What to do if you've been sexually assaulted
Sexual assaults are all too common, even on college campuses. In fact, approximately one in every six women in the United States is a survivor of rape or attempted rape, while about 10% of all sexual assault victims are men (find references for these and other related statistics on the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network Web site). The staff at the Rivier University Counseling Center is deeply concerned about sexual assaults and is committed to supporting students who have been sexually assaulted. The information that follows is meant to provide guidance to such students, their friends and others who support them.
Contact information for key Rivier and Nashua resources
Public Safety and local police
Public Safety: (603) 888-1666
Nashua Police Department: (603) 594-3500 located at 0 Panther Drive at exit 5 in Nashua.
Southern NH Regional Medical Center: (603) 577-2500
St. Joseph Hospital: (603) 882-3000
Counseling and support
- Rivier University Counseling Center: (603) 897-8251
Free, confidential counseling services for students. You can access the counselor by calling direct or contacting your Resident Assistant or by calling the office of Public Safety at 888-1666. If you contact the campus safety officer, you only need to provide your first name and telephone number, and ask the officer to have the counselor call you back.
- Bridges (Rape and Abuse Crisis Service of Nashua) 24 hour crisis hotline: (603) 883-3044
Free, confidential crisis counseling; support groups; support during medical exams; advocacy and guidance in reporting the crime to the police and in navigating the judicial process.
- Rivier University Office of Residential Life: (603) 897-8244
Support and coordination of other services, available 24 hours/7 days a week when school is in session—contact your Resident Assistant or Resident Director.
- Rivier University Office of Campus Ministry: (603) 897-8577
Referral and support.
- Rivier University Office of Student Development: (603) 897-8247.
Support and advocacy through campus judicial process; help in arranging for medical or mental health leaves.
What to do immediately following a sexual assault
- Go to a safe place.
Consider going to your room, a friend’s room, or anywhere you will feel safe.
- Do not clean up.
It may be difficult to keep from cleaning yourself up, but if you do you may destroy evidence that could be useful should you decide to report the assault to the police. Don’t wash up, douche, change clothes, eat, brush your teeth, go to the bathroom, or brush your hair. Even if you are not sure about reporting the assault, it makes sense to preserve the option of reporting until you make a final decision.
- Call someone you trust.
No matter how late it is, you should not be alone. Consider calling a close friend or family member. Also consider calling a Rivier University staff member, such as the Counseling Center's counselor or one of the Resident Life staff. Also consider calling Bridges, (Rape and Abuse Crisis Service of Nashua) whose staff can be especially helpful in advocating for you and providing support.
What to do within 24 hours of a sexual assault
- Secure medical consultation. Go to either the Southern New Hampshire Regional Medical Center Emergency Department or St. Joseph Hospital Emergency Department. Medical staff can evaluate any injuries you may have suffered, screen for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy and if you choose, Southern NH Medical Center will offer to prescribe the “morning after” emergency contraception (such contraception can actually be used as long as 72 hours after intercourse). You are not required to take this if it conflicts with your religious beliefs. Do note, that it will not be offered at St. Joseph Hospital.
Strongly consider securing your medical consultation from a specially trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (often referred to as a “SANE nurse”). SANE nurses provide medical care for victims of sexual assault, and have the expertise to collect forensic evidence of the assault for possible prosecution of the assailant. The gathering of this evidence does not commit you to pursuing legal action against the assailant, but does preserve your options. These specially trained nurses are on staff at both Nashua hospitals.
Finally, consider asking someone you trust to accompany you when you go to your medical consultation and strongly consider calling the staff from Bridges (Rape and Abuse Crisis Service of Nashua), who can be especially helpful in providing support for you during your medical consultation.
- Consult with someone who can help you review your options for reporting the assault.
Your best community resource in this regard is Bridges (Rape and Abuse Crisis Service of Nashua). The staff at Bridges offers a variety of free support services to survivors of sexual assault, and can serve as your advocate as you decide whether or not to report the assault to local police. You may also choose to go directly to the Nashua Police Department. Your best Rivier University resource for reporting the assault include any one of the following, Counseling Center staff, the Office of Residence Life, Office of Student Development or the office of Public Safety. If the assailant was a student at Rivier, any one of these campus officials can help you decide whether and how to pursue judicial proceedings on campus. Your dean can also help you arrange to make up any missed school work.
What to do in the days following a sexual assault
- Consult with a counselor.
Many survivors of sexual assault experience troubling emotions in the wake of the assault. Sometimes these emotions occur immediately after the assault, and sometimes they occur later. It isn’t uncommon for survivors to experience shock, anger, helplessness, self-blame, shame, problems with eating or sleeping, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, irritability, denial and fear. A professional counselor can help you sort through and understand your feelings and can help you work to get your life back on track. The Rivier University Counseling Center offers free individual counseling to all Rivier students, and Bridges offers free crisis counseling and support groups. You might also consider seeing a private psychotherapist in the local community or in your hometown. The Counseling Center can provide you with a list of private psychotherapists in and near Nshua or your hometown.
Should you report the sexual assault?
While it often makes sense to consult with an advocate or counselor as you consider whether or not to report a sexual assault, the decision is a very personal one and is entirely your own. Note that it is particularly helpful to report sexual assaults by strangers because such assaults pose an alarming risk to the campus community. From a safety and investigatory standpoint, the sooner a sexual assault is reported, the better; even so, reports that occur weeks or months after the assault can be helpful as well. Survivors of sexual assault choose to report the assault for many reasons:
They may want the assailant to be punished for the crime.
They may be concerned that the assailant will assault them or someone else again.
They may want campus crime statistics to show how common sexual assaults are so that more will be done to prevent them.
They may want to regain a sense of control over the situation, and may want to work against the “blame the victim” tendency that sometimes presents itself in these situations.
Survivors of sexual assault can anticipate that campus judicial officers, local police investigators and the local courts will do their best to hold assailants responsible for their crimes; even so, the campus judicial process, the local police investigations and the local courts do not work perfectly, and survivors of sexual assault should secure support and advice from a counselor as they prepare to report the assaults.
Options for reporting:
- You can report the assault to Rivier University.
Particularly if the assailant is a Rivier student or if the assault occurred on campus, you should report the assault to a Rivier official, such as the Counseing Center staff or a public safety officer. Public Safety is required to release a warning to the entire campus to protect the community, but will do so in a manner that protects your identity and safeguards your privacy. A campus wide warning is not generated when you report a sexual assault to a member of the Counseling Staff.
- You can pursue formal criminal charges by reporting the assault to the Nashua Police Department.
Many survivors of sexual assault find it extremely useful to arrange for staff from Bridges to accompany them when they report the assault to the police. The staff from Bridges are particularly well-positioned to help guide survivors through the police and court systems. The staff from Public Safety can also serve as a helpful bridge between students and the local police. When you report the assault, local police officers will interview you, take a statement and investigate. Depending on the results of the investigation, an assistant county attorney may be assigned to your case and may follow your case to completion.