Sexual assault is unwanted sexual contact. If you've had something happen, you may not know what to call it. Was it a sexual assault? rape? You don’t have to know what to call it in order to get help sorting through some common concerns.
Most commonly, people assault people they know to some degree. You may have heard of this as “date rape” or “acquaintance rape,” though we currently prefer the phrase “non-stranger sex assault.”
What to Do
If the assault happened in the past 72-96 hours, there are some time-sensitive considerations such as the decision to have medical evidence collected and or address other health concerns. If your assault happened longer than 72 hours ago, the option to report to the police, gather evidence and have an investigation still exists. However, reporting is not the only issue. You may have concerns about housing, academics and your relationships with family and friends and the person who assaulted you. The Office of Victim Assistance (OVA) is free and confidential resources to help with these concerns.
There is a lot of information below to help people know more about their options. Here is an index of what you will find below.
Medical options-Support-Reporting options, includes police and administrative/CU options-Housing-Academics-Protective Orders-Confidential Online form-How to help a friend-Other resources
Especially in the first 72-96 hours, medical concerns like pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STI) or injuries may be important to address. Even after 72 hours have passed, treatment is available and may put your mind at ease. There is a difference between getting treatment from a medical professional and having medical evidence collected for possible investigation.
If you have injuries related to an assault, and want treatment but no evidence collection, please go to the doctor. Keep in mind that if you are under the age of 18 or have physical injuries, doctors may be required to report the assault to police. If you want, you can ask about reporting requirements before receiving treatment. OVA or Moving to End Sexual Assault (MESA) can help you with this. You deserve to have treatment and to heal. If you need immediate emergency treatment Boulder Community hospital is the closest hospital to CU.
If you do not want or feel you need an emergency room visit, but are worried about sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy, emergency contraception and/or STI treatment is available if you choose at The Women’s Clinic at Wardenburg Student Health Center 303-492-2030. Another community option is the Boulder Valley Women’s Health Clinic. Despite the name, Boulder Valley Women's Health Clinic does serve people of all genders and has a sliding fee scale, 2855 Valmont Rd, Boulder, 303-442-5160. You can also visit Planned Parenthood at 303-447-1040.
Medical evidence collection
Evidence collection is done at Boulder Community Hospital by trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE). Even though it’s common to want to bathe after a sexual assault, please consider not if you want to have evidence collected, as some evidence might be lost. If you have bathed, it’s still possible to collect evidence.
You can learn more about evidence collection by calling OVA 303-492-8855 (8-5 M-F), or MESA 303-443-7300, 24-hour hotline or click here. Advocates are available to meet you at the hospital to offer support and information. You can have a medical forensic exam done even if you do not know whether or not you want to report this to the police. If you think there is a possibility that you will decide to report this to the police at a later date, it is best to get the exam done as early as possible. Once the exam is completed the police will be called to collect the evidence. It is your choice if you would like to speak with the police. There are two options for how the evidence collected in stored 1) anonymously in which the survivors name is not included or 2) the survivors name is included as part of the evidence. This is your choice.
We are purposefully not using the term “rape kit.” While “rape kit” is often heard in the media this term is not trauma-informed or supportive to an individual in crisis. It also does not fully encompass the spectrum of care given in a medical forensic exam and may discourage individuals who do not identify with the term “rape” from seeking medical care.
The exam itself will be paid for, either by the police department to whom you report, or by the state of Colorado if you decide against reporting to law enforcement. Anything not included in the exam itself (Plan B if you choose, or antibiotics, ER fees, etc.), will be your financial responsibility. There may be help available to cover costs not paid by insurance. OVA can help you learn about these options. Also click here for information on hospital billing or here for Victim's Compensation.
If you do want to report to the police, OVA or MESA can help you with this if you choose. If your assault happened on campus property, contact the University of Colorado Police Department (UCPD) at 303-492-6666. If the assault took place within the Boulder city limits contact the Boulder Police Department (BPD) 303-441-3333, if it took place in Boulder County contact the Boulder Sheriffs Office (BSO) 303-441-4444. If you are unsure of the difference any of these departments can help you.
Transportation: If you would like to get a medical forensic exam without consultation you can call 911 directly and tell the dispatcher that you want to report a sexual assault and would like to preserve evidence, the police can transport you to see a SANE and a MESA advocate may be called to meet you at the hospital to provide information on resources and support. If one does not want to contact the police you can go directly to Boulder Community Hospital and ask to see a SANE. If you do not have transportation to the hospital students can go to Wardenburg and ask for a travel voucher which will be provided to you. You can also take the Stampede or the Jump bus. Please click here for the most recent bus schedules and directions from your location to Boulder Community Hospital Foothills Campus, 4747 Arapahoe Avenue
Boulder, CO 80303. Other transportation options to get to the hospital are taxi cab (303-777-7777) and or a ride with a friend/support person.
Sometimes there is a wait at the hospital; please consider bringing a change of clothes, a friend, or whatever you need to be comfortable.
If you are dealing with an unwanted sexual experience, it may be useful to talk with someone who is knowledgeable about the issue. People in this situation may feel a wide variety of emotions such as being confused, outraged, frightened, overwhelmed, scared, sad, anxious and depressed. Sometimes they appear to be holding it together but friends or family may express concern. People may feel a variety of internal responses but work hard to seem alright to other people. The person may have questions about what to do next.
Being assaulted can create a variety of physical and emotional concerns. Seeking support takes many different forms. Discussing the situation with someone may help you sort out your feelings and decide what to do. While you may want to talk to someone you trust, such as a friend, co-worker, family member, or spiritual adviser, there are also confidential resources available on campus. Some people seek out a supervisor or individual in a position of power to help remedy the situation but keep in mind that if you tell a university employee they may have a supervisory duty to report the incident to the school and or police.
When you seek help from professionals, first ask what their confidentiality is, and who they are required to tell if you were to disclose your situation. That way, you can make an informed decision.
Some things you might discuss:
- figuring out what you feel and think about what’s going on.
- getting information that will help you assesses the situation, and figure out what you want.
- talking about how to manage your academics, or work given your situation.
- talking about making a safety plan if applicable. There are many strategies available.
- getting medical treatment if you have injuries or are worried about your health.
- changing where you live to get some space, or safety. There is community help with this.
- reporting to the police and/or the CU Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance, if appropriate.
If you are not ready to talk to somebody but want to get more information about your situation, the web is a great place to do that. If you are concerned about privacy, you should know that most computers keep track of websites you visit. If you are concerned about this please review how to clear your web browser's history or use a public computer such as at a lab on campus, a public library or at a friend’s house.
OVA can provide you with information that may be helpful in dealing with your situation and OVA is confidential. If you’d like to know more about how people sometimes react to these kinds of events, click here.
For content specific information about reporting see below. For general information about reporting and the possibilities and limits of working with systems click here OR visit: http://www.colorado.edu/reportit/.
Reporting to the police is not the same as pressing charges against an offender. At the CU police department, you may be able to meet a detective or patrol officer and make a report without immediately triggering a full scale investigation. You can learn more about the process, meet the people involved, and make an informed decision. Other jurisdictions may not offer this option.
If the assault just happened, and you want to report, call 911. If the assault happened on campus, you will be routed to UCPD, (University of Colorado Police Department). The officer’s first priority will be your physical and emotional health. They may recommend that you seek medical attention and possibly for evidence collection.
If the assault happened a while ago, or if you are not sure you are ready to go right to the police, you can call OVA and talk through the issues. We are confidential. If you’d like to report, but are apprehensive about talking with the police, the OVA can help schedule an interview in a comfortable setting.
Some victims simply want to file an “informational” report with the intention of making the police aware of their situation, other people want to file a report that will lead to an investigation and possibly criminal charges. You should know that if you have had a previous "dating" relationship with the person who hurt you the police may classify it as intimate partner abuse and if so would need to make an arrest. To report an incident that happened some time ago, you can contact OVA for more information about the different reporting options and which could be best for you. You should know that a sexual assault can be reported at anytime and in CO, as of May 2016, may be prosecuted up to 20 years after the incident. If the incident happened when you were under the age of 15, in CO, there is no statutory limits on when it can be reported.
Boulder District Attorney Sex Assault Division
If you report to the police, the police investigate the case and then present the case the the DA's office, who decide if the case will be filed/charged. The District Attorney’s (DA's) Office has a division devoted to the prosecution of sex crimes. The division is staffed by experienced Deputy District Attorneys, who have specialized knowledge and training in the prosecution of sex offenses and a DA Victim Advocate assigned solely to work with sex assault survivors. The Division’s goal is to appropriately hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes, while at the same time focusing on the needs of sex assault survivors and helping them through the criminal justice system.
CU's Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance
If you were sexually assaulted by a CU student: Sexual assault is a violation of the student code of conduct. The Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC) investigates reported instances of sexual assault under the Sexual Misconduct policy. If the CU student is found responsible for violating CU policy they will be sanctioned through the OIEC. If you would like to know more about the OIEC process, you can contact OVA or OIEC, or look at their website.
If you were sexually assaulted by faculty or staff member, you can also report to the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC). To learn more at: http://www.colorado.edu/institutionalequity/
The OIEC process is an administrative process and is different from criminal or civil processes. You can choose one or both. You can contact the OIEC anonymously to get a better understanding of how they might handle your situation or OVA can help you with getting that assessment.
To learn more about the filing guidelines and process go to: http://www.colorado.edu/institutionalequity/file-report/guidelines-filing-complaint
If you feel that your current housing situation is no longer safe or comfortable, for whatever reason, the OVA can discuss options for a change of housing. There may also be the option to move the alleged perpetrator if they live in CU housing with assistance from OIEC and OVA.
Sometimes experiencing a sexual assault can compromise concentration, ability to focus on school, or feeling able to get to class. If you are worried about how this situation may be impacting your schoolwork, that’s important to notice. You deserve to be in school and to meet your goals. The OVA can discuss options for managing academic issues while maintaining privacy. There are concrete things the University can do to help with your situation.
A protective order is a legal document obtained through the civil courts that puts restrictions on individuals who may be dangerous to you. If the order is violated these restrictions they can be sanctioned by the court.
If you have questions about obtaining a protective order you can talk to an advocate in the OVA or call the District Attorney’s information line at 303-441-3775. You can learn more online at http://www.bouldercounty.org/safety/victim/pages/nocontactvsrestraining.aspx.
Depending on the situation, campus authorities may be able to offer no contact orders or an exclusions of individuals responsible for certain kinds of incidents. To learn more, consult OVA or OIEC.
Online Confidential Reporting
If you do not want to or have not yet decided whether to report officially, you can still inform OVA, a confidential resource, of a sexual assault or sexual harassment you may have experienced or witnessed. Completing this form does not constitute a report to the University and will not initiate any law enforcement, judicial or administrative action.
This information goes to OVA a confidential office and will not be shared except in aggregate, non-identifiable form. OVA can help you with support, advocacy, counseling, information, and referrals.
How to Help a Friend
Sometimes people in a difficult situation find it hard to assess their options, or even know where to begin. Friends, family and significant others can offer to listen, or do some of the basic footwork about what resources exist.
You might notice the person taking responsibility for the situation or feeling protective of the individual who hurt them. They may seem tired and withdrawn, angry and irritable, or oddly energetic and outgoing. Let the person know what you notice about their behavior and express your concern. Consider referring them to a confidential and supportive resource like the OVA.
- Take the disclosure seriously.
- Use the language the person is using (“forced me to have sex” “touched me there,” etc.).
- Assess how recent the incident was (if within 72 hours, there are some time sensitive issues in that frame, see medical options above).
- Consult with OVA about resources and options, or MESA at 303-443-0400 after hours.
- If you have been in a similar situation please know that your friend’s reactions and their choices may differ, and that is ok.
- It is important to listen
- learn more about how a sexual assault impacts people (click here).
- Know that if you are a CU supervisor/instructor/advisor, you are obligated to report to the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC). Know that this can be done in a thoughtful and informed way. How to handle mandatory reporting
- Rush to be physically affectionate with the person unless you have a clear signal from them that it is welcome.
- asking questions that start with "why," as this can make people defensive or shut people down.
- Escalating the situation, this can be overwhelming for the survivor.
- Under-react, this can be invalidating.
- Investigate or attempt to assess whether it was a “real” assault.
- Using words the person isn't using (“that’s rape!” “you are a rape victim!”).
- Share information with people who do not need to know.
- Promise to keep it a secret if you can’t, won’t, or have an obligation to report.
- Don’t forget about you! Getting support for yourself will allow you to be more available for your friend.
For more information on how to help please click here.
- Fact Sheet about SANE-Sexual Assault Nurse Examination, i.e. rape kit
- What is Consent
- Sexual Intimacy after Sex Assault
- Sexual Assault Response Tips for RAs and Hall Directors
- How to Handle Mandatory Reporting
- Colorado Anti-Violence Program
- Moving to End Sexual Assault
- CCASA, Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault
- RAINN, Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, national resources and an on-lint hotline
- Male Survivor