WHAT TO DO IF YOU'RE SEXUALLY ASSAULTED
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 HWS 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.
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 an HWS staff member, such as the Counseling Center’s counselor on call or one of the Residential Education staff members. Also consider calling Safe Harbors, whose staff can be especially helpful in advocating for you and providing support (see contact information below).
WITHIN 24 HOURS of a sexual assault:
- Secure medical consultation. Go to the Geneva General Hospital’s Emergency Department, to Hubbs Health Center or to any other health professional. Medical staff can evaluate any injuries you may have suffered, screen for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, and prescribe “morning after” emergency contraception (such contraception can actually be used as long as 72 hours after intercourse.
Strongly consider securing your medical consultation from a specially trained Sexual Assault Forensic Examination nurse (often referred to as a “SAFE nurse”). SAFE nurses provide free 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.
The closest SAFE nurse is at F.F. Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua. Students who are at all considering pressing charges should go there for a forensic exam. Click here for directions.
We strongly encourage sexual assault survivors to contact the staff at Safe Harbors as they are available to provide emotional and legal advice and support and can accompany survivors to the hospital for the forensic examination.
Finally, consider asking someone you trust to accompany you when you go to your medical consultation and strongly consider calling the staff from Safe Harbors, who can be especially helpful in providing support for you during your medical consultation (see 24 hrs / 7 days contact information, above).
- Consult with someone who can help you review your options for reporting the assault. Your best community resource in this regard is Safe Harbors (see contact information below). Safe Harbors has state certified volunteer sexual assault advocates who are available to support survivors in many ways including: accompanying survivors to the hospital medical exams; helping survivors decide whether or not to report the assault to the local police; accompanying survivors to the police station; and general legal and emotional support and advocacy. You may also choose to go directly to the Geneva Police Department.
Your best HWS resources for reporting the assault include any one of the deans, the Director of Residential Education, the Director of Human Resources or Campus Safety. If the assailant was a student at HWS, 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 or even arrange for a temporary leave from school.
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 HWS Center for Counseling and Student Wellness offers free individual counseling to all HWS students, and Safe Harbors offers free crisis counseling and support groups. You might also consider seeing a private psychotherapist in the local community or in your hometown. The CCSW can provide you with a list of private psychotherapists in and near Geneva.
- Consult with other HWS staff that can provide support. Consider talking with your dean, the college chaplain or the staff at Alcohol and Other Drug Programs.
SHOULD YOU REPORT A 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 as they prepare to report the assaults.
Students have several options for reporting a sexual assault:
- You can report the assault to HWS. Particularly if the assailant is an HWS student or if the assault occurred on campus, you should report the assault to HWS officials. You can discuss your rights and options by contacting Robb Flowers, who serves as the Student Sexual Grievance Officer; by contacting Sandy Bissell, who serves as the campus-wide Employee Sexual Grievance Officer; or by contacting your dean. If circumstances indicate, Campus Safety may 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.
- You can pursue formal criminal charges by reporting the assault to the Geneva Police Department. Many survivors of sexual assault find it extremely useful to arrange for staff from the Rape and Abuse Crisis Service of the Finger Lakes to accompany them when they report the assault to the police. The staff from RACSFL is particularly well-positioned to help guide survivors through the police and court systems. The staff from Campus 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 district attorney may be assigned to your case and may follow your case to completion.