anger: fury, desire to retaliate against the perpetrator
- Shame and embarrassment: feeling “bad,” feeling that everyone will “know”
- Self-blame or guilt: feeling at fault, responsible for the attack
- Flashbacks: being preoccupied with the attack, remembering and reliving the assault
- Isolation: feeling alone or that no one else can relate to your experience
- Physical responses: difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, headaches, listlessness
Survivors sometimes also experience an impulse to protect the perpetrator, which may influence their decisions to report the assault or to seek care for themselves. Survivors who are members of underrepresented identity groups may feel especially conflicted about reporting an assault when a member of their group is the perpetrator; they may feel anxious about perceived group loyalty or compromising the reputation of that group. These experiences and feelings can be addressed through confidential support from any of the resources listed above or from Confidential Advocates or Chaplains.
We are socialized to see sexual assault as a crime against women, not men. Because of this, many people have a hard time understanding that sexual assault is a crime that is motivated by the wish for power and control, and can happen to anyone, and be committed by anyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
Although many reactions to sexual assault are shared by survivors of all genders, there may be some additional responses that are different for survivors who identify as male. Men may experience concerns about what being sexually assaulted means to their sexuality or masculinity. There is a myth in our culture that only gay men rape other men, that men cannot be raped by women, or that only gay men are raped. This is not true: sexual assault has no boundaries. It is important to know that strong or weak, outgoing or shy, gay, straight, transgender, or bisexual, you have done nothing that has caused or justified your being assaulted. The responsibility lies with the perpetrator.
Spiritual and Pastoral Care
The College chaplains are available to provide supportive confidential counseling of all kinds, faith-based or otherwise. Located in Hathaway House, the Scott Center offers a range of comforts and services to students, faculty, and staff. The center’s doors are open to every member of the community.