Victim Advocacy Services

Overview

NOTICE ABOUT VICTIM ADVOCACY SERVICES IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19:

We know that due to recent recommendations to reduce the risk of coronavirus, many students may be in close quarters with an abuser with little to no options. We are here to help. Simply contact our Victim Advocate directly at 727-873-4432 to set up a virtual appointment through MS Teams. For emergencies, please call UPD at 727-873-4444.

  • After hours, contact our main line for advocacy consultation services, which can help you determine if you need immediate help or can wait the next business day to speak to our Victim Advocate.
  • For domestic violence concerns, immediate shelter, legal assistance, or law enforcement help, call CASA St. Pete (727-828-1269).
  • For sexual assault services and examinations, please contact Suncoast Center Sexual Assault Services (727-530-7273).

CONSULTATION SERVICES AVAILABLE TO ALL USF ST. PETERSBURG STUDENTS 24 HOURS A DAY, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK 727-873-4422

Quick Access Emergency Numbers

University Police Department: 727-873-4444
Office of the Dean of Students: 727-873-4278
Office of Student Conduct: 727-873-5027
Suncoast (24/7 Rape Crisis Hotline): 727-530-7273
CASA (DV Advocacy & Counseling): 727-895-4912
Victim Assistance (St. Pete Police Dept): 727-892-5280 or 727-892-5128


USF St. Petersburg is proud to offer victim advocacy services to any student who has been the victim of a violent crime (i.e., date rape, assault, domestic violence). The campus Victim Advocate can be contacted during normal business hours from 8am-5pm by calling the Wellness Center main line 727-873-4422 to schedule an appointment, or the student can schedule an appointment in person. Students who have access to an iPhone can also contact the Victim Advocate by using the USF St. Petersburg Safe app, selecting Support Services, then selecting USF St. Petersburg Victim Advocate. Students may also contact the Victim Advocate on the direct office line for non-emergency appointments and questions at 727-873-4432. These services are free and confidential for all USF St. Petersburg students.

After hours, students can call the Wellness Center main line and select option 2. The students’ needs will be assessed by an on-call mental health counselor and referred to the Victim Advocate for emergency responses if needed. If a student is able to address their needs during business hours, they can leave a message on the Wellness Center main line to schedule an appointment on the next available business day with the Victim Advocate.

At this time, the USF St. Petersburg Victim Advocate is only able to serve currently registered USF St. Petersburg students. If you are USF St. Petersburg Faculty/Staff, the Victim Advocate can provide external referrals and information for community resources.

The Victim Advocate is available year-round and can provide a number of services for students, including:

  • providing clarity on sexual misconduct and dating violence behaviors and how to identify them within relationships
  • providing emotional support by actively listening to feelings and concerns
  • addressing specific issues related to safety planning and relocation to prevent further victimization
  • providing academic support regarding victimization
  • support and assistance obtaining a sexual assault forensic exam
  • providing campus and community referrals
  • attending appointments and/or hearing meetings with the victim
  • providing information and assistance with filing reports on or off campus and navigating the legal and Title IX process

Academic Support

If a student is in need of certain academic services, the advocate may be able to assist with course changes and making arrangements with professors regarding missed classes or late assignments. The advocate will not disclose any confidential information to faculty members without the student’s consent.

ARC petitions can be submitted with support from the victim advocate if needed.

Safety

The University offers many options for students who have concerns for their safety after becoming a victim of a crime. Students can meet with the Victim Advocate to create a safety plan for themselves or someone they know who may be a victim of a crime. A no-contact order between USF St. Petersburg students can be issued by the Office of Student Conduct.

On campus housing assignments may be changed or an individual’s access to certain halls or the entire campus may be restricted. This applies to USF St. Petersburg students and non USF St. Petersburg students.

Preserving Evidence

It is important to preserve evidence of any offense – it may be necessary proof to obtain a protection order or to prosecute the offender.

1. Sexual Assault

  • Forensic evidence collection is best done within 72 hours of the assault and best collected immediately following an assault. The state of Florida will collect evidence up to 120 hours following an assault; however, it is important to remember that the more time passes between the sexual assault and collecting the evidence, the less likely it will be to collect physical evidence that may be very important to the prosecution of a criminal case.
  • To preserve evidence in the case of sexual assault, it is recommended that you do not shower or bathe, wash your hands, use the toilet, douche, eat, drink, smoke, brush your teeth, change clothing, or wash clothing or bedding before a medical exam. Even if you have already taken any of these actions, evidence may still be collected, and you are encouraged to have prompt medical care.
  • It is preferred that a police department facilitates the collection of forensic evidence on site. However, if you are not sure if you would like to report to the police or if it has been longer than 72 hours after the assault, you may wish to gather all clothing and bedding that may be used for evidence and place them into a clean paper bag or clean sheet. Items should be stored at room temperature that will not damage evidence.     

2. Dating or Domestic Violence

In the case of dating violence and domestic violence, the resource you choose to report the crime to (a doctor, the police, an advocate, etc.) may recommend ways to preserve evidence such as logging incidents, photographing injuries, seeking medical care, etc.

3. Stalking

Stalking is demonstrated through a pattern of unwanted contact. Students can work with the victim advocate to create a stalking log to keep track of each incident for future reporting, peace of mind, or to use as evidence when filing an injunction for protection. In addition to logging unwanted contact, an advocate or police officer may recommend you save and photograph unwanted text messages, emails, letters and gifts, and store them in a secure location.

Adapted from Boise State's Gender Equity Center

How to Help a Friend

If you think that a friend or someone you know is in an abusive or unhealthy relationship, it can be difficult to know what to do. You may want to help, but be scared to lose them as a friend or feel as though it is not your place to step in. All of these feelings are normal, but the most important thing you can do as friend is start a conversation. Here are a few tips to help you talk to your friend.

Calmly start a conversation on a positive note

Find time to talk to your friend one-on-one in a private setting. Start by giving your friend positive affirmations and complimentary statements like, “You’re always so fun to be around. I’ve missed you!” Once your friend feels comfortable, you can begin calmly voicing your concern for your friend. It is likely that they feel as though things are already chaotic enough in their life, so to best help them, you will need to be a steady support with whom they can talk openly and peacefully. If you don’t panic and do your best to make them feel safe, then it is pretty likely that they will continue to seek your advice. You don’t want to scare your friend by worrying, starting an argument or blaming them.

Be supportive

Listen to your friend and let them open up about the situation on their own terms. Don’t be forceful with the conversation. It may be very hard for your friend to talk about their relationship, but remind them that they are not alone and that you want to help.

Focus on the unhealthy behaviors

The focus of the conversation should be on the unhealthy behaviors in the relationship and to provide your friend with a safe space to talk about it. Sometimes, our instinct is to immediately label the relationship as “abusive” to drive home the severity of the situation. This instinct, however, can cause your friend to retreat and shut down. Instead, focus on the specific behaviors you’re seeing and how that behavior makes them feel. For example, saying something like “It seems like your partner wants to know where you are a lot and is always texting and calling – how does that make you feel?” pinpoint the specific behavior and gets your friend to think about how it makes them feel. You can also gently point out that certain behaviors seem unhealthy and be honest about how you would feel if someone did it to you. This is one of the first steps in getting your friend to understand what is and is not an appropriate behavior in a relationship. Help them to understand for themselves that something is off about the relationship, and acknowledge that their feelings are legitimate.

Keep the conversation friendly, not preachy

Very few people in abusive relationships recognize themselves as victims and it is likely that they do not want to be viewed that way. If you want to be helpful, make yourself emotionally accessible and available to your friend. One way to reassure your friend that you are not judging them is to normalize the situation. Talking openly about your own experiences with relationship troubles will help them feel as though they are not alone. Be careful not to derail the conversation and keep the focus on your friend’s situation. Try to make it feel like an equal exchange between two friends — not like a therapist and a patient or a crisis counselor and a victim.

Don’t place the blame on your friend

Help your friend understand that the behaviors they are experiencing are not normal, and that it is NOT their fault their partner is acting this way. They may feel personally responsible for their partner’s behavior or as though they brought on the abuse, but assure them that this is not the case. Everyone is responsible for their own behavior, and no matter what the reason, abuse is never okay.

Allow your friend to make their own decision

If your friend is in an abusive relationship, the last thing you want to do is tell them to “just break up!” Relationship abuse is very complex, and your friend may be experiencing some form of trauma bonding— or loyalty to the person who is abusing them. Also, your friend is already dealing with a controlling and manipulative partner and the last thing that they need is for you to mimic those behaviors by forcefully telling them what to do.

Offer options to your friend

The best way for you to help your friend is to offer them options. Don’t push any one of them in particular, but instead let your friend know that you will support them no matter what they decide to do. Some of these options include visiting the campus violence prevention center or behavioral health center, talking to a R.A. or faculty member, or even calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Depending on how ready your friend is to open up, they may feel more comfortable vetting the situation with someone anonymously over the phone, or they may want to have the conversation in person with someone on campus who can help. If your friend is planning to end things with their partner, you should create a safety plan with them because the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is post-break up.

Maintain a calm approach when dealing with the situation and be open to what your friend is most comfortable with. At the suggestion of seeking help, it is possible that your friend may try to cover up or down play the abuse. Reassure your friend that they are the expert in their own life and make them feel as though they are in control of the situation.

The only exception here is if someone is in imminent danger – whether it is self-harm or harm inflicted by another person. If your friend is in immediate danger, you should alert authorities (i.e., campus safety or 911) right away. Even if you think your friend will feel betrayed or angry with you for going to the police, saving someone’s life is the most important thing. Relationship abuse can be fatal and you should not hesitate to take serious action if you think that anyone is at risk for physical or sexual harm.

Expect more conversations in the future

The first time you have this conversation with your friend, they may admit a few things that have happened and then suddenly pull away or take it back. You do not have to get your friend to change their mind completely about their partner and you don’t need them to “admit” that they are being abused. The goal of the conversation is to let them know that you care and that you are available for them when they need to talk. It is not likely for the situation to be resolved neatly after one conversation, so you should expect to have more talks like this. Be patient through the process, and know that you are doing the right thing by talking to them about this difficult topic. Let your friend know that you support them and that you are there for them should they need you.

Adapted from One Love

Faculty and Staff

Although the campus victim advocate does not provide advocacy services to faculty and staff, please see the Faculty and Staff Services page for tips and guides on how to best assist students during a crisis and resources to use for students and for personal use if needed.

Reporting Crimes

After being victimized, the student has many options for reporting if they are interested. Students are in no way obligated to report being a victim of a crime but are encouraged to report to provide a safe campus environment and individual care. Reporting can be a difficult process, and may feel like an additional violation. That being said, reporting can help in the recovery process, provide safety, and the ability to regain control over life.

Visit the How to Report a Crime at USF St. Petersburg page for more information on reporting, including all options and how to report.


Violence Prevention Programs and Initiatives

Consent

This discussion guide provides information on many aspects of consent which is critical in making sexual decisions. Click here to see USF Policy on Sexual Misconduct/Sexual Harassment, which includes USF’s consent definition.

Orientation

All new incoming students are mandated to complete initial educational programs regarding sexual misconduct before and during orientation. The first program is offered through an online format and consists of awareness on sexual misconduct through Sexual Assault Prevention for Undergraduates (SAPU). The second program is a mandatory College Choices presentation during orientation which contains information about affirmative consent, USF’s policies, reporting options, bystander intervention, conduct, Title IX, and victim advocacy.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)

A student and staff led initiative that provides healthy relationship education and promotes a bystander intervention model that includes Red Flag day. Look for opportunities to take get involved in SAAM activities and events, and contact the Wellness Center or victim advocate to collaborate on events during this month that focus on sexual misconduct and recovery.

Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) Training

The national standard in self-defense, R.A.D. is internationally recognized for programming quality and organizational commitment to excellence. R.A.D. balances the need of women and men to acquire self-defense education in a relatively short period of time with the lifelong commitment required for physical skill mastery. This is obtained by providing short-term training opportunities in a progressive building block format and combining that with R.A.D.’s trademark Lifetime Return and Practice Policy. The R.A.D. Systems of Self Defense programs include educational components comprised of lecture, discussion and physical resistance strategies, all of which are facilitated by certified R.A.D. instructors. R.A.D. instructors share life-saving information with confidence, knowing that their lessons will be continuously reinforced for a lifetime.

To sign up for a class, or to obtain more information please visit: USF St. Petersburg Police Department R.A.D. program.


Additional Resources


Additional on campus resources:

  • Sexual Assault Survivor Support Student Organization (SASS): Campus student organization that works to provide education, awareness, and events in regards to Student Sexual Assault Survivors on campus.
  • Dean of Student Ambassadors Student Organization (DOSA): Campus student organization that works to provide education, awareness, and events in regards to Title IX.