department of Public Safety
Questions and answers for sexual assault victims
Victims of crime often have many questions and getting them answered by the police is an intimidating prospect. Below are some frequently asked questions and answers; we hope they will help to alleviate some of the fear a victim may have of calling the police.
What should I do if I am the victim of a sexual assault or rape?
- Go to a place that is safe and seek medical treatment. If a sexual assault occurs, safety and medical assistance are the first priorities. On campus and in the local area, 24-hour assistance is available.
- Call the police or go directly to the hospital (where someone will call the police for you). Whether or not you decide to report the incident, seek medical treatment immediately and get counseling as soon as possible.
- For the purpose of preserving evidence, do not douche, bathe, shower, or change clothes before seeking medical attention because valuable evidence may be lost. Preserving evidence is important in later pursuing a criminal or other judicial case.
- Do not wash sheets or other bed coverings where critical DNA evidence can be found. Evidence collection must take place as soon as possible after the incident occurs to preserve it correctly for prosecution.
- If you need medical transportation to the hospital, call the Texas A&M University-Central Texas Department of Public Safety at (254) 501-5800. Calling for transport will not result in an investigation unless the survivor wants to pursue one.
- Visits to the hospital for medical treatment and counseling are confidential. A qualified sexual assault counselor will meet with you and provide emotional support and advice on disciplinary and legal options.
- Report the sexual assault to the authorities. The more often sexual assaults are reported, the easier it may be to prevent them. Reporting an assault to the university police or other law enforcement or campus security authorities does not require filing criminal charges, but it does allow support systems to be put in place for the survivor. Reporting is best done as soon as possible after the assault, but it may be done at any time.
- Students can make their report to any campus security authority, including, but not limited to, Department of Public Safety (254) 501-5800, Director of Student Affairs (254) 519-5721, advisors to recognized student organizations and athletic coaches. The University will assist students who report sexual assault in obtaining medical support and information regarding available legal and judicial resources as well as counseling and support services.
- Students who choose to notify police should be aware of the importance of the immediacy of reporting the incident and the importance of preserving physical evidence at the assault scene as well as on the person assaulted. The gathering of physical evidence can provide important evidence and support criminal charges leading to a successful prosecution.
- Students who are reporting an immediate assault should be accompanied to a health care facility of their choice to allow for collection of evidence and treatment. If a sexual assault victim chooses to report the incident days, weeks, or even months after the assault, important support systems are still available and can be arranged; however, criminal investigations are much more difficult.
- Sexual assaults, for which individuals seek medical treatment, must be reported to the appropriate police unit by health care officials. However, as noted above, students are not required to criminally prosecute the case or file a police report, unless the sexual assault survivor is a minor.
- Reporting an assault to the police ensures that the incident will be included in the university’s annual crime statistics report. It does not commit you to pursuing the charge but does allow you to keep your option open.
Will I have to pay for the exam at the hospital?
- You will not be billed for services.
Will my parents be notified of my report?
- If you are 18 or older your parents will not be notified unless a life threatening circumstance requires it.
I am not yet 21 years old and had been drinking. Will this be held against me?
- No. If you are the victim of a personal crime, neither police department, nor TAMUCT, will take punitive action against you because you were drinking underage.
Will the police make me do anything I don't want to do, or make decisions for me?
- The survivor always retains the right to decide whether she or he wants to proceed with a criminal prosecution. It is the policy our department that victims make personal decisions for themselves during an investigation.
- Victims work directly with an investigator, who will answer questions and provide information to help them make informed decisions.
- Although the progress of the investigation depends almost entirely on the victim, the police will only make decisions for victims who are unable to make them for themselves (such as a victim suffering from serious injuries).
When is a UNILERT issued?
- The UNILERT system is designed to give students a timely notification of crimes and to heighten safety awareness as well as to seek information that will lead to an arrest and conviction of the perpetrator when violent crimes against persons or major crimes against property have occurred.
- TAMUCT will issue a UNILERT when a crime is reported to TAMUCT Department of Public Safety or other law enforcement agencies that represents a threat to the safety of members of the university community.
- Every attempt will be made to distribute a UNILERT soon after the incident is reported; however, the release of the UNILERT is subject to the availability of facts concerning the incident. UNILERTs are distributed to students, faculty and staff, via e-mail and SMS text message, depending on the preference set by that person.
Is there someone at the police department I can call if I have further questions or concerns?
- Interim Chief Tanya Little-Salas, (254) 501-5801
What can I do if someone I know has been sexually assaulted?
- If you know someone who has been sexually assaulted you can be of help. In the aftermath of a sexual assault the victim may be experiencing fear, insecurity, frustration, and need care and support from others. You, as a friend (or spouse/partner or family member), can play an important role by providing reassurance and support.
- Allow your friend to reflect upon what has happened and the feelings experienced, but do not press for details. Let her/him set the pace. Listening is one of the best things you can do at this time. In short, be a trusted friend.
- You can be a valuable resource to your friend by seeking out and providing information that will assist in understanding available options. For example, you can let your friend know that reporting the rape and collecting evidence does not automatically lock her/him into pursuing prosecution of the offender. What it does do is assist the police in identifying the method and possible identity of the assailant.
- Making the decision to report a sexual assault to the police and to undergo the subsequent processes of evidence collection and possible judicial proceedings will be very difficult for your friend. Although it is only natural that you will want to give advice, you must avoid trying to control the situation. A victim of sexual assault needs to regain control and must be allowed to make her/his own decisions.
- Whatever decisions are made, your friend needs to know that she/he will not be judged, disapproved of, or rejected by you. The victim of sexual assault can suffer a significant degree of physical and emotional trauma both during and immediately following the rape that may remain for a long time. By being patient, supportive, and non-judgmental you can provide a safe and accepting climate into which your friend can release painful feelings.