Frequently Asked Questions about Sexual Assault/Rape
Developed by Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity and GaDuGi SafeCenter, Revised Summer 2011
The term "rape" refers to a specific behavior that is directed against women only, according to Kansas state law. The term "sexual assault" refers to a range of behaviors that are directed predominately against women, but can also be directed at men.
Sexual acts that are conducted against someone's will by force, threat of force, coercion, or in situations in which an individual is unable to give consent.
Sexual intercourse with someone who doesn't consent either because they are
- overcome by force or fear,
- unconscious or physically powerless,
- incapable of consenting because of mental deficiency or disease, or under the effect of alcohol and/or drugs when known or reasonably apparent to the offender.
This could include assault by someone you know (such as a family member, spouse, partner, friend, classmate, teacher, coach, etc.).
What are some common feelings among people who have been sexually assaulted or raped recently or in the past?
Feelings of fear:
- of being alone or being in a crowd
- of assailant returning (making good on threats)
- of others finding out, fear of others' opinions
- of things or places which remind them of the attack
- of men in general, extreme distrust of men when the perpetrator is male
- of her/his children being attacked
Feelings of powerlessness, lack of control, helplessness:
- feeling that her/his privacy and right to choose have been denied
- feeling unable to: change the situation; to stop crying; to stop reliving the experience
- to fight back
- lack of control over different areas of her/his life to varying degrees
Feelings of guilt/self-blame:
- for having caused the rape - "If only I hadn't..."
- for not having fought back
- for being "stupid" enough to get into that situation
- for any or all reactions that s/he is having
Feelings of shame or embarassment:
- feeling filthy, like "damaged goods"
- feeling everyone looks at her/him, knows what happened and judges
Feelings of betrayal:
- feeling wronged for having trusted, having been friendly, having been open with another person
Feelings of anger:
- wanting to kill, castrate, or humiliate the assailant
- anger at her/himself for letting it happen
Feelings of denial:
- wanting to deny that it happened
- wanting to not make a fuss over it
- wanting to get on with daily business
- Immediately file a report of the sexual assault/rape with law enforcement (requires special evidence collection at Lawrence Memorial Hospital or Watkins Health Center).
- Seek medical treatment and/or follow-up from health care professionals if you do not want the sexual assault exam.
- File an anonymous report with the Director of Survivor Services at GaDuGi SafeCenter in partnership with the Lawrence Police Department.
- Seek medical treatment only at Lawrence Memorial Hospital emergency room or Watkins Health Center (they are not required to report the incident to law enforcement for victims aged 18 and over). Here, services will be provided by the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) who is specially trained to collect evidence from the sexual assault/rape.
- Wait to file a report while further considering the issue (wait until morning/next day, etc.).
- Tell a friend, relative, religious advisor, or trusted individual.
- Get emotional support from GaDuGi SafeCenter or Sexual Violence Prevention Services.
Before going to the hospital
If you decide to go to the hospital and are considering filing a report, there are a few things you can do to make evidence collection more effective:
- Do not launder your clothes - evidence can be collected from them.
- If you have removed your clothes but have saved them for evidence collection, store them in a brown paper bag. DO NOT PUT IN A PLASTIC BAG - evidence cannot be collected from items stored in plastic.
- Do not shower or douche before the exam.
- Try to refrain from using the restroom, eating, or drinking before the medical exam.
- Take an extra change of clothes to the hospital with you. The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner will collect and keep your clothes for evidence.
- Do not engage in any other sexual activity before the exam.
If a victim/survivor reports the crime and undergoes the evidence collection at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, s/he will not be charged for the exam. Douglas County pays for the cost of the kit.
If a victim/survivor decides not to report the crime, s/he may still be examined at the hospital but will receive a bill for the services. If s/he contacts an GaDuGi SafeCenter advocate, GaDuGi SafeCenter will try to find ways to assist the victim/survivor in cases of hardship (the VOCA victim assistance funds won't allow use of funds for the hospital because the county pays for it) or to find an alternative physician or nurse practitioner. GaDuGi SafeCenter can also assist in payment for prescription and over-the-counter medications. Other options: If the victim/survivor has medical insurance, s/he may wish to visit her/his personal doctor. Douglas County Health Department and Planned Parenthood also offer physical exams, not for evidence collection, on a sliding scale basis.
Adult victim/survivors have the right to seek medical treatment without being obligated to report the crime to law enforcement.
Kansas Bureau of Investigation has a very specific protocol that nurses and doctors must follow in collecting evidence after a sexual assault. Many steps of the process (called the Sexual Assault Examination) may seem unnecessary, but a complete evidence collection will make a strong case in a court of law. The following list gives some idea of what the procedure requires (it is much more detailed):
- The nurse asks a series of questions about the assault, including intimate questions about penetration. The exam nuse cannot leave the room once the Sexual Assault Evidence Kit procedure begins due to legal protection of the chain of evidence.
- Sheets of paper are spread out on the floor and the victim/survivor undreses over the sheets so any hairs that fall may be collected. The clothes are taken for forensic analysis. The nurse puts each article of clothing in a separate bag for evidence. Each bag is sealed and signed.
- Hair samples are collected. The victim/survivor must provide both head hairs (pulled from the root) and pubic hairs (pulled from the root). Often the nurse will allow the victim/survivor to pull the hairs out her/himself. The nurse will also "comb" the pubic hair for any evidence.
- Oral evidence collection. The nurse will swab the inside of the mouth. Victim/survivor will also give a saliva sample (by holding a piece of paper in her/his mouth). After the nurse finishes with any oral evidence collection, the victim/survivor may wish to have a glass of water. S/he should not drink before this point if at all possible.
- Fingernails. The nurse will scrape underneath the fingernails for possible evidence.
- Pelvic exam. This part of the exam is performed by a clinician or physician. S/he will collect swabs of evidence from the vagina and rectum (even if she was not penetrated in this way) for a female and from the penis and rectum for men. If any semen is present, the KBI lab will be able to use this as evidence. Cultures will be taken to determine if the victim/survivor has a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI).
- Blood sample. The victim/survivor will have the choice of whether her/his blood will be tested for evidence of possible use of date rape drugs or Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI). LMH does not test for HIV - they can refer survivors to Douglas County AIDS Project or the Health Department for these tests. Remember, it can take six months before the HIV virus can be detected, so it is recommended that you take a test initially and then six months after the assault, too.
There are many reasons why victim/survivors may be reluctant to report the sexual assault/rape. Some victim/survivors fail to label coerced sex as rape. Many victim/survivors are afraid of the stigma they may face as acknowledged rape victims. Other victim/survivors decline to report the crime because of the potential ordeal of court, fear of the assailant's anger, or fear of sending a person to jail.
The officer will ask factual questions about the assault. They have to document the crime fully and must ask some very painful questions. If the victim/survivor knows her/his assailant or was able to see him/her, s/he will be asked for additional information that can help to identify and apprehend a potential suspect(s). Such information includes a description of his/her physical characteristics, clothing, car, manner of speech, and any statements that s/he made. The officer will include the information in a written report.
Later, the victim/survivor will also have an opportunity to write (in her/his own words) about the incident(s).
Once this part of the reporting process is complete, law enforcement will proceed with contacting possible suspect(s) and/or witness(es). This could possibly include friends, roommates, and/or acquaintances of both you and the alleged perpetrator(s). Law enforcement officials make every effort to build the most comprehensive report of your case to forward to the District Attorney's office for review. Based on the report and other evidence, the District Attorney and/or jury will determine whether or not the alleged perpetrator will be charged and/or convicted.
The majority of sexual assaults/rapes involve alcohol and possibly recreational drugs. Even if you were drinking, sexual assault/rape is never the victim/survivor's fault. If you are underage, and you choose to report the sexual assault/rape to the police, you will not be charged with a minor in possession or the use of drugs: the primary focus will be on the sexual assault/rape.
Regardless of when the sexual assault/rape happened, you have the right to receive services to help you cope with any emotions, triggers, or thoughts you have related to the sexual assault/rape. Services do not change regardless of when the sexual assault/rape happened. You are entitled to seek support, information, referrals and safety planning at any stage of your healing. No one but you can define your healing process.
It is common to desire closure years later by reporting the crime, especially if it was not reported at the time it occurred. By Kansas law, you have the right to file a criminal report within five years of when the actual crime occurred (example: if the crime occurred October 1, 2000, then a report can be made up to October 1, 2005). This does not always result in prosecution because often there is missing physical evidence. It is important to note that if you do make a report, it will need to happen in the county where the crime occurred.
Advocates, campus staff and law enforcement are available to support your needs as you request assistance.
Unfortunately, the chances that you may see the perpetrator at some point on campus are probably pretty likely - especially if you met/know them through a class or activity. Remember that you didn't do anything wrong, and you have every right to be there. If you see him/her, try to go on with your own business. If you feel threatened, you may want to let a university faculty or staff member know, or even the police if you have filed a report. You may or may not feel safe talking to your perpetrator, but know that even if you do choose to confront him/her, you may not get the response you want or expect. If it continues to make you uncomfortable to be around him/her and you are in one or more classes together, you may want to consider trying to change your class schedule (you can receive assistance in doing this through the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity or the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Success). If you participate in activities with him/her, you may consider looking for alternate ways to remain active.
The main thing to ask yourself with this question is whether or not telling your parents will be more helpful to you. If it is going to cause you more stress for your parents to know, then telling them may not be the best idea. Many victim/survivors worry that their parents will be hurt or will not understand. However, parents can sometimes be understanding and supportive when you tell them. Ultimately, the choice is up to you and whatever makes you feel most comfortable. A professional counselor or an advocate may be able to help you work out the best decision and may even help you prepare for the conversation if you do decide to tell them.
At any time, you may contact an advocate at GaDuGi SafeCenter available 24 hours a day/7 days a week by calling 785-841-2345 or 785-843-8985 during business hours for assistance obtaining information, referrals to other professionals, and/or continued support. For support on campus you may contact Sexual Violence Prevention Services located in the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity during business hours at 785-864-3552.
- Victims should be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect for their dignity and privacy and should suffer the minimum of necessary inconvenience from their involvement with the criminal justice system.
- Victims should receive, through formal and informal procedures, prompt and fair redress for the harm which they have suffered.
- Information regarding the availability of criminal restitution, recovery of damages in a civil cause of action, the crime victims' compensation fund and other remedies and the mechanisms to obtain such remedies should be made available to victims.
- Information should be made available to victims about their participation in criminal proceedings and the scheduling, progress and ultimate disposition of the proceedings.
- The views and concerns of victims should be ascertained and the appropriate assistance provided throughout the criminal process.
- When the personal interests of victims are affected, the views or concerns of the victim should, when appropriate and consistent with criminal law and procedure, be brought to the attention of the court.
- Measures may be taken when necessary to provide for the safety of victims and their families and to protect them from intimidation and retaliation.
- Enhanced training should be made available to sensitize criminal justice personnel to the needs and concerns of victims and guidelines should be developed for this purpose.
- Victims should be informed of the availability of health and social services and other relevant assistance that they might continue to receive the necessary medical, psychological, and social assistance through existing programs and services.
- Victims should report the crime and cooperate with law.