What You Need to Know About Sexual Assault

Sadly, sexual assault is more common than you think, especially in college. It is estimated that 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and the number for the LGBTQ community is even more. Regardless of sexuality, race, gender, etc., sexual assault can happen to anyone.The United States Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women defines sexual assault as: “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape”.

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Giving consent means making an informed, non-coerced decision to engage in a specific act with a specific person each time. Consent can be freely taken back, meaning that if a person consents to an act once that their consent does not apply to any future acts, even if it is the same act with the same person.

Sexual assault is never the victims' fault, but the offenders’. If the victim is continually blamed, it only contributes to rape culture and the culture of silence. The victim is never to blame and should never feel like it is their fault. If you are sexual assaulted, there are many resources on and off campus to help you.

If you are sexually assaulted, it is your decision to take legal action, nobody else’s. If you choose to report a rape to the university officials or file a police report, it will not initiate criminal charges. You must sign a criminal complaint to initiate criminal prosecution. If you are unsure, go to a safe place and tell a trusted friend, advisor, or confidential counseling at 214-768-4795.

If you are sexually assaulted, you have the option of taking a Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) Kit. This kit is commonly referred as a rape kit. The rape kit collects evidence, such as DNA, if you choose to report your assault and/or take legal action. The information is collected and kept on file, and you do not have to take legal action, but there are some exceptions. Some exceptions include child abuse; it will then have to be reported. Exams are free of charge. The SMU Health Center offers emergency contraception pills, contraception counseling, testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections as well as routine gynecolocigal exams at a reasonable cost, but these exams cannot be used as evidence.

SMU does not offer rape tests, but you are advised to go to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, where nurses are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is important that if you are sexually assaulted and plan to take the rape kit, do not shower.  The hospital knows the need to help sexual assault victims right away, so you are not alone. They will begin the healing process with you with the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program. SANE nurses are available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. 

If you wish to stay on campus, there are trained counselors from SMU to accompany to the hospital or meet you there. You call 214-768-4795 or after 5 pm call the emergency number given. 

After arrival, the Presbyterian hospital staff will contact the Dallas County Rape Crisis Center, if you wish to see a contact or will contact a counselor from SMU. Remember, it is is always your choice. 

Sexual assault can impact anyone emotionally and physically. It is possible you will experience shock, denial, fear, numbness, mistrust, powerlessness or self-blame. These can cause you to act in ways that you would normally not. Also, your sleeping patterns and eating habits may change. You may find that you do not wish to be alone or that you fear strangers.

Please remember, it is not your fault. Recovery does take time and know that there are people here to help, whether it is your friend or a school official. You are never alone.