After a Sexual Assault
If you have been sexually assaulted—or THINK you may have been sexually assaulted—you SHOULD:
Go to a safe place and find someone to be with you who can be emotionally supportive.
Seek medical treatment immediately. It is very important to seek medical attention as soon as possible 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.
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.
Consider 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. The more assaults that are reported, the more perpetrators are arrested, charged, and convicted. 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
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
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. 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. For a list of confidential and non-confidential resources, click here.
- Seek medical treatment through your general physician, a nurse practitioner, or your gynecologist.
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 the sooner it is done, the more likely that useful evidence can be recovered.
In order to preserve the evidence for collection:
- You should NOT take a shower, wash hands or face, comb your hair, douche, change or get 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.
- You should NOT apply make-up or any other substance that can change your appearance. Altering your appearance can hide bruising or lacerations that can be cited as evidence when pressing charges.
- You should NOT smoke or drink anything.
- You should try to avoid urinating or defecating, if possible. Normal everyday behavior, such as going to the bathroom, can destroy or remove evidence of the assault.
- You should NOT disturb or change the surroundings where the assault occurred.
In the days and weeks after the assault you SHOULD NOT:
- DO NOT blame yourself for the assault. No matter what you were doing or wearing, you did NOT ask to be sexually assaulted.
- DO NOT hide the fact that you have been assaulted. Close friends and family whom you trust can be very beneficial in providing support and help you to cope.
- DO NOT withdraw from your daily activities.
- DO NOT pretend the assault never happened. It is normal to want to just “forget” about the assault, but this will not make your difficult feelings go away.
- DO NOT question or worry about how you handled the assault. The important thing is that you survived.
You Are Not Alone
- Every two minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000)
- 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 2002, one in every eight rape victims was a man. (National Crime Victimization Survey, 2002)
- In any given calendar year, approximately 5% of college women are victims of an attempted or completed rape. (The National College Women Sexual Victimization Study, 2000)
- Individuals aged 16- to 19-years old are more than four times more likely to be victims of an attempted or completed sexual assault than the general population. (National Crime Victimization Survey, 2000)
- Among college women, nine out of 10 knew their attacker. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2001)
How to Help a Friend
- Listen. Do not ask a lot of prying questions. Let your friend take her or his time to share the details.
- Believe. People rarely make up stories about being sexually assaulted. Don’t express skepticism. Expect a friend in crisis to be confused. Don’t criticize.
- DO NOT blame the victim. Reinforce that your friend is not to blame.
- Empower. Help your friend understand and consider her or his medical, legal, and psychological options, but let her or him decide what action to take.
- Encourage. Support your friend by encouraging her or him to get medical attention, even if she or he is not going to press charges.
- Share. Educate your friend about the common reactions [see below] to sexual assault in order to help normalize their experience.
- Be patient. Recovery from sexual assault trauma is slow. 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.
- 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.
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.
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.