After a Sexual Assault
If you have been sexually assaulted—or THINK you may have been sexually assaulted, consider the following options:
Go to a safe place and find someone to be with you who can be emotionally supportive.
Talk to someone you can trust. Sexual assault is a traumatic experience that can cause both physical and emotional injuries. There are confidential resources available on and off campus to help you process your experience and heal.
Speak with a confidential resource to discuss your options. The Pace University Counseling Center can provide you with free and confidential individual or group professional counseling services to help you deal with the assault, as well as help you get connected to other resources in the community. Contact your campus’ Counseling Center at (212) 346-1526 in New York City or (914) 773-3710 in Westchester. Or, you can get in touch with a local rape crisis center by contacting Victim’s Assistance Services at 1 (855) 827-2255.
- Assist you in understanding and working through your reactions to the assault.
- Enhance your coping skills and ability to deal with the assault.
- Provide support throughout the legal and/or campus judicial decision-making process.
- Minimize the potential long-term effects of sexual assault.
Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Education
Juliette Verrengia, MSW
Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Specialist
Peer Advocates Against Sexual Assault
The Peer Advocates Against Sexual Assault are committed to educating the Pace community about sexual assault and supporting survivors. As a confidential resource on campus, we are here to speak to anyone that wants to. Feel free to email us at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seek medical treatment as soon as you’re able. It is very important to seek medical attention as soon as possible (aim to seek medical within 72 hours of the incident) so you can receive treatment for any physical injuries, be screened for sexually transmitted diseases/pregnancy/date rape drugs, and/or obtain emergency contraception. Seek medical care even if you think you will not report the assault.
File a report with Pace’s Office of the AVP/Dean for Students. The University will investigate the complaint and take appropriate action if the accused assaulter is a member of the Pace University community, e.g. a student, faculty member, or employee, or if the assault occurs on campus or in connection with a University sponsored program or activity. A student may also request changes in on-campus living, class schedule, or other accommodations if needed as a result of sexual assault.
- Westchester: (914) 773-3351
- New York City: (212) 346-1306
Reporting the assault to the police if you feel you are able to. The police can help you understand the laws regarding sexual assault if you are not sure your experience meets the legal definition of sexual assault. If you’re experience does not meet the legal definition of sexual assault, it does mean that what happened was acceptable or that you should feel differently about what happened. The following resources are available 24/7:
- Local and county police:9-1-1
- University Safety and Security:
- Law School:(914) 422-4111
- New York City:(212) 346-1800
- Pleasantville:(914) 773-3400
Common Reactions Following Sexual Assault*
- Physical: trouble sleeping, nightmares, headaches, loss of appetite, overeating, stomach problems, and/or muscle tension.
- Emotional: denial, fear, sadness, anger, guilt, shame, embarrassment, crying spells, flashbacks, irritability, depression, and/or suicidal thoughts.
- Social: fear of being in public or in social situations, withdrawing from friends, difficulty trusting others, and/or trouble with physical intimacy in relationships.
- Academic: lack of concentration, impaired memory, missing classes, and/or lack of motivation.
*It is important to remember that ANY emotional response is normal. You may feel very upset, very calm, or anything in between. Everyone reacts differently. You may also experience rapid changes in your mood, which are to be expected.
Reminders and Other Suggestions:
- Sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault. Try not to blame yourself.No matter what you were doing or wearing, you did NOT ask to be sexually assaulted, even if you are already in a relationship with the person who harmed you.
- You can share your experience whenever you are ready. It can feel scary and intimidating to tell people about your experience. When you’re ready, consider telling one or multiple people that you trust. Close friends and family can be very helpful in providing support and help you to cope.
- Do your best to stay involved in your regular daily life. It can be hard to continue with your normal activities after experiencing sexual assault. Try to maintain your involvement in school, work, extracurricular activities, social life, and other lifestyle norms to the best of your ability.
- Don’t force yourself to forget about the assault right away. It is natural to want to “forget” about what is likely a very painful experience. However, this probably won’t make your difficult feelings go away. Attempting to pretend that the assault never happened is not a long-term solution and you deserve to take time to work through the experience and your genuine reactions.
- However you handled the assault is okay. It does not matter what strategies you used to get through the experience.The important thing is that you survived.
You Are Not Alone
- 16.5% percent of college seniors, according to the Association of American Universities Climate Survey, experienced nonconsensual (by incapacitation or physical force) sexual contact. (Cantor, et. al. Report on the AAU Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, 2017)
- 21% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted, compared to 18% of non-TGQN females, and 4% of non-TGQN males. (Cantor, et. al. Report on the AAU Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, 2017)
- A rigorous climate survey at Columbia University found that26% of female students, 9% of male students, and 47% of gender nonconforming students experienced sexual assault beforethey arrived on campus. (Mellins et al, 2017)
- In a national study, one in four college women surveyed said they had suffered an attempted or completed rape and fewer than 5% reported it to the police. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2002)
- In the U.S., nearly half (43.6%) of woman and nearly a quarter (24.8%) of men experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. (National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 2015)
- Among college women, nine out of 10 knew their attacker. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2001)
- Among developmentally disabled adults, as many as 83% of the females and 32% of the males are the victims of sexual assault.(“Courage Above All,” Sexual Assault Against Women with Disabilities, 1991)
Options for Medical Treatment
- Westchester Medical Center has a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) on staff. A SANE focuses on evidence collection. In New York City, Mount Sinai Medical Center offers their Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention (SAVI) Program.
- University Health Care is fully equipped to assess your injuries, test for and treat STDs, and provide emergency contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Services are confidential and college healthcare providers will not report your experience to the University unless you request they do so. Even if you are unsure whether you want to press charges, University Health Care staff can still provide care and assistance with your decision-making. View a list of confidential and non-confidential resources.
- Seek medical treatment through your general physician, a nurse practitioner, or a reproductive healthcare specialist.
You may or may not be ready to decide whether you want to pursue criminal charges immediately after you have been sexually assaulted. If you know that you want to press charges or think that you may want to consider pressing charges, it is advisable to seek medical attention to ensure that all available evidence is collected. Evidence can be collected up to 120 hours after an assault, but a preferred timeframe is up to 36-72 hours. The sooner it is done, the more likely that useful evidence can be recovered.
A number of behaviors that are common for survivors after a sexual assault are damaging to the preservation of evidence. Though it is very difficult, we encourage you to try to avoid doing the following:
- Taking a shower, washing hands or face, combing your hair, douching, changing or getting rid of your clothes. Evidence of the assault can be found in the fibers of your clothes, strands of your hair, or on other parts of your body, so it is important to try your best to preserve as much evidence as possible.
- Applying make-up or any other products that can change your appearance. Altering your appearance can hide bruising or lacerations that can be cited as evidence when pressing charges.
- Smoking or drinking.
- Urinating or defecating, if possible. Normal everyday behavior, such as going to the bathroom, can destroy or remove evidence of the assault.
- Cleaning up or changing the surroundings where the assault occurred.
How to Help a Friend
- Listen. Do not ask a lot of prying or invasive questions. Let your friend take their time to share the details.
- Believe. People rarely make up stories about being sexually assaulted. Do not express skepticism. Expect a friend in crisis to be confused. Do not criticize.
- DO NOT blame the victim. Reinforce that your friend is not to blame, no matter what.
- Empower. Help your friend understand and consider their medical, legal, and psychological options. If you do not know what these resources, see options above. Let them decide what action is right for them at this point.
- Encourage. Support your friend by encouraging them to get medical attention if they’re comfortable, even if she or he is not going to press charges.
- Share. Educate your friend about the common reactions [see above] to experiencing sexual assault in order to help normalize their experience.
- Be patient. Recovery from sexual assault trauma can be slow and nonlinear. Let the person proceed at their own pace.
- Support. Assure your friend that you will be available to provide support throughout the process of recovery. Check in on them in the following weeks.
- Know your limits. There are times where professional help is best. A trained therapist may be essential to helping your friend work through trauma associated with the assault and find more effective ways of coping. If your friend is not ready for counseling now, they may be ready later on. In the future, gently remind them about counseling services.
- Get support. You may have strong feelings about the trauma. If needed, seek counseling for yourself.