What is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is forced, manipulated, or coerced sexual activity. It is a crime in which the assailant uses sex to inflict humiliation on the victim or exert power and control over the victim.
The victim of sexual assault can be any age, race, gender, or social background, as can the perpetrator. Rapists can be anyone. Most are married or have ongoing relationships. The rapist is motivated by the need for power and the need to dominate someone. In more than half of all reported rapes, the victim and rapist know each other. Child victims know their rapist in more than 80 percent of all cases. Some rapists use drugs to disable their intended victim. For more information, see our section on Drug Facilitated Rape.
If You Have Been Sexually Assaulted
- First, get to a safe place. Call the police, a sexual assault crisis center, or a friend.
- Do not change your clothes, bathe, douche, or wash away any evidence.
- Go to the nearest hospital emergency room to be be examined and have necessary medical and legal evidence collected. A Foresic Sexual Assault Medical Exam is available at any New Hampshire emergency room within five days of the assault. If you are afraid to go to the hospital alone, an advocate from your local crisis center can meet you there. The hospital will also contact a crisis center to have an advocate meet you at the hospital, if you haven’t already done so. The hospital will also contact the police, but you are not required to talk to an officer unless you want to.
- At many hospitals, you will be examined by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, a Registered Nurse who has been specially trained to provide comprehensive care to sexual assault survivors, who demonstrates competency in conducting forensic examinations and the ability to be an expert witness. The SANE program mission is to avoid further trauma to all sexual assault survivors entering the health care environment by providing a compassionate and sensitive approach, timely medical/forensic examination with complete evidence collection, appropriate referral for follow-up care and counseling, and testimony in court when necessary. More than 50 Registered Nurses and advanced practice providers have completed the required training to become SANEs, and most New Hampshire hospitals now have SANEs on staff.
- If you suspect you were assaulted with the aid of drugs which can render you unconscious and leave you with no memory of the attack or the perpetrator, be sure to tell the emergency room staff. They can test your blood and urine for traces of these drugs, which can be slipped into a drink and are generally tasteless, odorless and colorless. Symptoms of these drugs include feeling more intoxicated than you normally do when drinking the same amount of alcohol, waking up with memory lapses and feeling as though someone had sexual contact with you, but not being able to remember any or all of the incident.
- Bring a change of clothes with you. Any clothes worn at the time of the assault may be collected as evidence.
- If, for any reason, you choose not to contact police or go to an emergency room, do seek the help and support of your local crisis center. Confidential support and information are available 24 hours a day from crisis centers across New Hampshire. Advocates are available to talk to anyone who has been affected by sexual violence and abuse. They can provide emotional support and explain options and services available to sexual assault survivors or their parents, partners or friends. Information you give to a crisis center is confidential and will never be given out without your written permission.
Effects of Sexual Violence
Sexual assault is an act of violence and a crime. Being sexually assaulted by someone you know does not make the crime any less serious or traumatic and may have a longer lasting negative effect. In fact, there may be additional trauma associated with sexual assault by an acquaintance due to the violation of trust, shared social space, and common friends.
Common fears among sexual assault survivors include worrying that the attacker will come back, fear of being alone or of crowds, and concern about family and friends finding out about the attack. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer victims may also fear seeking help after an assault out of concern that the report will be taken less seriously or ignored because of their sexual orientation. LGBTQ victims may also be concerned that their sexual orientation may be made public. Male victims of sexual assault may worry that they will be considered less “manly.” Anger, frustration, and feelings of powerlessness and helplessness are common feeling among survivors of any age, gender or sexual orientation. Reactions to the assault can also include embarrassment, guilt, numbness, suspicion, denial, obsessions with the assault, aversion to touch, and the disruption or a normal sex life.
Healing from sexual assault begins when the survivor is able to deal with what happened and with his or her feelings about it. It is helpful to talk about the assault with someone you trust- a friend, family member, counselor, or an advocate from a crisis center.
Take Care or Yourself
- Know you have done nothing to provoke or cause the attack. Sexual assault is the perpetrator’s fault, NOT the victim’s.
- Join a support group. You local crisis center can refer you to a support group for sexual assault survivors or a qualified therapist in your area. Talking to someone who can relate to your experiences can be a great help.
- Develop a support system. Keep in touch with friends who are understanding and supportive. Know that you can speak to someone at a sexual assault crisis center anytime, day or night, 365 days a year.
- You may experience symptoms of stress and trauma such as rage, terror, an inability to trust anyone, depression, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, substance abuse, exhaustion, or frequent crying spells. You are not going crazy! Your mind and body are simply reacting to the tremendous stress caused by the sexual assault. Talking to a counselor or an advocate at a crisis center who is trained to work with survivors of sexual assault may help ease these symptoms and help you find ways to move ahead.
Remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault
Picture this: You wake up groggy and disorientated. You may be in a strange place or in your own home. The last thing you remember is being at a party with friends. You think you may have been sexually assaulted. You are panicked because, no matter how hard you try, you can’t remember the last several hours, how you got where you are, if you were sexually assaulted, or who assaulted you.
This may seem like something out of a made-for TV movie, but incidents like this have been happening throughout the United States. Situations such as the one described above can be the result of drugs sometimes called “date rape drugs.” This name is misleading because the circumstances in which these drugs are used often do NOT involve a dating situation. The drugs are often used by strangers or casual acquaintances, but they may be used by someone you know and trust. They are increasingly used in child sexual assaults. These drugs are generally colorless, have an indistinct odor and taste, and can render you helpless within minutes.
The drugs have dozens of street names and these names change. The various drugs used in drug-facilitated sexual assaults are sometimes smuggled from other countries, stolen from veterinary clinics, purchased over the Internet, or are homemade. The most important thing you need to know is that there are ways to minimize your risk.
Names and features of the most commonly used rape drugs
Rohypnol generally appears in tablet form. Once dissolved in a drink it is odorless. It may cause a drink to appear cloudy or release small floating bits. These are steps the manufacturer has taken to make the drug more noticable in a drink. However, you may not notice this in a dark drink or a bottle. Rohypnol is known on the street as Roofies, Roche, R-Z, Rope, Stupify, Shays and R-2.
GHB is a clear liquid, slightly thicker than water. It generally has a mild, indistinct odor and a slightly salty taste. It also appears in powder or capsule form. GHB is known as Grievous Bodily Harm, Liquid Ecstacy, Liquid E, Liquid X, Easy Lay, Scoop, and Great Hormones at Bedtime.
Ketamine is a veterinary medicine produced in liquid and powder form. It is known on the street as Special K.
“Date Rape Drugs” are sold in many forms and are often used as recreational drugs. They are being used in an increasing number of sexual assaults across the country and around the world. They can be in liquid, powder, or pill form and hidden in small containers like eyedrop bottles and breath mint containers.
Just a few drops slipped into a drink can result in memory loss, vision problems, dizziness, confusion, unconsciousness, or death.
Alcohol can intensify the symptoms of these drugs. Their effects can last anywhere from 8 to 24 hours.
REMEMBER- Alcohol is the most commonly used rape drug of all.
Avoiding Date Rape Drugs
- don’t drink anything that has an unusual taste or appearance
- never leave your drink unattended (even while you’re dancing or in the bathroom)
- watch the bartender pour your drink and carry it yourself
- don’t drink from containers passed around, or from punch bowls
- bring your own drinks to parties and open them yourself. Don’t share or exchange drinks with anyone
- alcohol, cigarettes and chewing gum can also be used to drug you!
Signs you may have been drugged
- you feel more intoxicated than your normal response to the amount of alcohol you consumed
- you wake up feeling extremely hung-over and can’t account for a period of time
- one of the last things you remember is taking a drink, but what happened after that is blank
- you feel as though you’ve been sexually assaulted but you can’t recall any or all of the incident
If it happens to you
- get to a safe place
- ask someone you trust to stay with you and assist you in getting help
- get a sample of the beverage if you can
- call 911 to report the incident to police, even if you aren’t sure what happened
- go to a hospital emergency room as soon as possible. Unless you are a minor, the hospital staff won’t report the sexual assault to the police without your consent
- request that the hospital take a urine sample for drug toxicology testing
- contact your local crisis center for information on your options and support
Drug facilitated rapes are often unreported. Victims of this type of assault may blame themselves because of where they were, whom they were with, or how much they had to drink. You may feel responsible for the assault because you lost control. You may feel embarassed that you know you were raped, but do not know who raped you.
If you think you may have been a victim of rape, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
No one has the right to force you to engage in sexual contact against your will. If they do, it is a crime for which they are solely responsible.