"I was forced to have sex."
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? bad sex? being groped? 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 your assault happened in the past 72 hours, there are some time-sensitive considerations such as the decision to have medical evidence collected. 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) has free and confidential resources to help with these concerns.
Especially in the first 72 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 taken 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 significant physical injury, 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.
If you want medical evidence (rape kit) collected
Evidence collection, often referred to as a “rape kit,” is done at St. Anthony’s North Hospital in Westminster 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 Victim Assistance 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. Since July 1, 2008, you can have SANE 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 SANE exam done as early as possible. 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 rape kit itself (Plan B if you choose, or antibiotics, 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.
If you would like to go ahead and get a forensic/SANE 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 the SANE exam or you can go directly to St. Anthony's North Hospital in Westminster and ask for a SANE exam. If you call the police, they will transport you to the forensic exam, and a MESA advocate will routinely be called to meet you at the hospital and advise you of resources and support.
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 host of practical 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 or the CU Office of Student Conduct or Office of Discrimination and Harassment 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 has no duty to report. If you’d like to know more about how people sometimes react to these kinds of events, click here.
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.
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.
For content specific information about reporting see below. For general information about reporting and the possibilities and limits of working with systems click here.
Reporting to the police is not the same as pressing charges against an offender. At the CU police department, you can 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 you live on campus, your RA and Hall Director can help you assess your options. If the assault happened on campus, you will be routed to UCPD, and if you would like, you can request someone experienced with sexual assault to respond. The officer’s first priority will be your physical and emotional health. They may recommend that you seek medical attention for your own benefit 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 relationship with the person who hurt you the police may classify it as intimate partner violence and if so would need to make an arrest. To report an incident that happened some time ago, you can contact UCPD or 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 may be prosecuted up to 10 years after the incident. If the incident happened when you were under the age of 18, in CO there is no statutory limits on when it can be reported.
Reporting to the Office of Student Conduct or Office of Discrimination and Harassment
If you were assaulted by a student, you may want to consider reporting the incident to the Office of Student Conduct, 303-492-5550 which adjudicates the Student Code of Conduct. Sexual assault is a violation of the code and if the person is found in violation, they could be sanctioned – up to and including suspension or expulsion.
The CU process is independent of the Criminal Justice process. You can choose one or both (unless this is an intimate partner violence situation).
If you were assaulted by a faculty or staff member, you may want to consider reporting to the Office of Discrimination and Harassment, which investigates infractions of University policy and may have jurisdiction over your situation.
For more information about these offices processes and the university’s title IX officers please click here: http://www.colorado.edu/studentaffairs/studentconduct/downloads/If%20you%20are%20a%20victim%202013.pdf.
A protective order is a legal document obtained through the courts that puts restrictions on individuals who may be dangerous to you. If they violate 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 also learn more online at http://www.co.boulder.co.us/cs/cb/dapp/protectorder.htm.
Depending on the situation, campus authorities may be able to offer an exclusion of individuals responsible for certain kinds of incidents. To learn more, consult OVA or UCPD.
If you do not want to or have not yet decided whether to report officially, you can still inform 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 a confidential office, the Office of Victim Assistance and will not be shared except in aggregate, non identifiable form. OVA can help you with support, information and referrals.
How to Help
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.
If you know someone who had an unwanted sexual experience:
- 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).
- Consult with Victim Assistance about resources and options, or MESA at 303-443-0400 after hours.
- If you have been in a similar situation your experience may help. Your friend’s reaction may differ, and their choices may differ, but knowing that they aren’t alone can be helpful in itself.
- If you haven’t been in a similar situation, you can listen, and then learn more about how a sexual assault impacts people (click here).
- Know that if you are a supervisor, you are obligated to report to the police, and Office of Discrimination and Harassment if the harasser is an employee, or the Office of Student Conduct if the harasser is a student. 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.
- Overreact/escalate the situation, this can be overwhelming for the survivor.
- Under-react, this can be invalidating.
- Moralize about the circumstances.
- Investigate or attempt to assess whether it was a “real” assault.
- Use 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.
What can I do to make a difference?
While it is important to learn about safety strategies at home and in the world, most assaults do not happen when a stranger attacks a person at night in a parking lot. The more common pattern is that people assault people they know to some degree, and addressing prevention in that context is a much more complicated and important task, if we want to create long-range change.
There are many people working to end sexual violence on campus, in the Boulder community, nationally and internationally. People are using a range of strategies like talking about how to agree to have sex, learning and understanding communication skills, enlisting people of all genders, and learning how to help one another when we observe people misusing power, learning how to use power ethically, as well as tracking trends and changing laws and policies. People have struggled with the issue of misuse of aggression for a long time, and unequal access to resources amplifies its effects. Community Health, a division of Wardenburg, has a link on how they address Gender Violence Prevention on our campus.
- Community Health-prevention education on campus
- 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