Assault Contact Team
If the assault has just occurred, the first and most important consideration is your safety. Get to a safe place where you can make arrangements for medical services as soon as possible. Do not wash your hands, shower, go to the bathroom, brush your teeth, eat, smoke, or douche. Preserve each item of clothing you were wearing at the time of the assault separately in a paper bag.
If you are on campus and have been physically injured, call Public Safety (ext. 7432) and request that they contact ACT for you and call Mahwah PD to dispatch an ambulance. By contacting Public Safety, you are not obligated to file an incident report. At your request, only an anonymous crime report will be completed for statistical purposes.
Only after discussing your situation with an ACT member and learning what is entailed in filing a report will you be asked to make decisions regarding legal and judicial options. Even if you do not want to make a formal incident report or file charges, you still have the right to other victims’ services.
If the assault has taken place within the past five days students can call (201) 646-2700 to activate the Bergen County Sexual Assault Response Team. Students will have the option of meeting with a police officer, a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (for medical treatment and evidence collection) at a local hospital, and a member of the healingSPACE: A Sexual Violence Resource Center. Students wishing to use any or all of the Bergen County services may also still avail themselves of campus services such as ACT, the Counseling Center, etc.
If you are the victim of a sexual assault, you can benefit from receiving a specialized medical examination. In addition to the examination, you will also be provided with information regarding your rights and options to ensure your physical and emotional well-being.
The medical examination can also provide useful information and evidence if you decide to report the assault. Please use this information to empower yourself to make informed choices and decisions. The Health Services staff is always available to answer your questions.
Why should I have a specialized medical examination following a sexual assault?
You should have a thorough medical examination immediately after a sexual assault, even if you have no apparent injuries. You may be in shock and have internal injuries. You may also have minor injuries, such as scratches or other marks on your skin. A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner can give you a thorough physical examination and, if indicated, can provide treatment for injuries that are related to the sexual assault. The examiner can also document any injuries that you have so that if you decide to take any legal action, you will have a record of what happened to you.
Physical evidence can be identified and collected during a sexual assault medical examination. Even if you are undecided about whether you want to make a police report and unsure whether you want your assailant prosecuted, you should have evidence collected as soon as possible after a sexual assault. This is the best way to keep your options open for the future.
A sexual assault can place you at risk for contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). A health care provider can help you evaluate your risk of getting various STIs and advise you about ways to protect yourself from these risks. One of the benefits of obtaining medical care as soon as possible after a sexual assault is that immediate evaluation and medication can prevent some STIs.
If you are a female victim, the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner can help you determine the likelihood that you could become pregnant as a result of the sexual assault and advise you about the alternatives available to you.
What happens during the examination?
The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner will usually begin by asking questions about your general health. If you are a female victim, you will be asked about your menstrual history and your use of contraception. You will also be asked specific questions about the assault. Although it may be difficult to recall some of the details and it may be emotionally painful to remember and talk about what happened, the answers you provide to these questions will help the doctor or nurse practitioner to conduct a thorough physical examination. This usually includes a pelvic examination but only with the survivor’s consent.
The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner will look for injuries and other signs that force was used, such as tender areas, marks on your skin and bruises. If you have visible injuries, you may be asked to give consent to have photographs taken of the injured areas. Photographing injuries is important because if you choose to prosecute, by the time you go to court, the injuries may have healed.
In addition to checking you for other injuries, the medical team can look for other evidence of a sexual assault. Depending on the type(s) of sexual contact that occurred, the evidence may include taking samples from your vagina, mouth, and/or rectum to test for sperm cells and semen. Other evidence may be obtained from fingernail scrapings, foreign matter on your body, and the clothes you were wearing at the time of the assault.
After the examination is complete, the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner will document the findings in your medical record. This can be subpoenaed to assist in the legal process.
Can I contract a STI as a result of a sexual assault?
The likelihood of contracting an sexually transmitted infection (STI) as a result of a sexual assault depends on various factors including the type of sexual contact that occurred, the number of assailants, and whether or not an assailant was infected with an STi at the time of the assault.
There are several STIs that can be contracted during sexual contact including Hepatitis B, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, genital warts, or vaginitis. There are immediate and effective treatment choices for some of these STIs.
You may choose to reduce the risk of contracting certain STIs (Hepatitis B, gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, or vaginitis) by taking medication immediately as a preventive measure. You may also opt to wait to see if you actually contracted any disease(s) before taking medications.
Am I at risk for getting HIV if I have been sexually assaulted?
The probability of contracting HIV through a single sexual contact is very low. You should consult with a physician or nurse regarding how to access your risk factors and what you can do to deal with the unlikely event of contracting HIV as a result of a sexual assault.
For your peace of mind and the protection of your sexual partner, it is recommended that you be tested for HIV. The doctor or nurse will talk to you about where and when to be tested and what precautions you should take to protect your sexual partner.
There are laws in some states that permit a criminal court judge to order a sexual assault suspect to be tested for HIV and other communicable diseases and to inform the victim of the test results. Speak to the police investigator or prosecutor for further information.
What is the risk of pregnancy as a result of a sexual assault?
If you are a female, your risk of getting pregnant from a sexual assault depends on many factors. The time in your menstrual cycle, your current use of contraceptives, your fertility, the fertility of the assailant, and whether or not the assailant ejaculated in or near your vagina are all factors involved. The physician or nurse can help you evaluate your personal risk for pregnancy.
If you are at risk for becoming pregnant as a result of a sexual assault, a medical care provider can explain the various treatment options available to you. If you choose to have immediate treatment to prevent risk of a pregnancy, the options are most effective if you seek care within 72 hours after the assault. Immediate treatment options may prevent conception, however, they will not interrupt a pregnancy once it has begun.
You may decide to wait and see if you become pregnant as a result of the assault. If you do become pregnant, a health care provider can discuss your options with you.