Guide for Sexual Assault Victims

Guide for Sexual Assault Victims

Rape is not just a woman's problem. Nor is rape something that happens to someone else, somewhere else. It happens to girls and women of all ages everyday, everywhere. Men are also victims of rape, but due to societal pressures have far too often kept silent about their traumas. Because rape is everyone's problem, we can solve it only through the efforts of women and men working together.

Whether raped by a stranger, acquaintance, close friend, or date, victims should know about the services available to help them become survivors.

If You are Raped

  1. Get to a safe place as soon as you can.
  2. Try to preserve all physical evidence. Do not bathe, douche, use the toilet, or change clothing.
  3. Contact the Health and Wellness Center or Police Services.
  4. Get medical attention as soon as possible.
  5. Contact a close friend who can be with you until you feel safe again. Your friend can also accompany you to the hospital or to the police department.

The Saint Vincent Health Center and UPMC Hamot emergency departments offer an optional forensic examination performed by a sexual assault nurse examiner. All services to sexual assault victims are confidential, except that physicians, nurses, and hospital personnel are required by law to report rapes to the police. It is the victim's decision, however, whether or not to talk to the police.

Health care options, resources for psychological care, sources of legal information, and other resources are summarized below. You may wish to review these services and contact the various offices as you need their assistance while you are healing from the rape experience.

Medical Treatment

It is important to seek medical attention immediately after and as a follow-up to sexual assault to determine the presence of physical injury, sexually transmissible diseases, or pregnancy, and to obtain evidence to assist in criminal prosecution. Ideally, physical evidence should be collected immediately, but it can be collected up to 120 hours following a rape.

Immediate Emergency Services

A special exam that includes the collection of evidence that is used in criminal prosecution may be conducted up to 120 hours after an assault; the optimal time though is within the first 72 hours. This special exam is recommended to evaluate your physical condition as well as to maintain all your legal options. The exam is performed by a certified sexual assault nurse examiner.

The victim may choose to have this exam performed by a sexual assault nurse examiner at the emergency department of either Saint Vincent Health Center or UPMC Hamot. The student may choose not to have evidence collected but may need an examination and treatment to prevent sexually transmitted disease or pregnancy. This service is provided by appointment at the Health and Wellness Center or by walk-in at either emergency departments. The evidence or non-evidence exam is done at no cost to the victim.

Cost: Charges incurred at the hospital for the routine examination, laboratory, follow-up care and transportation will be covered by the University. Any rape-related care with or without evidence collection, laboratory, and follow-up care also will be provided free of charge at the Health and Wellness Center.

Transportation: Transportation options paid for by Penn State include an ambulance or a taxi (if you are accompanied by a friend). The ambulance can be reached by calling 814-898-6231 (on campus) or 911 (on or off campus). Tell the person answering that you are a Penn State student and you are in need of the ambulance. State your location. To arrange for a taxi voucher, call the Health and Wellness Center at 814-898-6217, Police Services at 814-898-6231, or a Residence Life coordinator. Another option is calling the Crime Victim Center, which has trained staff who can assist in the transportation and accompaniment of sexual assault victims to the hospital. Its twenty-four hour hotline number is 814-455-9414.

Male Victims: While most victims of sexual assault are women, men are also victims. It is important for men to know that male victims at Penn State are accorded the same services as women, including transportation and payment provisions. Male victims are eligible for the forensic exam at local hospitals, with follow-up care provided at the Heath and Wellness Center. Upon calling for a follow-up exam, indicate that you have been a victim of sexual assault, and you will receive priority over routine patients. All other support services are also available for male victims.

Non-Emergency Medical Procedures

If the rape or sexual assault occurred in the recent or distant past and you did not have the emergency exam within the first 120 hours, it is still important to have a medical exam. This exam will include treatment of any physical problems and various lab tests for sexually transmissible diseases and pregnancy. This non-emergency treatment can be arranged by calling the Health and Wellness Center at 814-898-6217 between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday; and 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Friday. If you say that you have been a victim of a sexual assault, you will receive priority over routine patients.

If you are feeling anxious about your symptoms and seek treatment at one of the local hospitals after 72 hours, you will be evaluated, but the full rape evidence collection exam may not be able to be conducted.

Emotional Support Services

If you have been raped, you may be feeling:

  1. a variety of strong emotions—fear, anxiety, depression,     guilt, disorientation, powerlessness, shame, shock, disbelief, embarrassment, denial, anger.
  2. a number of physical problems—sleep disturbances, nausea, stomach problems, change in eating habits, nightmares.
  3. confused and alone, wondering if you should tell your family or how you should tell them.
  4. that, even if the rape occurred a while ago, you would now like to talk to someone about it.

On Campus: Personal Counseling provides services to students about a range of personal concerns and is available to provide psychological support to you in crisis situations such as sexual assault.  Appointments for counseling services can be arranged by calling 814-898-6504 between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you specify that this is an emergency, you can be seen the same day by a personal counselor. The counselor will help you deal with the emotional aftermath of sexual assault and help you think through your options for legal action and medical care.

Off Campus: The Crime Victim Center is a community agency with a twenty-four hour hotline (814-455-9414). Trained staff can help you through the process of dealing with the emotional, legal, and medical issues of sexual assault. A staff member can accompany you to the hospital and court proceedings. The agency also provides counseling and support groups for women who have been victims of sexual assault and incest.

Police and Legal Services

Rape is a crime. It is important to report a crime; reporting a crime is not the same as prosecuting. The decision to prosecute can be made at a later time.

Immediate Emergency Service

Penn State Behrend Police Services and off-campus local police departments are available twenty-four hours a day to aid victims of sexual assault. The police can ensure your safety at the scene of the rape and accompany you to the hospital. The emergency telephone number is 814-898-6231 for Police Services, 814-899-0681 for Wesleyville Police, and 814-898-1641 for Pennsylvania State Police. (See the Resource Directory for information about other area police departments.)

Ongoing Police and Legal Services

On and Off Campus: Police departments in the jurisdiction where the rape occurred are in charge of investigating rapes and sexual assaults. The results of the emergency rape exam and evidence collection can be used by them to identify the assailant. You can call the police at 814-898-6231 on campus, at 814-899-0681 off campus (Wesleyville Police), or at 814-898-1641 for Pennsylvania State Police. (See the Resource Directory for other area police departments.)

The Office of Student Affairs assists in setting standards for student behavior that help maintain a safe environment at Penn State Behrend. If the suspect is a student, a victim can file a complaint against the alleged rapist through the Office of Student Affairs. Disciplinary action ensures due process. The Office of Student Affairs is located on the second floor of the Reed Building. Student Affairs office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. The phone number is 814-898-6111. A staff member can accompany the victim to disciplinary hearings in the Office of Student Affairs.

Off Campus: The Erie County District Attorney's Office presents the state's case against accused rapists and others suspected of committing crimes. The District Attorney (DA) evaluates the evidence and decides on the possibility of successful prosecution. The county's Victim/Witness Advocate, located in the DA's office, acts to ensure that the victim's rights to information and restitution under the law are met. The advocate also will accompany a victim to court. The DA's office is located in the Erie County Courthouse. The daytime phone number is 814-451-6349. Hours are 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. or by appointment.


Medical Treatment

  • Penn State Behrend Health and Wellness Center, Carriage House: 814-898-6217
  • Ambulance Service: 814-898-6231 (on campus)  or 911 (off campus)
  • Saint Vincent Health Center Emergency: 814-452-5353  (a sexual assault nurse examiner is on call 24/7)
  • UPMC Hamot Emergency: 814-877-6139  (a sexual assault nurse examiner is on call 24/7)

Emotional Support

  • Crime Victim Center: 814-455-9414 (24 hours) or 1-800-352-7273
  • Crisis Services 24/7: 814-456-2014
  • Penn State Behrend Personal Counseling, 1 Reed Union Building: 814-898-6504 (8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., M–F)

Police and Legal Information

  • Penn State Behrend Police Services, 10 Erie Hall: 814-898-6231
  • Office of Student Affairs, 115 Reed Building: 814-898-6111
  • Erie County District Attorney: 814-451-6349
  • Erie City Police: 814-870-1125
  • Lawrence Park Police: 814-898-1634
  • Pennsylvania State Police: 814-898-1641
  • Wesleyville Police: 814-899-0681