Sexual Assault/Sex Offenses
Sexual Assault is a crime punishable by both civil and criminal legal action. In addition, the University Judicial System administered through the Office of the Dean of Students adjudicates, at the request of the victim, all cases involving sex offenses in which the alleged perpetrator is a UVa Student. There are several avenues for assistance if a person becomes the victim of a sex offense.
Two key points to remember are that the assault was not your fault and there is help available.
The University Police Department is always available and ready to assist if needed. The police department has educational literature available on prevention methods and procedures to follow if you should become the victim of a sex offense. The University of Virginia Police Department, the Office of the Dean of Students and the Women’s Center provide awareness and prevention programs regarding rape, acquaintance rape, other sex offenses, bystander intervention, personal safety and Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) classes upon request. RAD classes are self-defense classes for women only and consist of awareness, safety tips and progresses into hands on attack simulations at the end of the class.
The Police Department’s Victim/Witness Assistance Program protects the rights of victims and witness of crimes. Referral information is accessible at all times regarding area services available for general counseling, medical attention, emergency housing or financial assistance. Responsiveness to the needs of crime victims is a department priority. Please contact Officer Rexrode at: firstname.lastname@example.org
IF SEXUAL ASSAULT HAPPENS TO YOU:
Everyone, both women and men, should know what can be done if someone you know has been sexually assaulted. A sexual assault is a traumatic experience and no one should feel forced to do anything; however, below is a list of options that one may utilize if they so choose:
- Calling someone you trust -- no matter how late it is, as you may not wish to be alone. Consider calling a close friend or a Residence staff member.
- Go to a safe place. Consider going to your room, a friend’s room, or anywhere you will feel safe. If you are in a public area far from home, go to an open business and ask the manager for help.
- Seek medical treatment IMMEDIATELY. You do not have to report to the police to receive medical care or have evidence collected. Don’t bathe or douche, change clothes, eat, brush your teeth, go to the bathroom or brush your hair, as you might destroy useful evidence. Go immediately to the UVa Emergency department. Seeking medical attention is vital, as you may have injuries of which you may not be aware. A Forensic Nurse Examiner (also known as SANE nurses) can perform a Physical Evidence Recovery Kit (PERK), if the assault occurred within 72 hours. If you are unsure about reporting the assault to police, it makes sense to allow medical professionals to collect evidence to preserve the option of later making a police report. A SARA advocate can be available to assist you through this process. Currently, PERK kits are only available locally at the University of Virginia Emergency Department.
- Reporting the incident to police is also an option; whether or not you plan to pursue criminal charges. Reporting the assault does not commit you to filing charges. You can make that decision later in collaboration with the Commonwealth's Attorney.
- Do NOT blame yourself. IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT! Your behavior DID NOT cause the assault.
- Consider getting help and support, such as counseling. A sexual assault is an extremely traumatic incident; it is often easier to get some help in dealing with the situation rather than handling it on your own.
Take advantage of the resources available for victims of sexual assault
-- or encourage their use. Sources of support include the Office of the Dean of Students, the Women's Center, Counseling and Psychological Services in Student Health, the Sexual Assault Resource Agency, and the Victim and Witness Assistance Programs. Students wishing to pursue charges through the University can do so through the Sexual Misconduct Board. For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students by phone at
434-924-7133 or by visiting these websites:
Sexual Violence or UVA Police
As mentioned above, victims of very recent assaults should go to the University of Virginia Hospital Emergency Department for a physical exam and the collection of evidence. All victims, past or present, should be seen by a qualified physician or nurse to check for sexually transmitted diseases, physical trauma, and possible pregnancy. The University of Virginia Emergency Department has a Forensic Nurse Examiner who can assist with the collection of evidence. Again, if you do not wish to formally report, the nurse will assign a code to your evidence kit and give you the number for future reference, or if you decide to go ahead and make a formal police report. Female victims may prefer to see a female physician, and should request one if that will increase their comfort, though in the emergency room that may not always be possible. Even if no symptoms are apparent, victims are still strongly encouraged to seek medical attention.
Counseling is often crucial to the recovery process, even for individuals who are managing relatively well after experiencing sexual assault or intimate partner violence. We encourage victims to seek the assistance of qualified professionals, even if many years have elapsed since the assault. As always, the choice to seek counseling should be the victim’s. The Women’s Center at UVa, Sexual Assault Resource Agency (SARA), which is located in downtown Charlottesville, and Shelter for Help in Emergency (our local domestic violence program and shelter), with an outreach center in Albemarle County, have counselors on staff who specialize in working with survivors of gender violence. These services are FREE OF CHARGE and completely CONFIDENTIAL. Students at the University of Virginia also have free and confidential access to counseling services through Student Health's Counseling and Psychological Services. Private counselors also are a good source of support through the recovery process, although they charge for their services. This is a viable option for people who have health insurance. All of the agencies mentioned above can refer survivors, their family members and friends to private therapists in the community who are known to have expertise in this area.
Legal and Judicial Options
Sexual assault victims have three judicial options from which to choose: filing criminal charges, filing campus judicial charges, through the Sexual Misconduct Board if the alleged perpetrator is a University of Virginia Student, and filing civil charges. Victims are not limited to just one of these options, but can choose any combination including filing all three types of charges.
A police report must be generated before an investigation can begin and charges can be filed. If the assault happened on campus, it falls under the jurisdiction of the UVa Police. If the assault occurred off-campus in the city of Charlottesville, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Charlottesville Police. If the assault occurred in the county, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Albemarle County Police.
Many victims believe that if they do not file criminal charges immediately, they lose that option. This may not be the case. There are statutes of limitation for filing criminal charges, but they are typically several years in duration. Certainly, it is best to go to the police as soon as possible after an assault, in order to preserve as much evidence as possible. The police will arrange for the victim to be seen at the UVa Hospital for medical care and evidence collection. However, even if some time has elapsed, the police still encourage victims to come forward. Criminal charges are prosecuted by the Commonwealth of Virginia, not the individual victim. A Commonwealth’s Attorney will argue the case at no cost to the victim. The victim serves as the primary witness to the crime, and his or her testimony is crucial to the case. Criminal cases may take considerable time to proceed through the justice system. Typically, the press protects the identity of the victim, although the identity of the accused perpetrator is not protected.
Victims of sexual assault may report an assault to the police in one of two ways: First, they can report directly to the police either by calling 911 or requesting police is called by at the UVA Emergency Department if they seek medical attention. Victims can also report anonymously at JustReportIt
University judicial charges can only be filed if the alleged offender is a UVa student. The referral agent is typically a member of the UVa community as well but does not need to be a student or staff member.. The campus judicial system examines violations of university policy. Campus judicial hearings do not replace or substitute for criminal prosecutions, and students who choose campus judicial hearings are also encouraged to seek redress through the criminal justice system. For more comprehensive information about the services and support available to University students in cases of sexual misconduct, please visit www.virginia.edu/sexualviolence