What if it happened to me? Steps to take after an assault

Sexual assault is always a topic of concern at the university level.

Dr. Philip Ruthkosky, associate dean of Student Development as well as the university’s Deputy Title IX Coordinator explains that while being able to have a conversation about sexual assault is critical, being informed on what to do if an individual or peer is assaulted is just as important.

“Get to a safe place is what initially we want to have happen,” Ruthkosky said.

According to the university’s “Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures,” if an individual is a victim of sexual assault, or witness to a sexual assault, the first step is to get the victim to a safe place as soon as possible.

Ruthkosky explained that if the victim is trapped by the perpetrator, call 911.

Once safe, the next step is to seek immediate medical attention. Ruthkosky emphasized that by seeking medical attention, the victim is not required to report it to authorities. However, when an alleged victims calls 911, the Victim’s Resource Center is notified. They will meet the victim at the hospital and will cover the cost of care. The Victim’s Resource Center is not required to notify the university on any calls or reports.

A confidential counselor will be made available to the victim who by law, cannot reveal any details of the situation to officials.

If the victim is not in a life threatening situation, the Department of Public Safety can be reached at (570) 408-4999 or Student Affairs staff person on-call at (570) 362-8346.

The next step is to preserve any evidence once the victim is in a safe place. Any articles that may contain the offender’s DNA should be saved, so victims should not bathe or shower, use the restroom, change clothing, comb hair, clean the crime scene or move anything the offender may have touched.

The final step a victim may choose to take, but is not required to, is to file a report with Student Affairs or Public Safety.

“Someone who is categorized as a responsible employee at a university knows or reasonably should know there was a sexual assault on or off campus dealing with one of the students, is required to report that to someone at the university who handles that,” Ruthkosky explained.

Everyone employed at Wilkes is a responsible employee except people at Health Services. Those individuals at Health Services are considered to fall under the “safe space” category. Confidential conversations are critical according to Ruthkosky for students to know what their options are.

If a student reports it directly to Student Affairs or other related employees, they will do their best to maintain confidentially but must also review the safety of the campus community. They can only move forward with investigations with victim’s consent.

While it is ultimately the victim’s choice to report a case, Ruthkosky explained that in informing students what options and services they will have available to them will hopefully encourage them to come forth with allegations.

“There is no right or wrong way to go about it,” Ruthkosky said.

One such way the university has been informing students on sexual assault is through the Bystander Intervention Training Program.

The program focuses on teaching students creative ways to intervene before an assault occurs. By going through the training, Ruthkosky hopes more students will develop and use that skill set to save peers from future trauma.

“You as one individual can change a persons life.”