To be eligible to use Norris Health Center you must be currently enrolled for a class credit at UWM and pay the student segregated fee. You need a valid Student ID Card. Fees are charged for some services, such as outside laboratory tests, pharmacy prescriptions and injections. A summer fee is charged for students not enrolled during the summer. There are no services provided for spouses, family or domestic partners.
For the most part, the services available are prepaid as part of tuition and fees. However, Norris Health Center does not cover hospital inpatient, emergency room, or immediate care treatment provided outside our facility. You are not required to have health insurance to use our health center. If you are eligible for insurance under someone elses policy (e.g., parent, spouse), familiarize yourself with its terms and limits. For information about the health insurance policy for students call UWM Student Association at 229-4366.
Commuter students are welcome to use the health center. You can call and make an appointment or come to the clinic as a walk-in.
The Health Center does not require that immunization records be submitted when admitted to UWM. When a student is seen in the health center they complete a history form.
Norris Health Center does not do any third party billing. Students may take receipts from a health center visit and submit to their private insurance.
Norris Health Center is open between 8am and 4:45pm Monday through Thursday and between 9am and 4:45pm on Friday. A Norris Health Center counselor is on-call everyday during our hours of operation. For students experiencing crisis situations or who have urgent needs that are not life threatening, brief screening sessions (up to 30 minutes) are provided to help stabilize the situation and determine what further treatment may be necessary. An appointment is not necessary but there may be a wait to be seen if the counselor is occupied with another student at the time of your arrival.
For urgent matters that arise when Norris Health Center is closed, you may contact the Milwaukee County Crisis line at 414-257-7222. This crisis line is answered twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week (24/7).
In the event of a life threatening emergency;
call 9-911 from a campus phone
414-229-9911 from a cell phone
or go to the emergency room
Off campus, call 911
Medical clinic — physicians and nurse practitioners treat illness and injury along with a team that includes nurses, a dietician, medical assistants, laboratory technologists and pharmacists.
Counseling center — counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists provide brief psychotherapy, crisis management and psychiatric evaluation and care.
Health promotion resource — health educators work with Peer Health Advocates (fellow students) and other campus partners to promote healthy lifestyle choices and a healthier campus community for all of us.
Sports medicine center — athletic trainers and physical therapists provide treatment and rehabilitation.
Office Hours are:
8:00 am- 4:45 pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
9:00 am – 4:45 pm Friday
Call 229-4716 for general information and appointments
Business FAX number: (414) 229-6608,
Medical Record FAX number (414) 229-4161
Wisconsin Relay Service TDD 1- 800-967-6644
We prefer that you make an appointment in order to reduce your waiting time .
For a medical concern we have limited same day urgent care availability.
Walk -in service is available every afternoon for our mental health service.
The Health center does administer the allergy shots. The cost is $5.00 per visit. However, the health center does not do allergy testing nor prescribe treatment. Therefore students must bring their own medication from their private doctor. It is stored in the Health center and appointments are made for the nurse to administer the allergy shots.
If Norris Health Center is closed, you need to visit a facility specified by your health insurance plan. You are responsible for services obtained outside of Norris Health Center. It is a good idea to carry a copy of your insurance card with you in case of emergencies.
If you have the Student Insurance plan offered through the Student Association please review their brochure.
If you are covered by your parent’s insurance plan or spouse contact your insurance company to determine at what facility to seek care.
To report life threatening emergencies call 911
Cold and Flu
Unfortunately, doctors really can’t do anything for most cases of a cold or flu. However, you can usually take care of a cold or the flu without a doctor’s assistance. Often, simple home remedies can ease uncomfortable cold or flu symptoms. If you feel you need some kind of medicine, over-the-counter medications are usually adequate.
For home remedies or over-the-counter medications read our flu page
Colds and the flu can be very hard to tell apart. The symptoms of a cold usually come on gradually. The most common cold symptoms include a run-down feeling, scratch throat, watery eyes, runny nose and sneezes.
You may have a dry cough or headache, but fever in adults with a cold is rare. Colds seldom develop into more serious problems, but they sure can make life uncomfortable. Cold symptoms usually last about 10-14 days, the length of time it takes your immune system to fight the virus.
Flu symptoms often appear suddenly. The flu often begins like a cold, with a runny nose and a general run-down feeling, but more severe symptoms such as fever, body ache, headache, dry cough, sore throat, weakness or loss of appetite develop abruptly in 1-2 days. The flu usually lasts 7-10 days, but you may not feel completely recovered for up to 2-3 weeks.
Visit our cold and flu pages
Remember that most cold and flu viruses are transferred from the fingertips to the eyes, nose or mouth where they can enter your body. Washing your hands frequently in soap and warm water is probably the most effective way to keep cold and flu viruses out of your body.
Try to avoid putting your fingers to your nose or eyes, especially if you have been around people with colds or the flu.
Avoid sharing objects (pencils, towels, telephones, etc.) or beverages with people who have colds or the flu.
Maintain healthy habits (such as adequate rest, good nutrition and daily exercise) that contribute to good general health and well-being.
The flu vaccine is recommended as a way to prevent the flu, especially for people who are at high risk for developing serious complications-such as the elderly and people with lung disease, heart disease, or another chronic illness.
The vaccine is also recommended for individuals who work in health care facilities and are exposed to respiratory illness repeatedly.
The flu shot contains a weakened version of the influenza virus and prepares your body to fight this year’s influenza virus only. If you have a flu shot, you will be partially or completely immune to the flu, but you will still have no protection against colds.
For more information on the influenza vaccine see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention influenza vaccination information page. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/vaccination/
Call 414-229-4716 and talk to the phone triage nurse when you develop a cold or flu, or call to make an appointment if any of the following apply to you:
- You have bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, heart disease, or any other chronic condition that is worsened by the cold or flu.
- You have a temperature of 102 or higher, and the fever has been present more than three days.
- You have white spots on your tonsils, the gland is your neck are swollen, and you do not have a cough. Or, if there has been a recent known exposure to strep throat.
- Your neck feels sore or stiff.
- You have pain along the side(s) of the chest or shortness of breath. (mid chest pain is common in colds and flu and can be treated with humidity.).
- You have pain over the cheekbone or above theyeyes, and you are blowing dark green mucus from the nose.
- You have severe ear pain.
- You note a change in mental status such as confusion, slow thinking, or excessive sleepiness.
- You have a cough that lasts a week longer than other symptoms, or you are coughing up bloody or dark green mucus.
Antibiotics kill or stop the growth of bacterial, but they have no effect on viruses such as colds or the flu. Antibiotics should only be used against bacterially caused illnesses like strep throat, bacterial pneumonia, and bacterial skin infections. There are many other reasons to avoid taking antibiotics unless it is necessary:
Your body contains both harmful and helpful bacteria. The helpful bacteria keep harmful organisms under control. Unfortunately, antibiotics don’t know the difference between harmful and helpful bacteria; they kill them all, permitting other illnesses or side effects to occur. Yeast infections and diarrhea are two of the possible side effects of taking antibiotics.
Bacterial become resistant to antibiotics after they have been exposed to them often enough. When you take an antibiotic, the organisms it affects struggle to survive. After repeated courses of antibiotic therapy, these organisms may successfully change their structure so that the antibiotic may no longer be effective.
Antibiotics sometimes cause allergic or toxic reactions that may be uncomfortable or even dangerous. People with allergies to antibiotics may develop rashes, hives, and in rare instances, may even die.
Counseling and Consultation
With the exception of emergency situations, please phone or stop by the Norris Health Center to make an appointment in advance. Intake counseling or psychiatry appointments generally run an hour. In the event you cannot come to an appointment you made, it is recommended you cancel the appointment as soon as you possibly can so that some other student can have the appointment time.
Counseling provides an opportunity to explore and learn about yourself within a confidential, professional relationship. Increased understanding of yourself and your opportunities may facilitate your adjustment and lead to a more satisfying life. You may explore thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears, and wishes, as well as patterns of relating to others. You may reflect on past decisions or experiences and their consequences, or you may evaluate future goals and decisions.
Your responsibility in counseling is to reflect and share your area of concern. In the initial intake appointment, you will have the opportunity to discuss your needs and concerns as well as provide your counselor with important background information. Following this evaluation, your counselor will recommend how your needs might best be met, either through the Norris Health Center, or referral to an outside provider or agency.
Once counseling begins, your counselor will work with you to clarify and deepen your self-understanding, explore options for change, and develop a plan suited to achieve your goals. Counseling is an active process which requires work on your part and may involve exploration of painful events and feelings. Your counselor listens, asks questions, and offers comments. Together, you decide on a focus for your “work”.
Between sessions, you gather information: by observing yourself, by recalling or noticing events and relationships, by trying out helpful new behaviors. Counseling is not guaranteed to “solve your problem”, but success is most likely when you are an active participant and your communication with your counselor is open and honest.
In order to assist the maximum number of students who seek counseling services or psychiatry medication management services, treatment is offered on a short-term basis only, usually no longer than a semester. Consultation and referral services are provided for students who may need longer term or more intensive treatment.
We do not provide ANY mandated services, or those that may require court testimony or reports/letters to be filed with any branch of city/county/state/ or federal courts; any District Attorney, City Attorney, or Municipal Attorney’s Office; any defense attorney’s office; any state department of probation and parole; or any state/ county department of social services where litigation is either involved or pending. Additionally, we do not provide comprehensive psychological test batteries to determine the presence of learning or vocational disabilities.
Your visits with the Counseling & Consultation Services staff are private and no one outside Norris Health Center is given any information about you without your written permission. None of the information you provide becomes a part of your academic record at UWM. There are certain limits to confidentiality, such as, if you are a clear and present danger to harm yourself or others; in situations of abuse or neglect to a child under age 18; or in the event of a court order for information. The counselor can provide a more detailed description of limits to confidentiality during your intake appointment.
At present, Norris does not have the capacity to offer emergency psychiatric services. If you need medication, it is best to call to make an intake appointment with one of the psychiatry providers. If you are having a problem with medication, it is recommended you contact the doctor who prescribed that medication for you, or go to the Columbia Hospital Emergency Room for assessment.
Norris does offer a dissertation support group, as well as an AODA group, and a general counseling group. For further information, please call the Norris Health Center and ask to speak to or leave a message for the counselors who are conducting groups. There are groups for Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and eating disorders that are held on campus, but are not affiliated with UWM or the Norris Health Center.
Norris does have several counselors that specialize in alcohol and drug assessment and treatment, as well as the educational aspects of alcohol and drug abuse.
The Health Promotion & Wellness Department offers education and strategies for individuals who are at risk for experiencing or causing issues related to personal alcohol use. The ACE program includes a group alcohol skills class, brief screening and individual feedback sessions.
In deciding whether to offer or provide counseling services to someone already receiving those services elsewhere, careful consideration must be given to the treatment issues and your welfare. In many instances, your needs might be better met by continuing in treatment with the other counselor, who has the benefit of knowing you and your treatment issues for a longer period of time. However, a Norris counselor or psychiatrist will discuss your issues with you in order to determine what may be in your best treatment interests.
If you are in need of an appeal letter of some kind, please talk to your academic advisor first to find out if your department/program permits the type of appeal you are seeking, and what you must do to start the appeal process. Your advisor may ask you the basis for your appeal, and may inquire if the reason is medical, psychological, and/or psychiatric in nature. Your advisor may suggest that you call the Norris Health Center to ask to speak to the staff person responsible for writing appeal letters. You do not need to make an “intake” appointment at Norris for this, nor should you come to Norris on a “walk-in” or on an emergency basis. Needing a letter is not considered an “emergency” or crisis.
Appeal letters are not automatically written for any student making a request. The determination if a letter will be written is made on a case-by-case basis. Students must provide verification of their circumstances before a letter will be considered. Appeal letters will not be written unless you are receiving medical, psychological, or psychiatric treatment from a Norris Health Center provider. If you are receiving care elsewhere, it is more appropriate for you to request that your own health care provider write a letter on your behalf.
Please be advised that even if a letter is provided to you, there are several departments/programs on campus that might not consider a letter from Norris enough documentation to warrant your appeal. Please work with your advisor if your department or program asks for additional documentation before considering your appeal.
Health Promotion and Wellness
The health educators see students on an individual basis to assess and provide guidance regarding nutrition practices. The teaching includes guidance regarding weight management, diagnosis related nutrition practices and general eating practices. There is a dietician on a limited basis. Internal referrals are required to see the Dietician.
The Health Promotion Department has handouts and literature on a variety of topics. If you would like to speak with a health educator about a topic or presentation and need materials, please call Colleen Bernstein RN at 229-6668.
There is no fee to see a Health Educator. Link to Cost, Link to Eligibility
HIV screening is provided at the Norris Health Center for a fee of $15.00 Please call 229-4716 and make an appointment for the test. A medical provider or a health educator can provide the assessment for the screening.
Students work within the Health Promotion and Wellness department administratively and as part of our outreach and training teams. Some students have worked with the department as part of their internship program, Capstone experience, or service learning experience.
The Health educators and Peer health Advocates provide programs and outreach in a variety of settings including booths, classes,union and university housing.
There are several national programs that the Health Promotion Department provides. There are National Screening days for eating disorders, alcohol abuse and depression. The American College Health Association http://www.acha.org/
is the voice of College Health and provides ideas and data for the direction of Health promotion for college students. Another origanization that provides guidance for college health is the Bacchus and Gamma http://bacchusgamma.org/. The Peer Education Network has programs , ideas and resources for awareness programs. If you are interested in a program with Norris Health Center, call 229-4716 and ask to speak to a health educator.
The Norris Health Staff provides a “personal profile”of alcohol use. Download further information about the BASICS program
The Health Educators provide programs including, but not limited to the following topics:
Sexual Health, HIV/AIDS, Stress management, Tobacco cessation, Wellness, Nutrition and Birth Control Options
Programs can be provided by the health educators and the Peer Health Advocates. You need to call two weeks before the program or presentation. You can call the main number at 229-4716. Programs are free of charge.
The NHC pharmacy only stocks medications that are listed on the NHC Formulary but will special order items (other than Class II narcotics) that are not on that formulary. The patient must have a prescription written by an NHC provider for the entire package amount of the drug and must pay for the prescription in advance.
NHC stocks Durex lubricated condoms both latex and non-latex. Neither contains a spermicidal ingredient. Condom purchases are limited to $5 supply of the lubricated condoms and $4.50 of the non-lubricated.
The cashier checks for student eligibility.
The pharmacy has contracts with various manufacturers and wholesalers. As contracts change, and prices go up, the pharmacy searches for alternate low-cost products.
You may have used a certain brand for years and now it is called another name or you find out the cost is more. Why? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows pharmaceutical companies to have limited patents on their product. When a drug goes off patent and generic becomes available, the original manufacturer may raise their prices to compensate for loss of volume due to the generic drug. A new product may very expensive if it can be marketed as having an edge over its competition or a new product may be a lot cheaper if it is a reformulation of an older drug and the company is pushing this product.
Your medical provider may suggest a different BCP to keep your prescription cost low. Here at Norris Health Center we strive to keep our pharmacy stocked with common brand and generic BCP. Please ask your medical provider or pharmacist if you have questions about your prescription.
The Health Center does not fill prescriptions from private providers. Our providers must write the prescriptions. You need an appointment to see a provider.
Go to the cashier’s window on the first floor of Norris Health Center(NHC) to request and pay for your refill. The NHC pharmacy does not take refill requests over the phone.
You may purchase multiple refills if your prescription allows and if the NHC pharmacy has adequate stock.
No. The NHC pharmacy fills only prescriptions written by Norris Health Center providers. You can make an appointment with a NHC provider to discuss your situation. The provider may or may not rewrite the same prescription.
An x-ray is needed to determine if something is broken. If you sustain an injury and feel you broke a bone, stabilize it with some type of material or splint, support it and have it evaluated
No, Sports Medicine services are covered by your segregated fees in your tuition payments, but you need to be a currently enrolled full-time student, and/or have paid your segregated fees if part-time or if between semesters in the summer.
Physical and athletic rehabilitation services provided by a licensed physical therapist and licensed athletic trainers for orthopedic type injuries. Services include evaluation, therapeutic exercises, therapeutic modalities, orthotic prescription and fitting, and video gait/running analysis to name a few.
No. We would recommend you to a personal trainer for these services. At times our athletic training students are personal trainers and may be able to help with this, but this is separate from our services in Sports Medicine. You can call our department to check on this availability, or check on the bulletin board at the Klotsche Center as there are advertisements for these services listed there.
We would refer you to the Exercise Physiology department in Enderis Hall where these services are offered along with cardiopulmonary function assessments including VO2 max and sub-max testing, resting metabolic assessment, and various body composition testing procedures. These services are provided for specific fees. Please call there department at 414-229-6717 for more information.
Yes, an appointment is required for each visit.
Yes, any type of orthopedic injury, acute or chronic.
The Sports Medicine Department is located in:
Klotsche Center Sports Medicine Center
3409 N. Downer Ave. Suite 250
Milwaukee, WI 53211
You must receive a referral from a Norris Health Center provider, and then call to schedule at 414-229-6572.
Yes, therapy services are available in the Sports Medicine department.
Absolutely. The consultant will help you talk through your issues and help you determine the best way to get help. If you feel comfortable with the consultant, it is sometimes possible to meet with him or her at Norris in an ongoing way.
If you believe you need to be seen sooner than the appointment you were given, it’s best to call Norris directly and explain your situation.
Since regular counseling appointments are not available at Let’s Talk, following up with the referral is a good idea. Unfortunately, Norris does not provide open-ended counseling.
If your next appointment is not soon enough, it is best to contact your counselor directly to see if he or she can see you sooner.
The best thing to do in your situation is to attempt to talk directly with your counselor and discuss the problem. If you feel you cannot do this, you can call the Norris Crisis Counselor to request a counselor change. Counselors are eager to get your feedback, positive or negative. Often, an open conversation about your concern helps smooth out any wrinkles and helps get things back on track.
Although Let’s Talk consultants are professionals, Let’s Talk is not a substitute for psychotherapy or formal counseling and doesn’t constitute mental health treatment. Let’s Talk consultants provide informal consultations to help students with specific problems and to introduce them to what it’s like to speak with a counselor. Your Let’s Talk consultant can help you determine whether formal counseling would be useful to you and, if appropriate, assist you in getting connected to appropriate services.
Conversations with Let’s Talk counselor consultants are confidential. However, one exception is that counselors may need to share information in a situation in which safety for yourself or others is a concern.
The Let’s Talk consultants may take brief written notes of their contacts with students in the event that there is an emergency, or when a student is referred to Norris. In these situations, other Norris counseling staff may see these notes. Anonymous information is also collected about attendance so that we can keep track of the students we are serving.
Let’s Talk visits are never reported on a student’s official university record.
We don’t want anything to be a barrier to students accessing help. If you have further questions about confidentiality, we encourage you to discuss them with a Let’s Talk consultant.
Contact JoAnne Graham, Ph.D., Norris Health Center at 414-229-5144, or email JoAnne at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Paul Dupont, Ph.D., at 414-229-2927, or email Paul at email@example.com.
The Let’s Talk Program at UWM is based upon the Let’s Talk Program developed at Cornell University. With permission, material for this website has been adapted or reproduced from the Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Let’s Talk websites. We would like to thank Wai-Kwong Wong at Cornell and Amanda Ngola at UW-Madison for their consultation and willingness to share resources, which helped us to initiate this program on our campus.
Counselors at Norris provide ongoing therapy which usually consists of regularly scheduled 50-minute appointments. “Let’s Talk” is not formal counseling: it is a drop-in service where students can have an informal consultation with a counselor consultant to deal with a specific concern and to introduce them to what it is like to speak with a counselor. Your “Let’s Talk” counselor consultant can help you determine whether formal counseling at Norris would be useful for you and, if appropriate, assist you in scheduling an appointment.
When you come to the site, look to see if the office door is open. If it is, please come on in. When the two of you meet, the consultant will listen closely to your concerns, possibly ask questions and provide, support, perspective and suggestions for resources.
Sexual Violence Services - Resources and Support
- UWM Victim/Survivor Advocate: 414-229-4582 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- UWM Counseling Services: NWQ Building, 5th floor
- Business hours: 414-229-4716
- After hours non-emergency: 414-229-4627
- Norris Health Center: 414-229-4716
- Medical services including STI and pregnancy testing
Aurora Healing and Advocacy Services (formerly Sexual Assault Treatment Center) (414) 219-5555 – 24 hours/day
- Victim/survivor advocacy services
- 24-hour crisis phone line
- Medical Evidentiary Exam Advocacy
- Counseling and Therapeutic Services
The National Sexual Assault Hotline
(800) 656-HOPE – 24 hours /day
Sexual Violence Services - Medical Information & Services for Sexual Assault Victims/Survivors
A Medical Forensic Exam is a process in which a trained nurse gathers physical evidence from a victim/survivor following an assault. This can include collecting DNA, documenting injuries, recording the victim/survivors account of the assault, and providing any needed testing or medications.
- Evidence can be collected up to 120 hours following an assault (120 hours)
- Victim/survivors that choose to receive a medical forensic exam are NOT required to report to police. Evidence can be recorded and stored anonymously.
- All medical forensic exams are performed by a trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner
- The victim/survivor chooses which parts of the exam they would like performed. They can stop the exam at any time
- Aurora-Sinai Medical Center
945 N 12th St.
Milwaukee, WI 53233
- Aurora West Allis Medical Center
8901 W Lincoln Ave.
West Allis, WI 53227
- If able, bring the clothes (including underwear) that were worn during the assault as well as clean clothes to change into
- Try not to bathe, brush teeth, or use mouthwash before the exam
- Wait to urinate until the nurse can collect a sample (especially if it is the first urination after the assault). Or bring a sample to the exam.
- Bring any feminine products (tampon or maxi pad) worn during the assault
- The examination can include DNA collection, photos of any bodily injury, STI assessment/prevention, and pregnancy testing
- Request an advocate to accompany you during the exam process through Aurora’s Sexual Assault Treatment Center: 414-219-5555
- Norris Health Center: 3351 N Downer Ave., 414-229-4716
- Testing for STIs
- Pregnancy testing and information
- Confidential discussion of other related health concerns
- Norris Health Center does NOT provide Medical Forensic Exams, but they can refer you to Aurora hospital
Sexual Assault Overview
Any type of sexual contact or behavior which is unwanted by the recipient and takes place without explicit and freely given consent and understanding. Sexual assault can include manipulation, physical force, or coercion. Sexual assault about power, control, and entitlement, it is not about sex, attraction, rejection, jealousy, etc. Some examples of this behavior includes:
- Penetration, or attempted penetration, or another’s body
- Unwanted sexual touching with hands or other body parts
- Unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favors that, if rejected, would have direct consequences on your work, school, and/or social status
- Forcing someone else to perform sexual acts of any kind
Common is Sexual Assault?
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience sexual assault in their lifetime (1 in 5 college women are sexually assaulted during their time as a student) (NSVRC, 2015)
- About 80% of women will experience their first assault before the age of 25 (NSVRC, 2010)
- 28% of male rape victims were first assaulted at the age of 10 or younger (NSVRC, 2015)
- Among individuals with an intellectual disability, as many as 80% of women and 30% of men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime (Sorenson, 2000)
- 64% of transgender individuals experience sexual assault (FORGE, 2005)
Most sexual assault victim/survivors know the person who assaulted them
- About 80 – 85% of perpetrators know the person they assaulted
- Victims of child sexual assault know their perpetrator 90% of the time
Sexual assault can be committed by an intimate partner or spouse
- 51% of all sexual assaults are perpetrated by the victim/survivor’s current or former partner
It is normal for a victim to freeze during a sexual assault
- As many as 50% of sexual assault victim/survivors experience tonic mobility (temporary bodily paralysis) during their assault (National Institute of Justice, 2012)
Sexual assault is a crime that is planned and premeditated
- Sexual assault does not occur “by accident” – perpetrators premeditate their attacks by creating trust, isolating the victim, providing drugs or alcohol, or otherwise creating vulnerability (CCASA, 2012)
Most sexual assaults are not reported to the police
- Only about 33% of victim/survivors report their assault to police – it is the most underreported violent crime (National Crime Victimization Survey, 2008-2012)
Most perpetrators are not punished through the criminal justice system
- Approximately 2% of all reported sexual assault perpetrators will spend any time in prison (FBI Crime Reports, 2006-2010)
False rape accusations are uncommon
- Similar to other crimes, about 2 – 5% of sexual assault allegations are proven to be false (NSVRC, 2012)
Sexual Assault and Alcohol or Other Drugs
**Approximately half of all sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption on the part of the victim, the perpetrator, or both (NIAAA)
Perpetrators can use alcohol or other drugs to compromise an individual’s ability to consent to sexual activity. Using these substances makes it easier for a perpetrator to commit sexual assault.
- Reduces an individual’s ability to physically or verbally resist
- Affects memory – victim/survivors may not remember the assault or only remember pieces. Memories can resurface after time.
- Alcohol and other drugs are tools a perpetrator uses to commit sexual assault. They do not cause someone to be assaulted. The perpetrator is responsible.
- The victim/survivor is not responsible, even if they willingly consumed alcohol or other drugs.
- Prescription drugs like sleep aids, anxiety medication, muscle relaxers, and tranquilizers are common
- GHB, rohypnol (roofie), ecstasy/MDMA (molly), ketamine can be added to drinks without changing their color or flavor
- Some drugs can take effect very quickly, while others take more time. Be aware of sudden, unexpected changes to your body or mental state. Physiological effects can include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling very drunk when you have consumed little or no alcohol
- Sudden body temperature change, signaled by sweating or chattering teeth
- Sudden dizziness, disorientation, blurred vision
- Waking up with no memory, or spotty memory
- Most drugs leave the body very quickly, within 12 – 72 hours. If you are choosing to have a medical forensic exam, wait to urinate until at the hospital (if possible) or bring in a urine sample with you.
Sexual Assault - Understanding the Impact
There is no one way to react to a sexual assault. No matter your response, you did what was best for you in the moment. The following are some of the emotional and physical responses victim/survivors have after being assaulted.
Shock, disbelief, numbness, denial
- Trying to make sense of what happened or find a rational explanation
- Feeling numb is often the body’s automatic response to a traumatic experience. It is one way the body tries to protect itself from the impact of trauma.
- Numbness is caused by the release of certain hormones in the body to stop the individual from going into complete panic
- Sexual assault is not a “normal” life experience. No one ever expects that they will experience assault. Disbelief is normal and understandable.
- Victim/survivors may tell themselves the assault was all in their head, no big deal, or completely imagined.
- Similar to feeling numb, dissociation is feeling completely outside one’s body.
- Some survivors describe the sensation as though they are watching themselves from the outside
- Dissociation is very common for trauma survivors and is also the body in self-protection mode
- Our society regularly blames victim/survivors for what has happened to them. Messages such as “why were you doing ____?” or “why would you be alone with that person?” promote the idea that survivors could have avoided their victimization.
- In general, we do not talk about sex. We do not talk about healthy sex or sexual assault. We have no scripts or guides for how to have these discussions so feelings of embarrassment and shame can result.
- Most victim/survivors know their perpetrator. It is often easier to blame oneself than to believe that someone you know and trusted is capable of sexual assault.
Anger, frustration, out of control
- Sexual assault is about power and control. Perpetrators take control away from the people they assault. It is common for victim/survivors to continue to feel this loss of control over their body and their life
- It is common for victim/survivors to feel that they are no longer in control of their body. Some victim/survivors will engage in activities that either enhance a mind/body connection (conscious breathing, yoga, meditation, therapy), or further divide the two (alcohol/drug use, frequent relationships, self-harm, disordered eating). Both reactions are normal and understandable.
- It is common for victim/survivors to have flashbacks (or literally re-live) parts or all of the assault
- Flashbacks can be triggered by a number of things – sounds, smells, words, colors or images, certain people, gestures, bodily sensations, etc. This is normal and common after experiencing trauma
- It is common to be preoccupied with thoughts about the assault or feel powerless to stop thinking about it
Anxious, on-edge, jumpy
- Many victim/survivors experience “hyper-arousal” or feeling constantly on-edge as though something could happen at any moment
- Difficulty calming down, racing heartbeat, difficulty sleeping, inability to sit still
- Although almost 1 out of 4 women will experience sexual assault, it remains a very isolating experience.
- Feeling that no one understands, no one can help, you will never feel better
- Some victim/survivors feel that they just want the pain to end, and may consider suicide. If you are thinking about suicide please reach out to someone. You are not alone. It will not always feel like this.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
- It is common for victim/survivors to feel nauseous, experience gastrointestinal problems, continued colds or flu, muscle aches, headaches
- Loss of interest in physical intimacy – whether touching other people, or being touched
- Changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating.