Sexual Assault

The information on this webpage is here to provide you with some information about sexual assault, and offer you some practical guidelines for reducing the risk of being a victim of sexual assault.

The terms sexual assault, acquaintance rape, and date rape are often used interchangeably. Sexual assault is a general term that describes all forms of unwanted sexual activity. It includes but is not limited to rape or attempted rape.

Usually a sexual assault occurs when someone touches any part of another person’s body in a sexual way, even through clothes, without that person’s consent. Some types of sexual acts that fall under the category of sexual assault are forced intercourse (rape), oral or anal sexual acts or unwelcome or forced sexual touching not involving intercourse.

Assailants can be strangers, acquaintances, friends, or family members. Assailants commit sexual assault by way of violence, threats, coercion, manipulation, pressure or tricks. Whatever the circumstances, no one asks or deserves to be sexually assaulted.

Sexual assault in any form is a crime and should be reported to the appropriate authorities. Often victims of sexual assault blame themselves for the assault.

Remember: No one deserves to be the victim of a crime. Rape and sexual assault can happen to anyone; no one deserves to be hurt by another person.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE SEXUALLY ASSAULTED

IMMEDIATELY following a sexual assault:

  • Get to a safe place.
  • Call someone you trust. No matter how late it is, you should not be alone.  Call a friend, a family member or someone else you trust and ask them to stay with you.
  • Get immediate medical attention for possible injuries, sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy. Even if you think that you do not have any physical injuries, you should still have a medical examination and discuss the possibility of sexually transmitted infections with a medical provider. If you are female, you can prevent pregnancy by taking emergency contraceptive pills within 72 hours of the assault.
  • 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. Preserve all physical evidence. Do not bathe, shower, douche, eat, drink, smoke, or urinate, if possible. Save all of the clothing you were wearing at the time of the assault. Place each item of clothing in a separate paper bag. Do not use plastic bags. Do not disturb anything in the area where the assault occurred. Evidence can be collected at an emergency room and you can decide later whether or not you want to press criminal charges.  If the crime happened in your room or apartment, do not clean or straighten up until all evidence has been collected.  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.
  • Write down as much as you can remember about the circumstances of the assault, including a description of the assailant, her or his identity if you know it, and the use of threats or force.
  • Contact your local rape crises program for support, information, and to talk to someone who understands the trauma of rape, your rights under the law, and knows how to help
  • Call Womanspace at 609-394-9000 or 800-572-SAFE.   Womanspace will also send a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) nurse and an advocate to the hospital with the victim.
  • Or you can call 609-394-9000 and speak to a Rape Crisis Counselor. You can ask the counselor to activate the Mercer County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) if you desire. The SART consists of a Sexual Assault Advocate and a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). You do not have to reveal your identity to the counselor.
    • If the SART is activated, an Advocate and the SANE nurse will meet you at the Mercer County hospital of your choice. You also have the option of asking to have a police officer meet you at the hospital if you would like law enforcement to be notified. You DO NOT have to have law enforcement involved in order to have the advocate and SANE nurse meet you at the hospital.  If you DO WANT police involved, then they come to the hospital to ensure that the evidence is sent to the NJ State Police Crime Lab after it is collected at the hospital. If you DO NOT WANT to have police involvement right away, the evidence kit will still be kept, untested, for one year.

The following area hospitals are part of a program that allows SANE nurses to respond to and perform forensic exams after a sexual assault:

  • Helene Fuld
    750 Brunswick Avenue
    Trenton, NJ 08638
    609-394-6000
  • Capital Health Medical Center – Hopewell
    One Capital Way
    Pennington, NJ 08534
    609-303-4000
  • Princeton Hospital
    253 Witherspoon Street
    Princeton, NJ 08540
    609-497-4000
  • Robert Wood Johnson Hospital – Hamilton
    One Hamilton Health Place
    Hamilton, NJ 08690
    609-586-7900

What is a SANE nurse?

Being examined at a hospital may be part of the process of dealing with a sexual assault.  It is important to feel safe during this examination.  Having someone trained to perform these particular examinations and who understands the trauma of rape can provide this safety.

  • Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) are emergency room RNs who have completed specialized training to assist sexual assault victims.  They perform the physical examination, collect evidence from your body, provide you with emergency contraception, treat minor injuries, work cooperatively with law enforcement agencies and the courts, and most of all support your needs.
  • SANE nurses strive to preserve their patients’ dignity and ensure that survivors are not re-traumatized by the evidence collection process. 
  • SANE nurses are also trained in identifying patterned injury, documenting injuries, maintaining chain-of-evidence, and providing expert witness testimony.

WHO SHOULD I TELL?

Reporting 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.  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.

The choice is yours, and be aware that just because you notify the police does not necessarily mean you have to prosecute the assailant.

If you are unsure or do not want to report the assault or want to discuss what happens when reporting, contact either the Counseling Center (609-896-5157) or Womanspace (609-394-9000)

Confidentiality and Reporting
We understand that as a victim, anonymity can be crucial, that’s why the option to remain confidential is completely up to you.  However, in some circumstances, confidentiality cannot be promised so it’s important to know which resources can best serve your needs regarding confidentiality.

Confidential Service and Reporting Resources
The following resources are bound by confidentiality and are not obligated to report the sexual assault to any other agency/office or campus official.

On Campus:

  • Counseling Services Lawrenceville (609-896-5157) or Princeton Westminster (609-921-7100 x8275
    Counselors are available to work with students who are survivors of sexual assault and provide information regarding reporting and other support options.
  • Campus Ministry
    A listing of all religious organizations on campus and a contact number is listed here

Off Campus:

  • Womanspace 
    Womanspace operates a 24 hours hotline in Mercer County 609-394-9000. You can speak to someone immediately or a rape crisis advocate and SANE nurse can be sent to meet you at the hospital and/or the police station.  It is up to the victim to decide which, if any, of these services she/he would like.

Non-confidential Services and Reporting Resources
The following reporting options are often helpful resources for a victim who is trying to navigate the after effects of a sexual assault.  It is important for you to know however that CONFIDENTIALITY CANNOT BE PROMISED.  These offices are required to take further action and report the incident as per Title IX requirements.

Pursuant to Title IX all “responsible employees” must report all experienced or observed incidents of harassment, including sexual assault, or discrimination.  A “responsible” employee” is someone who has the authority to take action to redress the harassment, who has the duty to report to appropriate school officials sexual harassment or any other misconduct by students or employees, or an individual who a student could reasonably believe has this authority or responsibility.

Colleges and universities are required by state and federal statutes to investigate all reports of sexual assault committed by their students and provide proper sanctions to perpetrators based on the outcome of the investigation.

Additionally, once a report of sexual assault is made, the university may be obligated to alert the campus community of the report if the crime is deemed to be a threat to members of the campus community.  In making these determinations, the university will consider the safety of students, faculty, and staff as well as the privacy interests of all persons involved.  Regardless of the action taken by the university, be assured that the names of any person involved will not appear on security alerts.

You can find out more information about Rider University Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights in The Source

On Campus:

  • Office of Student Affairs- 609-896-5101
  • Public Safety- 609-896-7777
  • Student Health Services - 609-896-5060
  • Residence Life, including RA/RD/AD- 609-896-5102
  • Any other Student, Faculty, or Staff

Non-confidential Services and Reporting Resources

Off Campus:

  • Lawrence Township Police Department - 609-896-1111
  • Princeton Borough Police Department – 609-924-4141
  • Princeton Township Police Department – 609-921-2100

HOW TO HELP A FRIEND WHO HAS BEEN SEXUALLY ASSAULTED

  1. BELIEVE the survivor.
  2. If she or he chooses to talk, then listen.
  3. Be open with your comfort level. You do not want your discomfort with the situation to be misinterpreted as a lack of concern.
  4. Offer options instead of unsolicited advice. It is important that the survivor continue to see you as a resource. If the survivor feels uncomfortable with your advice, she or he may not follow-up, may worry about disappointing you, and may not get any help at all.
  5. Encourage the survivor to speak with a trained professional, but remember that the final decision needs to be made by the survivor.

Talk to a trained professional to clarify your own feelings and/or gather insight into what the survivor is experiencing.

RESOURCES FOR FAMILY AND FRIENDS

If you are a family member or friend of someone who has been sexually assaulted, your support as a friend or family member can make a big difference.  Remember, the most important step you can take is to believe the survivor and offer your support.

If you know someone who has experienced a sexual assault recently, or who just told you about abuse they experienced a long time ago, you may be experiencing some strong feelings, and you may have many questions.

The information in this section should assist in answering your questions and help you to feel better informed as you support a survivor.

MALE VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT

Men and boys are also the victims of the crimes of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and rape. In fact, in the U.S., over 10% of all victims are male.  Male survivors of rape and sexual assault are less likely to report the crime and seek help largely because of society's emphasis on the role of men and boys.  Male victims of sexual assault may feel ashamed because they were overpowered or dominated, and shame may contribute to feeling of isolation and a hesitation to seek professional help.

Male rape survivors should always be reminded that the assault was an act of violence and not one of a sexual nature.

  • RAINN
    The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network is the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization
  • After Silence
    An online support group, message board, and chat room for rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse survivors.

ACQUAINTANCE/DATE RAPE

Acquaintance rape is a sexual assault by an individual known to the victim. Another term "date rape" is a sexual assault by an individual with whom the victim has a "dating" relationship and the sexual assault occurs in the context of this relationship.
Almost 4 out of 5 rapes are committed by attackers who knew or recognized their victims (National Center for Victims of Crime & Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, 1992).

If you are a victim of acquaintance rape, get the help and support you need to cope with the effects of the assault and heal from the trauma you have suffered.

Safe Dating
Dating violence, rape and sexual assault can happen on college campuses. To help keep dating a safe, positive experience, the following information may be helpful.

  • Be assertive. You have the right to set limits, including sexual limits.
  • Communicate. Talking about your desires and limits clearly and firmly is extremely important. 
  • Negotiate with your partner if your desires differ. Neither party should feel their desires are disregarded. 
  • Avoid using alcohol or other drugs that may dull your senses and impair your judgment.
  • Trust your instincts. If a situation feels pressured, uncomfortable and/or unsafe, it probably is. 
  • Pay attention to what is happening around you. Do not allow yourself to become isolated or put in a vulnerable situation. 
  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers or leave your drink unattended; don’t trust someone else to watch your drink, even a friend. 
  • Talk before you act. Never assume any manner of dress or non-verbal behavior means a person is available for sex; only a verbal “yes” means consent.
  • Consent needs to be given. Sex may have been consented to in the past but it does not mean you can assume it applies to the current situation. 
  • Stay with the group. If you go out with a group of friends, make sure you leave with everyone, no one stays behind for any reason.

RAPE TRAUMA SYNDROME

Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that often affects rape survivors. RTS describes a process that rape survivors go through in response to the fear experienced during a sexual assault. Although each survivor has their own experience, there are common characteristics some survivors possess.

The rape survivor may experience symptoms of physically reliving the rape, fear of seeing the assailant, fear of another attack, sleep disturbances, nightmares, fear, suspiciousness, anxiety, major depression, and impairment in social functions.

It is important to note that there is no "wrong" way to cope with the immediate after effects of sexual.

For more information on Rape Trauma Syndrome, please visit the websites listed below:

  • Verity
    Website providing advocacy, support and education for victims of sexual assault
  • Gift from Within
    An International Nonprofit Organization for Survivors of Trauma and Victimization

RESOURCES AND HOTLINES