The following is important information regarding what to do if you were sexually assaulted.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), people aged 18 -34 are at the highest risk for rape and sexual assault.
The 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.
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 doing so 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. Or, for guidance and support, consider calling:
- The Counseling and Wellness Center at (603) 897-8251. Your call and conversation with a Center Counselor are strictly confidential.
- Bridges (Rape and Abuse Crisis Service of Nashua) at (603) 883-3044. This is their 24-hour crisis hotline. Staff can be especially helpful in advocating for you and providing confidential support.
What to Do Within 24 Hours of a Sexual Assault
- Learn about your options. Contact a member of the Counseling and Wellness Center at (603) 897-8251 to discuss your options. All services are free and confidential.
- Secure medical consultation. Go to the Emergency Department of a local medical center. The closest options are either Southern New Hampshire Regional Medical Center or St. Joseph Hospital. There, medical staff can evaluate any injuries you may have suffered and screen for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. 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.
- 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.
- Complete a Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Kit. This kit, provided by the NH Attorney General’s Office, 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 NH 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 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 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 the advocate 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. Victims of sexual assault and rape are at high risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and/or pregnancy. Health Services will assist you with this follow-up.
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. A professional counselor can help you work to get your life back on track. The following options are available to you:
- The Rivier University Counseling and Wellness Center offers free individual counseling to all Rivier students.
- 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 local private psychotherapists in Nashua or your hometown.
Should You Report Your 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.
From a safety and investigatory standpoint, the sooner a sexual assault is reported, the better. 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.
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. You can do so 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 Local Resources
Public Safety and Local Police
- Public Safety: (603) 888-1666
- Nashua Police Department: (603) 594-3500, 0 Panther Drive, Nashua, NH
- Southern N.H. Regional Medical Center: (603) 577-2500, 8 Prospect Street, Nashua, NH
- St. Joseph Hospital: (603) 882-3000, 172 Kinsley Street, Nashua, NH
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 Health Services: (603) 897-8295
Counseling and Wellness Center
- Telephone (603) 897-8251
- Location Learning Commons
Note that all campus staff, faculty, and administrators —other than a Counseling and Wellness Center Counselor, Health Services staff member, 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.