Sexual assault is a traumatic experience. It is normal to experience a multitude of emotions such as fear, anger, guilt, embarrassment and self-blame. The information contained here will explain your rights as a victim, the phases of the investigative process, the role of a rape crisis advocate-who is on staff with the University Police Department, what you might experience following a sexual assault and where to go for immediate and long-term care. The Department of Police Services takes reports of sexual assault very seriously and we care about your safety. Below are a few common questions you may have...
What you might experience following a sexual assault:
Feelings of fear, anger, guilt, embarrassment and self-blame that follow sexual assault are normal. Long-term affects may include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which may include flashbacks, recurrent and intrusive memories, psychological and physiological distress, a heightened state of anxiety, phobias, nightmares and depression.
Now that I'm at the police department, what will happen to me?
All university police officers are trained as sexual assault first responders and some are trained sexual assault investigators. The investigative process begins with the officer gathering statements and conducting an initial interview. The officer will also interview any witnesses or suspect(s). During the interview, the investigator will ask you to give a detailed account of what happened. The investigator will also advise you of your right to confidentiality and offer the services of a trained rape crisis advocate. In order to collect forensic evidence, the investigator will transport you to a specially-equipped medical facility. In most cases, you will be transported to a medical facility only if the assault occurred within the last four days.
What does a rape crisis advocate do and why should I have one?
In accordance with section 264.2 of the California Penal Code, the services of a rape crisis advocate must be offered to all sexual assault victims. The CSUN police department has a rape crisis advocate on staff that is available if requested. The primary responsibility of a rape crisis advocate is to provide emotional support during the law enforcement investigation and to facilitate communication between law enforcement officers, medical personnel, and the victim. The advocate will accompany you to the medical facility and be present when you meet with the nurse for their investigation and during the forensic exam (referred to as a SART exam), if you wish.
Should you decline to have a rape crisis advocate with you during this process, you may have a friend or family member present.
Why do I need a SART medical exam?
The purpose of a medical exam is to collect forensic evidence. Whether or not you decide to go forward with prosecution of the assailant, it's critical to collect forensic evidence within 72-96 hours of the assault. In the event you decide to go forward with prosecution, even if it may be several years later, forensic evidence will be available. Not all injuries are visible to the naked eye so an exam will allow for not only "trace" evidence to be collected, but to photograph injuries only visible with a high-magnification camera.
What will happen at the medical facility?
First, a sexual assault nurse examiner will interview you to get an account of what happened before, during and after the assault. Next, the nurse will perform a forensic examination to evaluate injuries and collect physical evidence. The exam is similar to a gynecological examination. Once the exam is finished, the evidence will be packaged up by the nurse and turned over to the police department for processing. In the event your clothes are kept as evidence, the nurse will provide you will a fresh change of clothes to wear home. The nurse may also provide you with preventative medication for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Your advocate will offer you literature about where you can seek long-term assistance and also important numbers you may need in the future.
Where can I go for additional help?
Department of Police Services Crime Prevention Unit (818) 677-7922
The rape crisis advocate can provide referrals for seeking additional assistance with counseling and other support. The police department also offers an empowering women's self-defense class, RAD, that is typically offered twice per year. The self-defense course is a pratical class in which you will learn tactics and techniques you may use to defend yourself if you are ever attacked. The 12-hour class is $10 for CSUN students, faculty and staff; $20 for all others. Visit the RAD page of the crime prevention unit's website to watch a video of what the class is like.
University Counseling Services (818) 677-2366 or HelpLine (6pm-midnight daily) 349-HELP
Immediate crisis support is available for CSUN students.
The Valley Trauma Center (818) 756-5330 or (661) 702-0000 for Santa Clarita valley area
The Valley Trauma Center serves the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys with free or low-cost services such as individual, family and group counseling. Rape crisis advocates are available on the 24-hr. hotline (818) 886-0453 or (661) 253-0258 for Santa Clarita Valley area.
NO ONE DESERVES TO BE SEXUALLY ASSAULTED. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. CALL US FOR HELP.