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 and Wellness 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.
- 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.
- For guidance and support, consider calling the Rivier University Counseling and Wellness Center at (603) 897-8251. Your call and conversation with a Center Counselor is strictly confidential.
- Bridges (Rape and Abuse Crisis Service of Nashua) staff can be especially helpful in advocating for you and providing confidential support; they maintain a 24-hour crisis hotline at 603-883-3044 and will accept collect calls.
- Consider calling Public Safety or the Nashua Police Department. Note that all campus staff, other than a Counseling and Wellness Center Counselor, Health Services staff or the University Chaplain, are mandatory reporters, so confidentiality is not assured and reporting the assault to “responsible employees” will open an investigation. Though sooner is better, you do not need to report the assault immediately and can choose to do so later.
Public Safety Office: (603) 888-1666
Nashua Police Department: (603) 594-3500
Located at 0 Panther Drive at exit 5 in Nashua
- 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.
- Contact a member of the Counseling and Wellness Center at (603) 897-8251 to discuss your options. All services are free and confidential.
- Complete a Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Kit. This kit, provided by the NH Attorney General’s Office free of charge to the victim, collects evidence that could be helpful if you decide to report the assault to the police. Kits can be completed in any NH Emergency Department without charge to the victim, even if the victim chooses not to proceed legally. If you are thinking about completing a kit, please note the following:
– Most N.H. hospitals employ specially trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE). Some SANEs need to be called into the hospital, so it may be helpful for victims (or advocates) to call ahead to notify the hospital that a victim will be arriving.
– Evidence diminishes over time. Time, washing, changing one’s clothes or “cleaning up” after the assault will all increase the likelihood that valuable evidence will be destroyed. However, anyone reporting a sexual assault to emergency department personnel should be offered the option of completing an evidence collection kit up to 5 days after the assault. It’s important to bring a complete change of clothing if at all possible. Clothing worn at the time of the assault may contain evidence and will, in all likelihood, be taken as part of the kit.
– N.H. hospitals are required to immediately call an advocate from the local crisis center whenever someone seeks services for sexual assault. It is your choice whether or not to speak with she/he at that time.
– Receive testing for date rape drugs. If you believe that you may have been drugged as part of the assault, you can ask emergency department staff to test for the presence of drugs in your system. Because date rape drugs decompose quickly within your system, blood tests must be done within 48 hours of ingesting the substance. A urine test may contain evidence up to 72 hours after ingestion; Results of these tests will not be made available to a victim unless a police report is filed.
– Receive follow-up testing and care for pregnancy and/or STD’s. Health Services will assist you with this follow-up.
Southern N.H. Regional Medical Center: (603) 577-2500
St. Joseph Hospital: (603) 882-3000
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 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 and Wellness 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 and Wellness Center can provide you with a list of private psychotherapists in and near Nashua or your hometown.
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 or those known to you 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 investigators, 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. 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 and Wellness Center staff.
- You can pursue formal criminal charges by reporting the assault to the Nashua Police Department or the local authority having jurisdiction.
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 Public Safety staff 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.
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 N.H. Regional Medical Center: (603) 577-2500
St. Joseph Hospital: (603) 882-3000
Counseling and support
- Rivier University Counseling and Wellness Center: (603) 897-8251
Free, confidential counseling services for students.
- 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 Sr. MaryAnn Quibin Health Clinic: (603) 897-8295
*Find references for these and other related statistics on the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network Web site.