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Davis, California

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Not always fun

You may not have noticed, but I think sex is awesome. In my perfect world, as long as everyone is being safe and consensual, I want them to have whatever type of sex makes them feel amazing and happy. And, importantly, I want refusal of or abstention from sex to be respected just as much as desire for sex.

Unfortunately, sex in the real world can play out very differently than the ideal. People can be careless, selfish and, at their worst, terrible and lacking in empathy. And that means that sex, in certain circumstances, can be an awful experience and/or leave you to deal with difficult consequences.

Today, we’ll go over what to do if you’ve had unprotected sex and what to do if you’ve been sexually assaulted. Reading about these topics (especially the second one) can be very difficult for some people, so if you need to stop reading now, do so.

When I say unprotected sex, I am referring to both instances in which there was hormonal contraception but no barrier and instances where there was neither. In both cases, I recommend calling the Student Health Center Advice Nurse first, as this allows you to discuss your concerns and get suggestions about the next steps to take.

The advice nurse hotline is 24/7, so they are available even when the health center is closed. So, if something happens Friday night, you don’t have to spend all weekend wondering what to do.

A main concern of having sex without a barrier is getting tested for STIs — particularly if your partner was not someone who knew/revealed their own STI status. You can schedule a rapid urine test for chlamydia and gonorrhea at the Student Health and Wellness Center (SHWC) via Health-e-messaging. If you don’t have access to campus resources, Planned Parenthood offers testing for a variety of STIs (the nearest clinic is in Woodland).

I also suggest that, as a preventative measure, you pick up a packet of emergency contraception (it’s cheapest at the SHWC pharmacy) and store it next to your condoms. That way, if you have unprotected sex, a condom breaks or something else goes wrong, you have backup on hand.

Depending on the circumstances, much of the above advice is applicable in the instance of sexual assault. However, before you worry about any of it, there are a few steps you should take.

First, get yourself to a safe place as soon as possible. If you want to report the assault, notify the police immediately (many people find that doing so helps them regain a sense of personal power and control). And, as much as possible, preserve the evidence of the assault. Save the clothes you were wearing at the time, and do not bathe, eat, drink or brush your teeth.

On the emotional/mental end of things, if there ever was a time to call in your support network, now is that time. Call a friend, family member or someone else you trust, who can be with you and take care of you while you deal with the aftermath.

Survivors experience a variety of emotions, from shock and disbelief, to anger, vulnerability and guilt. You may experience some or all of these reactions, and they may occur immediately or in a few days, weeks or months. So, try not to add more mental stress to yourself because you feel you are not reacting “appropriately.” Everyone deals with sexual assault in their own way. Most importantly, keep reminding yourself that what happened was not your fault.

If you are part of the UC Davis community, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to contact the Campus Violence Prevention Program (CVPP). Their services are confidential, they refer survivors to the campus and community services that best fit their specific needs, as well as act as advocates.

The CVPP also supports survivors by accompanying them to hospital visits and interviews with law enforcement. Not only does this lessen the stress and anxiety that a survivor may feel about those situations, but it also helps those whose support networks are far away and cannot be physically present.

SAM WALL can be reached for questions at sewall@ucdavis.edu.

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