What to Do Immediately (first 24-72 hours)
- Go to a safe place. IF YOU ARE IN IMMEDIATE DANGER, CALL 911.
- Tell someone what has occurred. This is NOT a time to be alone. You may feel ashamed or embarrassed, think no one will believe you or that you are in some way to blame for the attack. They will! Call a friend, a family member, or someone else you trust who can be with you and give you support. They can assist you with the following steps.
- Do not blame yourself! Sexual assault is never the survivors fault. See Was It My Fault?
- Do what you can to preserve any evidence. The first 24 - 72 hours following the assault are highly important for your physical care as well to preserve any physical (i.e. DNA) evidence of the assault, even if you are unsure or do not want to press charges. Following the assault, do not shower, bathe, douche, eat, drink, smoke, wash your hands or face, or brush your teeth until after you have had a medical examination. If you must change your clothes, place ALL the clothing you were wearing in a separate paper (not plastic) bag. Do not clean or disturb anything in the area where the assault occurred. You may not feel ready or able to make a decision about whether to report your sexual assault, but if you preserve evidence now, you will have that option later. It is best for any physical evidence to be collected immediately, ideally within 24 hours.
- Contact your local Sexual Assault Crisis Center Hotline
All Crisis Hotlines are staffed by trained counselors available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week to provide immediate emotional support to survivors and their loved ones. These counselors are invaluable in helping you navigate the many options available to you. They are experts in the field and can help refer you to support services including local SART hospitals, emergency shelters, basic needs assistance, legal assistance, temporary protective orders, counseling, and other community services. They may also offer peer support groups. Don’t hesitate to call. In some cases support staff can also come meet you at the hospital, police department, etc. to help support you emotionally and assist with any questions or decision making processes you may have.
|City||Local & National Sexual Assault 24 Hour Crisis Center
& Support Services
Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR)
|SF Peninsula|| YWCA of Silicon Valley Rape Crisis Center
Hotline: 408-287-3000 or 650-493-7273
|Sacramento|| Women Escaping A Violent Environment (WEAVE)
866-920-2952 Toll Free
*Counselors can connect you with other centers in your area
4. Get medical attention.
Again, the first 24-72 hours are extremely important. Even if you have no apparent injuries after the assault, it is still a good idea to seek medical care. While seeking medical care and discussing your assualt might be difficult, is an important way for you to start taking care of yourself. You can decide what medical care you want or don't want. At the very minimum you should be seen and treated for physical injuries and discuss the risks of STDs. Women can also discuss risks of pregnancy resulting from the assault and obtain any preventative measures available if desired.
SART Exams: Sexual assault survivors are strongly encouraged to obtain a specialized sexual assault exam by a trained SART professional. SART stands for Sexual Assault Response Team and is the term used to describe an evidentiary medical exam. The SART exam does two things: it provides sensitive and thorough medical care and collects evidence that may be helpful to the prosecution of your case. Whether or not you decide to go forward with prosecution of the assailant, it is critical for any forensic evidence to be collected within 72 hours of the assault. Even if you choose not to proceed with pressing charges or an investigation, having this evidence collected and held can help ensure you have evidence should you ever change your mind in the future. Click here to read more about evidence collection and SART exams.
Note: Not all hospitals offer SART exams. Contact your local Sexual Assault Crisis Center (see chart with hotlines above) to find a hospital near you that offers these services.
Even if the assault happened days, weeks, or months ago it is still a good idea to seek medical care. This can be done on campus at the SMU Health & Counseling Center, through your general practitioner, or at local clinics and hospitals.
5. Write down as much as you can remember about the circumstances of the assault, including location, time, witnesses, events, a description of the assailant, etc. Keep any other evidence that you have connected with the event or assailant including things such as text messages, photos, phone calls, voicemails, etc.
6. Get information whenever you have questions or concerns. After a sexual assault, you have a lot of choices and decisions to make - e.g., about getting medical care, making a police report, and telling other people. You may have concerns about the impact of the assault and the reactions of friends and family members. You can get information by calling a rape crisis center, a hotline, or other victim assistance agencies.
7. Consider reporting the assault to police and university officials, whether or not you plan to file charges. Sadly, only 1 of 10 women ever reports their rape. The number of men who report is even smaller. There are many reasons why this number is so low. Survivors may…
- feel ashamed
- think that the pain will go away
- not be sure if what happened was really rape
- believe they are responsible in some way
Rarely do rapists attack one person only; they get away with it and so they continue to do it. The decision to report is totally up to you. For many survivors having their number counted, at least, is an important step in regaining the power they lost. You can discuss your situation with any of the resources listed here before you make a decision. There are many options to explore; the most important thing is to choose the path that is most comfortable and productive towards your recovery. Remember -- reporting a rape does not commit you to filing charges!
Reporting is best done as soon as possible after the assault, but it may be done at any time. Students can choose to make reports to City Police, University officials, or both. If you are unsure if you want to report, we encourage you to speak with a counselor at one of the Sexual Assault Hotlines (above) or at the SMU Health & Counseling Center. These counselors can help answer questions about the reporting process and assist in helping you make the best decision for you and all discussions are confidential.
University Reporting: The University encourages victims to report incidents of sexual assault. There are several reasons for this, including supporting the victim’s recovery, community safety, and accurate reporting of crime statistics. The University will assist students who report sexual assault in obtaining medical support and information regarding available legal and judicial resources as well as counseling and support services. The Office of Enrollment and Student Services oversees the Student Conduct Code and can take action against student behavior that violates any section of the code, including sexual assault. If you decide to go this route, make an appointment regarding “student misconduct” with an Assistant Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services at 510-869-6627. See also How To Report A Sexual Assault
Reporting an assault to the Police or other law enforcement authority does not require filing criminal charges, but it does allow all support systems to be put in place for the survivor. Filing a police report will provide the opportunity for collection of evidence helpful in prosecution and will allow the student to be connected with the appropriate support and medical resources. You can find your local police department here. Click here to learn more about reporting sexual assault to the police.
What to Do Over the Next Few Days & Weeks:
1. Make space for healing.. You have been through a trauma and need to make space for your own emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual healing. You may be overwhelmed by many different emotions - fear, grief, guilt, shame, rage. It is important to seek support. There are many different options, such as talking with a counselor at the Health & Counseling Center, seeking support through community organizations, joining a survivors group, or talking with a friend. People who receive counseling tend to recover from their experiences faster and with fewer lasting effects than those who get no help. Recovery from rape doesn't mean that it's as if the rape never happened. Recovery does mean that, over time, the survivor is not thinking about the rape-their emotions are not dominated by it. The survivor is able to envision a future, to set goals and work to achieve them. Their life moves forward.
Counseling On Campus:
SMU Health & Counseling Center - Oakland Campus
Open Monday - Friday between 8:00 - 5:00pm
Students at the SAN FRANCISCO PENINSULA and SACRAMENTO learning centers can access mental health services either on the Oakland campus or through the Sutter Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which will connect you with a provider in the community. Through EAP students will also receive up to 10 sessions per calendar year, free of charge. Please contact (800) 477-2258 to learn more about Sutter EAP.
Counseling Off Campus:
See these resources for information about finding an off campus mental health provider
- FAQs About Counseling
- Finding an Off-Campus Counselor
- List of Local Off-Campus Sliding Scale/Low Cost Counseling Centers
2. Do not blame yourself. Be compassionate with yourself. You need to be assured that you are not to blame for the rape. Even if your body responded sexually to the rapist, it does not mean you "enjoyed" the experience or that it is your fault. Even if you believe you were naïve, not cautious, or even foolish, it is not your fault. Your behavior did not cause the rape; the rapist caused the rape.