I was sexually assaulted. What should I do first?
If you were just sexually assaulted, call 911, your local police precinct, or Public Safety. We also recommend that you contact the Title IX Coordinator as soon as possible and get necessary medical attention immediately.
What rights and protections do I have if I disclose an incident of sexual misconduct to a responsible employee of my college?
When you first disclose an incident of sexual assault to a responsible employee of your college, that person will explain to you that you have the right to:
- make a report to university police or campus security, local law enforcement, and/or state police or choose not to report;
- report the incident to your institution;
- be protected by the institution from retaliation for reporting an incident; and
- receive assistance and resources from your institution.
What will happen when I contact Public Safety?
CUNY’s Public Safety Officers have received special training in helping students who have experienced a sexual assault or other forms of relationship violence. A Public Safety Officer will meet with you (at a convenient location) and help you determine what steps you should take next. These may include getting medical care at a hospital or reporting the incident to the New York City Police Department (NYPD.) If you want, the Public Safety Officer (or other campus designee, such as someone from Student Services, Counseling or Human Resources) will go with you to the hospital or the police department. The Public Safety Officer also will let you know of other options you have, such as filing a campus complaint with the Title IX Coordinator alleging a violation of CUNY’s Policy on Sexual Misconduct and seeing a counselor. If you are concerned about future on-campus contact with the person who assaulted (or harassed) you, the Public Safety Officer will put you in contact with campus officials who will take steps to address your concerns.
What will happen when I contact the Title IX Coordinator?
The Title IX Coordinator will listen to your concerns and discuss ways to address them–including filing a complaint with CUNY or the police. The Title IX Coordinator will fully explain CUNY’s Policy on Sexual Misconduct, including sexual/gender harassment, sexual violence, and retaliation. CUNY’s complaint process–steps, timing, and consequences–will also be fully explained. Importantly, the Title IX Coordinator will provide you with resources, information, and support to help you feel safe and secure.
How quickly must I decide what to do?
Going to a Hospital – Sexual contact can transmit sexually transmitted infections and, if you are female, can result in pregnancy. You can prevent pregnancy by taking emergency contraception within 120 hours (5 days) of the assault. Emergency contraception is most effective when taken as soon as possible. Medications to prevent the development of some sexually transmitted infections and HIV can be provided by a doctor. HIV prophylaxis treatment needs to be started within 72 hours. Screening for date rape drugs may be done up to 72 hours after the incident, but is optimally done within 12 hours.
Collecting physical evidence must occur within 96 hours (4 days). The hospital can preserve evidence of the assault until you decide what you want to do. (Most hospitals preserve the evidence for 30 days.) Many hospitals in New York have people who are specially trained to give medical exams and provide treatment to people who have been sexually assaulted. Such medical examinations are called sexual assault forensic examinations (SAFE exams) and gather evidence in a manner suitable for use in a court of law. Evidence collection does not require you to place a report with the police or press charges, it just preserves these options for the future. SAFE exams are free and you can stop the medical exam at any time if you are not comfortable. For a list of hospitals in New York City with this service, go to: http://www.svfreenyc.org/survivors_emergency.html.
Notifying Public Safety or NYPD – If you notify Public Safety or NYPD promptly, they can help you get the care you need and/or start investigating your allegations before evidence disappears and memories dim. Although you can contact them any time after the assault to discuss your options or file a complaint, we recommend that you contact Public Safety or NYPD as soon as possible.
Filing a complaint with CUNY – As with Public Safety and the NYPD, the sooner you notify the Title IX Coordinator, the better.
Seeing a Counselor – You can see a mental health counselor at any time.
What is Sexual Violence?
Sexual violence is an umbrella term that includes: sexual assault, such as rape/attempted rape, sodomy, forcible touching and sexual abuse. If of a sexual nature, stalking/cyberstalking and dating domestic and intimate partner violence may also constitute sexual violence.
What is the statute of limitations for sexual assault?
The statute of limitations (the amount of time the government has to bring a criminal action against the person who committed a crime) varies depending on the type of assault involved. For a misdemeanor sexual assault, it is two years; for many felony assaults, it is five years; and for other felony sexual assaults there is no time limit.
What is Title IX?
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects people from sex discrimination in educational programs and activities at institutions that receive federal financial assistance. Sexual harassment, which includes acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.
What is a Title IX Coordinator and what does the Title IX Coordinator do?
- Each CUNY campus has a Title IX Coordinator whose responsibilities include guiding students, employees and visitors on how to file complaints alleging sexual or gender-based harassment, and/or sexual violence at that campus and responding effectively to these complaints.
- The Title IX Coordinator coordinates and oversees investigations of sexual or gender-based harassment and sexual misconduct. As part of this role, the Title IX Coordinator will attempt to obtain consent from a complainant to conduct an investigation and will inform the complainant of the option of filing a criminal complaint.
- The Title IX Coordinator, working with other campus officials, will take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end any harassment, violence or retaliation, including interim measures such as making necessary changes to academic programs or residential housing situations, arranging appropriate escort or transportation services, prohibiting contact between the parties, enforcing orders of protection, offering counseling or medical services, or changing work assignments and schedules.
- The Title IX Coordinator will provide the complainant and the accused with periodic status updates and notice of the outcome of the complaint.
How do I file a complaint on campus against a person who assaulted me or engaged in other unwelcome sexual behavior towards me?
The Title IX Coordinator will inform you of the process of filing a complaint against the CUNY person (student, faculty, staff) or other person who you believe violated CUNY policy.
What is the difference between filing a complaint with CUNY and filing a complaint with the police?
- CUNY will investigate a complaint to determine whether a student or other member of the CUNY community violated CUNY’s Policy on Sexual Misconduct. As a result of the investigation, CUNY may bring internal disciplinary charges against the person, which could result in sanctions such as expulsion from campus or termination of employment.
- The police will investigate to determine whether the person has committed a crime and whether there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against the person. As a result, the person could go to jail or be subjected to other penalties.
- You can file a complaint with both the police and CUNY, or with one and not the other.
What do I do if I am being sexually harassed at my on-campus job?
Tell the Title IX Coordinator. It is important for us to know about it as soon as possible after it occurs so we can keep the campus or residence hall safe.
Does it matter if the person who assaulted me (or in engaged in the other types of unwelcome sexual behavior described in the policy) was neither a CUNY student nor a CUNY employee?
CUNY is here to help you regardless of who was involved. If the person was not a member of the CUNY community, we cannot bring disciplinary charges against the person. But we can advise you, among other things, on getting medical care and determining whether to report the incident to the police. If the incident by the non-CUNY person took place on campus or in a residence hall, it is important for us to know about it as soon as possible after it occurs so that we can also notify Public Safety not to permit the non-CUNY person into the campus, residence hall, or employment setting.
If I speak with the Title IX Coordinator, Public Safety or a counselor, will it be kept confidential?
- Your conversations with a mental health counselor will be kept confidential. (Exception: If you tell the counselor about a risk of serious and imminent harm against someone, the counselor may need to disclose it.)
- The Title IX Coordinator and Public Safety will respect your request for confidentiality but may need to share the information with others who have a need to know it. They will let you know what information they may need to share with others.
- If you request confidentiality, please understand that CUNY’s ability to investigate and address your complaint may be limited.
Are there certain employees who have a duty to report incidents of sex-based harassment or sexual violence?
Yes. As designated in CUNY’s Policy, certain employees are considered “responsible” employees who cannot maintain your confidentiality and must report incidents of sex-based harassment or sexual violence to the Title IX Coordinator.
What can Bystanders and other community members do to help prevent sex or gender-based harassment or sexual violence?
CUNY encourages all other community members, including faculty, students and visitors, to take reasonable and prudent actions to prevent or stop an act of sex or gender-based harassment or sexual violence that they may witness. Although these actions will depend on the circumstances, they include direct intervention, calling law enforcement, or seeking assistance from a person in authority. In addition, CUNY encourages all community members to report an incident of sex-based harassment or sexual violence that they observe or become aware of to the Title IX Coordinator, and/or the offices of Public Safety and the Vice President of Students Affairs and/or Dean of Students at their college. Community members who take action in accordance with this paragraph will be supported by the college and protected from retaliation.
If I file a complaint against the student who assaulted me, what will happen to the student?
The accused student will be notified of the complaint and instructed not to contact you. S/he will also be advised of how the grievance procedures work. CUNY is committed to making the disciplinary procedure as transparent and fair as possible for both parties. An investigation will be conducted, and you will be notified of the conclusions reached. If it is determined that the allegations are supported by the evidence, discipline against the accused student will be sought. The accused student has a right to a student disciplinary hearing before the penalties the college seeks can be imposed.
The person who assaulted me lives in my residence hall and we are both in the same Chemistry class. Is there anything that can be done?
Yes. If you make a complaint to the Title IX Coordinator, the College can take steps to address your concerns by providing you with interim and supportive measures. These may include changes to room assignments or residential housing situations, issuing “no contact” orders, or class changes.
I filed a complaint and now the friends of the person who assaulted me are taunting me for “having ratted” on their friend. What can I do?
Retaliatory conduct is illegal and will not be tolerated. Persons who engage in it are subject to disciplinary action. Inform the Title IX Coordinator as soon as possible. S/he will discuss possible remedies with you. We want you to feel safe.
I think I was sexually assaulted but was drunk at the time. I don’t remember saying “no” and did not put up a fight. Does that mean I consented?
No. You do not need to say “no” to indicate you do not consent. Consent cannot be inferred from the absence of a “no.” Consent is a knowing, informed, voluntary and mutual decision to engage in agreed upon sexual activity; it can be withdrawn at any time. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create clear permission regarding willingness to engage in (and the conditions of) the sexual activity. Silence or failure to resist does not, in and of itself, demonstrate consent. If you were drunk, you may not have had the capacity to consent.
I was using drugs at the time I was assaulted. If CUNY finds out, will I be disciplined for the drug use?
CUNY strongly encourages students to report instances of sexual harassment, gender-based harassment or sexual violence as soon as possible, even if those reporting or the alleged victim may have engaged in the inappropriate or unlawful use of alcohol or drugs. Therefore, in accordance with CUNY’s Drug/Alcohol Use Amnesty Policy, a student acting in good faith who reports or experiences sexual harassment, gender-based harassment or sexual violence will not be disciplined by the college for any violation of CUNY’s Policy Against Drugs and Alcohol in connection with the reported incident.
I told my RA about being assaulted and she discouraged me from telling anyone about it, let alone going to the police. What should I do?
Please let the Title IX Coordinator know about your experience. Your RA should not discourage you from speaking about your experience, let alone reporting it. The Title IX Coordinator can help you determine whether you should report the assault and arrange for you to speak to a professional counselor about your experience.
If I file a complaint, will my sexual history with other people be questioned or examined?
No. Your prior sexual history with other people is not relevant.
If there were no witnesses, will my complaint be addressed?
Yes. There often are no witnesses to sexual assaults. CUNY’s Title IX Coordinators and the police are trained to investigate these types of cases.
I previously had consensual sex with the person who sexually assaulted me. How will I be able to prove I did not consent this time?
This is a common concern among persons who experience sexual assault. Please remember that having consensual sex with a person once (or even multiple times) does not mean that you consent to having sex with that person forever. Past consent to sexual activity between individuals does not constitute consent to subsequent sexual activity between those individuals, and consent to one form of sexual activity does not necessarily imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. Whether one party to sexual activity is in a position of authority or influence over the other party is a relevant factor in determining consent. CUNY’s Title IX Coordinators and the police have a great deal of experience addressing these situations.
I have a question that is not addressed here. Who can I ask for more information?
Title IX Coordinator
Sexual assault is a traumatic event, and we all handle traumatic events in different ways. Though each person and situation is unique, the following list summarizes a range of reactions to sexual assault that many people feel. This list may help you know what to expect.
- Emotional shock: I feel so numb. Why am I so calm? Why can’t I cry?
- Confusion or denial: Did it really happen? Why me? Maybe I imagined it. It wasn’t really a sexual assault. I don’t really need help.
- Embarrassment: What will people think? I can’t tell my family or friends.
- Shame: I feel so dirty, like there is something wrong with me. I want to wash my hands or shower all the time. I feel like I have brought shame to my family.
- Guilt: I should have known better. I must have caused this to happen in some way. If only I had done something differently.
- Depression: How am I going to get through this semester? I’m so tired. All I want to do is cry and hide. I feel so helpless.
- Suicidal thoughts: Maybe I’d be better off dead.
- Powerlessness: Will I ever feel in control again?
- Disorientation: I don’t even know what day it is, or what class I’m supposed to be in. I can’t remember my appointments. I keep forgetting things.
- Triggers and flashbacks: I’m still re-living it. I keep seeing that face all the time.
- Fear: I’m scared of everything. What if I’m pregnant? Could I get a sexually transmitted infection (STI), or even HIV? How can I ever feel safe again? Do people realize there’s anything wrong? I can’t sleep because I know I’ll have nightmares. I’m afraid I’m going crazy. I’m afraid to go outside. I’m afraid to be alone.
- Anxiety: I’m having panic attacks. I can’t breathe! I just can’t stop shaking. I can’t sit still in class anymore. I feel overwhelmed.
- Anger: I want to harm the person who attacked me!
Physical stress: My stomach (or head or back) aches all the time. I feel jittery and don’t feel like eating.
Remember, you are not to blame, even if…
- The perpetrator was an acquaintance, date, friend, or spouse.
- You had been sexually intimate with the perpetrator or with others before.
- You were drinking or using drugs.
- You froze and did not or could not say “no,” or were unable to fight back physically.
- You were wearing clothes that others could perceive as seductive.
Regardless of the circumstances, sexual assault is not your fault.
Getting back on track
It is important for you to know that any of the feelings after being sexually assaulted are normal and temporary reactions to a traumatic event. Fear and confusion will lessen with time, but the trauma may disrupt your life for a while. Reactions might be triggered by people, places, or things connected to the assault, or they might seem to come from “out of the blue.”
Talking about the assault can help you feel better, but it may be really hard to do. In fact, it’s common to want to avoid conversations and situations that may remind you of the assault. You may have a sense of wanting to “get on with life” and “let the past be the past.” This is a normal part of the recovery process and may last for weeks or months.
Eventually you will need to deal with fears and feelings in order to heal and regain a sense of control over your life. Talking with someone who can listen in an understanding and affirming ways — whether it’s a friend, member of your place of worship or community, family member, hotline-staff member, or counselor — is a key part of the healing process.
Recovering from a sexual assault is a gradual process that is different for everyone. Victims/survivors may have different needs and coping strategies, so there is not a set timeline for healing. There are many decisions to be made and many feelings to be expressed. Not all of the decisions or feelings will need to be handled at once, but rather as recovery progresses. This is a brief outline of the recovery process that many, but not necessarily all, victims/survivors go through.
I just want to forget what happened.
You may go from feeling emotionally drained, confused, and out of control to trying to forget what happened. You may begin distancing yourself from the sexual assault and outwardly appear “recovered,” but friends and family members’ support is still needed.
I’m so angry and depressed. I can’t seem to get control of my emotions.
Regardless of how hard you may try to keep the sexual assault from impacting your life, no matter how much you may deny its importance, the experience has had a profound influence. You may experience anger, depression, shame, anxiety, and feel that everything is falling apart. Recurring nightmares and flashbacks are common during this time.
Depression may cause a change in sleeping or eating patterns, and anger may be directed at the perpetrator, loved ones, or yourself. It may be difficult, at first, to feel comfortable with intimacy, including trusting people, exploring new relationships, and enjoying sexual activity, if you choose to be sexually active. Understand that this may take time. Resist being pressured to be sexually active before you are ready.
Many victims/survivors seek assistance from trained professionals who can help to put their lives back together and recover from stress related to the assault.
Life goes on and I can handle it.
You have resolved a lot of the anger and depression. The sexual assault may have changed your life, but it now plays a smaller role. You feel more in control.
Ways to take care of yourself
- Get support from friends, family, and community members. Try to identify people you trust who will validate your feelings and affirm your strengths.
- Talk about the assault and express feelings. Choose when, where, and with whom to talk about the assault, and only disclose information that feels safe for you to reveal.
- Use stress-reduction techniques. Exercise by jogging, doing aerobics, walking and practice relaxation techniques such as doing yoga, listening to music, and meditating.
- Maintain a balanced diet and a normal sleep cycle as much as possible and avoid overusing stimulants like caffeine, sugar, nicotine, or alcohol or other drugs.
- Discover your playful and creative self. Playing and creativity are important for healing from hurt.
- Take “time outs.” Give yourself permission to take quiet moments to reflect, relax, and rejuvenate, especially during times you feel stressed or unsafe.
- Try reading. Reading can be a relaxing and healing activity.
- Consider writing or journaling as a way of expressing your thoughts and feelings.
- Consider counseling.
When someone has been sexually assaulted, chances are that they will turn to a friend for help. You are an important person to the survivor; this is why the survivor shared this experience with you. Knowing how to respond will be very helpful in your friend’s recovery. This page offers guidance on how to best support your friend.
When a person is sexually assaulted, keep in mind that their power has been taken away from them. As you are helping your friend, allow your friend to maintain control over what happens next. Offer information, and then let your friend make their own decisions including who they talk to, what services they access, and what actions they decide to take or not take. Even if you disagree with your friend, supporting them in making their decisions will help them feel more in control. When your friend remains in control, they will be better able to regain a sense of strength, power, and safety.
What if the sexual assault happened in the past few days?
There are some time sensitive decisions your friend may have to make. If your friend is female, she can prevent pregnancy by taking emergency contraception within 120 hours (5 days) of the assault. Emergency contraception is most effective when taken as soon as possible. Collecting physical evidence must occur within 96 hours (4 days). Medications to prevent the development of some sexually transmitted infections and HIV can be provided by a doctor. HIV prophylaxis treatment needs to be started within 72 hours. Screening for date rape drugs may be done up to 72 hours after the incident, but is optimally done within 12 hours. Since many of these drugs clear the system quickly, a negative test result does not necessarily mean that no drug was involved. It is helpful to inform your friend of this information, provide the options, and then let them decide what to do or not do next.
What should I do if my friend doesn’t feel safe?
There may be times when your friend is physically or emotionally unsafe. If your friend needs immediate medical attention, is suicidal, or at risk of hurting themselves or others, you should call Campus Public Safety or 911.
If your friend is not in immediate danger, help them think about what changes, if any, they would like to make that will help them feel safer, whether related to their physical surroundings or how they interact with people. There is support available to help your friend think about ways to feel safer and decide if they want a restraining order or a University no-contact order. Your friend can speak to the Title IX Coordinator.
Should my friend report the sexual assault to the police?
Whether the assault happened recently or a long time ago, your friend may consider reporting the assault to the police. Reporting the incident is a personal, difficult decision. This decision can only be made by the person who has been assaulted. It is best to avoid pressuring your friend to report the incident. You or your friend can discuss reporting options and whether to report the incident with the Title IX Coordinator. If your friend wants to report the crime, your friend can notify Campus Public Safety or the police. For some, reporting the crime can help regain a sense of personal power and control.
What are some of the tactics that offenders use?
It’s very difficult to recognize someone who would commit sexual assault. They can be male, female, or transgender, queer or straight, and they live in all communities and on all college campuses. They are a very small percentage of the population but they will typically commit multiple sexual assaults. They can seem very friendly and charismatic; but behind closed doors, they act very differently and may use force, coercion or manipulation against a victim.
Common tactics include:
- Planning and preparation, including establishing trust with a potential victim.
- Assessing someone’s vulnerability as a means of identifying a potential victim. (i.e. seeking out a first year student or someone who appears socially isolated, and testing a person’s boundaries).
- Using only the amount of force that is necessary. Body weight is frequently used as a means of force.
- Using alcohol or other drugs to create vulnerability.
- Afterwards, denying the harm caused by calling the assault consensual and/or by continuing to contact the victim.
- An offender often counts on the “hook up” culture to normalize what they have done.
What if my friend is male?
Gender stereotypes about men and boys make it particularly difficult for men to seek support. If your male friend has shared with you that he has been sexually assaulted it’s important that you believe him, avoid reinforcing gender stereotypes about men and boys, and understand how he may react to the incident. Many people believe that only women are victims of sexual assault. The fact is that 1 out of every 10 men is sexually assaulted. Although most perpetrators of sexual assault against men are male, women are offenders as well. A male assaulted by another male may question his sexuality and struggle with internalized homophobia. Research has consistently found that male and female victims experience similar effects: fear, anger, shame, isolation, substance abuse, low self-esteem, depression and issues with sexuality. Men may be more likely to outwardly express their anger and use substances to cope with difficult emotions; but, like all survivors, individual reactions will vary and can depend on many things such as personal history and support from family and friends. The stereotype that men and boys are supposed to be tough, in control, and unemotional minimizes the trauma that male survivors experience.
How can I help a friend who has been sexually assaulted?
- Validate and believe
If your friend feels ashamed or guilty, reassure them that the incident was not their fault and that their feelings are normal. Often survivors feel that others will question or minimize what has happened. Let your friend know that you believe them. Your friend may not disclose the sexual assault for days, months, or years after it occurred. Limit the number of questions you ask as this can make a person feel as if you doubt them or that they need to prove what happened. Avoid questions that could imply blame such as “Why did you go back their room?” “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” “Why didn’t you fight them off?” You can be supportive without knowing the details of the incident. Use open-ended questions such as “How are you feeling?” or “What can I do to help?” Give your friend time and space to share with you as they are ready to do so.
One of the greatest gifts you can give a friend is your ability to listen. Avoid judgment, giving advice, and sharing your opinions. Just listen. Some survivors will want to talk more than others. Let your friend know that you are available to listen when they are ready to talk.
- Do not confront an alleged offender
While it is normal to be angry at the person accused of hurting your friend, confronting this person can result in the offender escalating behavior (i.e., stalking) against the victim.
- Protect your friend’s privacy
When someone is sexually assaulted they may feel like everyone knows what happened to them. It’s important that you get permission from your friend before you talk to anyone about what they have shared with you. Your friend has confided in you because they trust you. If you talk to another person about the incident, your friend may feel betrayed. At the same time, you may find it difficult to maintain your friend’s privacy because the incident is upsetting to you. You can seek support from the resources on this website without identifying who your friend is.
- Take care of yourself
When someone you care about is hurt, it is normal to feel angry, sad and powerless. As a friend, it is also common to experience many of the same reactions a survivor does. Consider getting support with how you are feeling. Processing your feelings with the person who has been sexually assaulted can be overwhelming to them and may exacerbate how they are feeling.
- Believe in the possibility of healing
Let your friend know that you believe that they have the strength and the capacity to heal. People are resilient; they can and do recover from the trauma of sexual assault.