Sexual Assault & Rape

Rape or sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status. On this page you will find information, legal definitions, resources, and links you can use to learn more about rape and sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been raped or sexually assaulted, click on this link for immediate steps to take. It's important to remember is that no one deserves to be sexually assaulted.

Brown takes any form of sexual assault very seriously and has developed a comprehensive definition of sexual misconduct. Click here to read more about that policy. Here are some statistics that indicate the prevalence of rape and sexual assault on college campuses:

  • Female college freshmen are at the highest risk for sexual assault between the first day of school and Thanksgiving break.
  • 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted (includes attempted assaults) during their college years.
  • 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted (includes attempted assaults) during their college years.
  • For women who have been raped in college, 9 out of 10 offenders were known to the victim.
  • Sexual assaults in college are more likely to occur at night and in someone's residence (either the victim's or the offender's).
  • 90% of campus rapes involve alcohol use by the assailant or the victim.
  • Although women are more likely to be sexually assaulted, 10% of all sexual assaults and rapes happen to men. Click here for more information on male victims of sexual assault.

The exact definitions under Rhode Island law can be found in the RI Statutes.  

What is rape?

Rape is any kind of sexual intercourse (vaginal, oral, or anal) that is committed against a person's will or is committed with physical force or with a threat to hurt the victim or another person. It is also considered rape if the victim is intoxicated or unconscious and unable to give consent. Rape and sexual assault are not misunderstandings about communication or sexual desire--they are about power and control.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is the legal term for rape, and it also encompasses other behaviors beyond forced sexual intercourse. Sexual assault can be any unwanted sexual contact, such as unwanted touching, fondling, or groping of sexual body parts. It can be committed by the use of threats or force or when someone takes advantage of circumstances that render a person incapable of giving consent, such as intoxication.

There are specific definitions for the degrees of sexual assault and legal definitions can vary from state to state. Rhode Island law defines these as:

  • 1st Degree Sexual Assault -- sexual penetration of any orifice of the victim's body by a body part or object, achieved through force, threat of force or coercion.
  • 2nd Degree Sexual Assault -- physical contact of a sexual nature without consent, with a victim's genitals or buttocks or a woman's breasts.
  • 3rd Degree Sexual Assault -- sexual activity between one party who is 18 years of age or older and one who is under 16 years of age. (Sixteen is the age of consent in Rhode Island)

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What is consent?

Consent is an agreement that each person makes if they want to engage in sexual activity. The issue of consent can be a complicated and ambiguous area that needs to be addressed with clear, open, and honest communication. Keep these points in mind if you are not sure consent has been established:

Each person is equally free to act.
The decision to be sexually intimate must be without coercion. Each person must have the option to choose to be intimate or not. Each person should be free to change "yes" to "no" at any time. Factors such as body size, previous victimization, threats to "out" someone, and other fears can prevent an individual from freely consenting. An offender may also use these factors to manipulate someone.

Each person needs to be fully conscious and aware.
The use of alcohol or other substances can interfere with someone's ability to make clear decisions about the level of intimacy they are comfortable with. The more intoxicated a person is, the less they are able to give conscious consent.

Each person clearly communicates their willingness and permission.
Willingness and permission must be communicated clearly and unambiguously. Just because a person fails to resist sexual advances does not mean that they are willing. Consent is not the absence of the word "no."

Each person is positive and sincere about their desires.
It is important to be honest in communicating feelings about consent. If one person states their desires, the other person can make informed decisions about the encounter.

(Adapted from Berkowitz, Alan. "Guidelines for Consent in Intimate Relationships," Campus Safety & Student Development, Vol. 3, No. 4, March/April 2002.)

Who can be a perpetrator of sexual assault?

Anyone may be the perpetrator of sexual assault. The perpetrator may be a stranger, an acquaintance, a lover, a partner, or a date. Most of the time the perpetrator of the assault is someone the victim knows, either a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, other relative, or acquaintance.

Who can be a victim of sexual assault?

Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status. Although it is more common for women to be victims, approximately 1 out of 10 men have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.

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What should I do if I am sexually assaulted?

If you are concerned about pregnancy, you can take steps to prevent this by taking emergency contraception within 120 hours (5 days) of the assault. Emergency contraception is most effective when taken as soon as possible.  Collecting physical evidence must occur within 96 hours (4 days). Medications to prevent the development of some sexually transmitted infections and HIV can be provided by Health Services.  HIV prophylaxis treatment needs to be started within 72 hours. Screening for date rape drugs can be done up to 72 hours after the incident but is optimally done within 12 hours.  Since many of these drugs clear the system quickly, a negative test result does not necessarily mean that no drug was involved.

If the incident occurred in the last 24 to 120 hours:

  • Call the Sexual Assault Response Line (401.863-6000) if you need immediate medical or police assistance.  If you are away from Brown, call 911. If you want to report the crime, notify Brown's Department of Public Safety immediately at 401.863-4111. For some, reporting the crime can help regain a sense of personal power and control.
  • Go to a safe place as soon as you can and ask someone you trust to stay with you.
  • Get help by calling one of these sexual assault resources:
  • Try to preserve all evidence of the assault. Avoid drinking, bathing, showering, douching, brushing your teeth, or changing your clothes. Evidence can be collected at an emergency room and you can decide later whether or not you want to press criminal charges.
  • Try to write down, or have a friend write down, everything you can remember about the incident including a physical description of the perpetrator, their identity if you know it, and the use of threats, force or coercion, such as asking repeatedly, pressuring you, getting you to drink a lot or take drugs, etc.
  • Consider getting medical care. Go to Health Services or a hospital emergency room that provides medical care for sexual assault victims. Even if you think that you do not have any physical injuries, it's important to get medical care to discuss STIs, date rape drugs, pregnancy prevention, and evidence collection.  All services, except evidence collection and drug testing, can be provided at Health Services.
  • If you think you were drugged or consumed a sedative-like substance, ask the medical provider to take a urine sample. Date rape drugs like GHB and Rohypnol are more likely to be detected in urine than in blood. If you still have remnants of the drink, save them for analysis. Since many of these drugs clear the system quickly, a negative test result does not necessarily mean that no drug was involved.
  • Talk with a counselor who is trained to assist victims of sexual assault. You can call one of the resources listed below.

(Adapted from RAINN, "If you are raped.")

If I choose to report the incident, what are my options?

Whether the assault happened recently or a long time ago, you may consider reporting the incident.  Reporting is a personal, difficult decision. Only you can decide if you want to report the incident and to whom to report.  The various reporting options are outlined below.  These options are not mutually exclusive; you may pursue any or all of them. It is common for a person who has been sexually assaulted to change their mind or have questions about reporting.  You can confidentially discuss reporting options, and what it may be like to report, with the SHARE Adovcate (401.863-2794) or by calling the Sexual Assault Response Line, available 24-hours a day (401.863-6000).   

Reporting Anonymously or Confidentially

Choose this option if you want to report the incident, but do not want any further action to be taken.  This report is not a police report and no investigation will occur as a result.  If you choose this option, you can decide to make a formal and/or criminal report in the future.
You can make an anonymous or confidential report by contacting the SHARE Advocate (401.863-2794).
This report will collect statistical information about the incident (date, location, whether the person assaulted is a Brown student).  You can make this report for yourself or for someone you know. No identifying information will be included in the report.  When appropriate, incident information will be reported anonymously for mandatory reporting statistics.

Reporting Sexual Assault to Brown University

Choose this option if you want to formally report sexual assault and seek University judicial action.  
If you and the perpetrator are Brown students, you can file a complaint alleging a violation of the Sexual Misconduct Policy with the Office of Student Life. 
Communications will not be disseminated to others except on a need-to-know basis.  The University must balance the wishes of the reporting person while protecting the overall university community and ensuring appropriate disciplinary measures are taken.



Reporting Sexual Assault to the Police

Choose this option if you wish to report an assault and, possibly, pursue criminal prosecution.

You can file a police report by contacting Brown's Department of Public Safety (DPS) (401.863-4111), 24 hours a day.

Michelle Nuey, Special Victims Unit, DPS,(401.863.2542) can provide information and support concerning legal reporting options and assistance with filing a report. You can seek information without filing an official police report.

Off campus incidents will need to be reported to law enforcement in the town that where the incident occurred.  However, Michelle Nuey at DPS can assist with facilitating this process.  If the incident occurred off campus, in Providence, you can file a report with Providence Police
Emergency: 911
Non-Emergency: 401.272-3121
Special Victims Unit: 401.243-6236

If you choose to file a police report the SHARE Advocate or Michelle Nuey, Special Victims Unit staff at DPS can accompany and assist you.

All victims of sexual assault on Brown’s campus (students, faculty, staff and guests) can report the incident to DPS.              


What happens during the medical exam?

Even if you have no apparent injuries after the assault, it is still a good idea to seek medical care. Going to the hospital, even though it might be difficult, is an important way for you to start taking care of yourself. You can decide what medical care you want or don't want. You may come to Health Services or you may go to any hospital you choose. If you need to be transferred from Health Services to another emergency care site, Brown EMS can transport you.

At the hospital, you will be asked questions about your general health. If you are someone who could become pregnant, you will be asked about your menstrual history and your use of contraception. You will also be asked specific questions about the assault. It may be difficult to recall some of the details, and it may be emotionally painful to talk about what happened. Medical providers ask specific questions to find out what to look for when they examine you. The information you give helps them conduct a thorough physical evaluation.

Then you can choose to have a physical exam. The clinician will check for external and internal injuries and test for any sexually transmitted infections. You may be given antibiotics to prevent infection. A pregnancy test will be done if appropriate and you will be given emergency contraceptive pills to prevent unintended pregnancy. The medical providers will, with your permission, collect physical evidence to be used if you decide to prosecute. Collecting this physical evidence is called a "rape kit." This cannot be done at Health Services, but must be done at an emergency room or hospital. Depending on the types of sexual contact that occurred, the search for physical evidence may include taking samples from the vagina, mouth, 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.

All exam findings are completely confidential and can only be released with your written consent. If you have visible injuries, you may be asked to have photographs taken. Photographing injuries is important because by the time your assailant is prosecuted, the injuries may have healed.

Going to the hospital does not mean that you have to make a report to the police. That is your choice. The hospital staff will probably ask you to come back for a follow-up checkup. Or, you follow up with a medical provider of your choice. A counselor will be available to talk with you. Additional ongoing counseling will be available to you through the support resources of your choice.

Where do I go for help?

Whether the incident occurred recently or long ago, it is never too late to get help:

  • Talk to a counselor at one of the resources below to work through the emotional and physical impacts of the assault and to get support.
  • Find a local support group by contacting Day One: The Sexual Assault and Trauma Resource Center to help you connect with other survivors and start the healing process.

Sexual Assault Response Line 401.863-6000
Available through Psychological Services' on-call system. Confidential crisis support and information is available for any Brown student dealing with sexual assault. The on-call counselor is also available to accompany a victim to the hospital.

SHARE Advocate (Sexual Harassment & Assault Resources & Education),, 401.863-2794, 3rd floor of Health Services
Alana Sacks is available to help students affected by sexual violence. Confidential services include support for a survivor or the friends of a survivor, help filing a complaint (if that is the student’s choice), help navigating resources at Brown and in the community, and educational programs for the student community. When you get support, you do not have to pursue any specific course of action and no action will be taken unless it’s something you choose.

Counseling and Psychological Services 401.863-3476
Clinicians provide confidential crisis support, follow-up appointments, and 24-hour on-call services for any Brown student dealing with sexual assault.  Located at J. Walter Wilson, Room 516.

Office of Student Life/Dean-on-Call 401.863-3800
Provides a crisis response system which includes deans-on-call.

Brown Department of Public Safety 401.863-4111
Emergency response available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Brown Emergency Medical Services (EMS) 401.863-4111
Emergency response available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

University Health Services 401.863-3953
Confidential medical care, testing and treatment. Emergency contraceptive pills and treatment for sexually transmitted infections are available. Located at the corner of Brown and Charlesfield Streets.

Local Hospital Emergency Rooms:

Women & Infants Hospital 401.274-1100
101 Dudley Street, Providence

Rhode Island Hospital 401.444-5411
593 Eddy Street, Providence

Miriam Hospital 401.793-2500
164 Summit Avenue, Providence

Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-494-8100
If you or someone you know needs help because of a sexual assault or an abusive relationship, call this hotline 24 hours a day. Counselor-advocates provide confidential support and are available to accompany victims of sexual assault to the hospital and police station. Ongoing counseling and support groups are available. (This hotline is specific to Rhode Island. Contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE if you need help in another state.)

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) 1-800-656-HOPE
This is a national hotline for victims of sexual assault. The hotline offers free, confidential counseling and support 24 hours a day, from anywhere in the country. When a survivor calls the hotline, they are connected to the nearest local rape crisis center through a unique computer routing system that maintains the confidentiality of callers.

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What are common reactions to sexual assault?

After a rape or sexual assault, it is normal to experience a range of feelings, physical reactions, and behavior changes.  While there are similarities in how people may respond, each person will react to the incident in their own way. One person may feel intense anger and even have feelings of revenge, while another may feel numb. Below are some of the common types of reactions a person who is sexually assaulted might have:

Shock and disbelief
Immediately after the assault many people are in a state of shock. Some will act as if nothing has happened, trying to make life seem normal. Others find themselves in a daze, having difficulty focusing or getting mobilized.

Recurring thoughts and re-experiencing
There may also be periods when a person is preoccupied with thoughts and feelings about the assault. They may have unwanted memories, flashbacks or nightmares. When they think about what happened, they may re-experience some of the sensations and feelings they had during the assault, such as fear and powerlessness.

Difficult emotions
While some people experience an overwhelming amount of emotions, immediately after an assault, others find that days, months, or even years pass before feelings surface.  Emotions can change rapidly.  Some feelings that may surface include sadness, anger, embarrassment, guilt, fear, hopelessness, powerlessness, loneliness, confusion, and grief.  Feelings can be overwhelming and some people feel like they are going crazy.  It is also common to feel numb, detached, or empty.  

Self-blame and shame
A person may feel that the rape or assault was their fault or that they could have done something to prevent it.  Feeling guilty, ashamed, or as if something is wrong with you is common.  Shame and embarrassment can make it difficult to get help, as a person may feel that others won’t believe them or will judge them.

Feeling afraid and vulnerable
Fears of darkness, of being alone, of being around people like the perpetrator, or of being raped again are common reactions.  Some people feel “on edge” or easily startled.

Difficulty in relationships
Sexual assault impacts a person’s ability to trust others.  A person may feel alone in their experience and that no one can understand.  Withdrawing from others or becoming dependent in relationships with friends, family, or intimate partners is common.  A person may feel irritable or angry with the people in their lives.  Sexual intimacy may be difficult and could bring up painful memories or a fear of losing control.

Other emotional or psychological effects may include:

  • Depression
  • Social withdrawal
  • Numbing/apathy (detachment, loss of caring)
  • Reduced ability to express emotions
  • Nightmares or flashbacks
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Diminished interest in activities or sex
  • Increased sexual activity
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Impaired memory
  • Loss of appetite
  • Thoughts of suicide and death
  • Substance abuse
  • Psychological disorders

All of these feelings and reactions are normal responses to rape or sexual assault. It is also common for some feelings to resurface or new ones to emerge later on in a survivor's life. Periods of stress, new intimate relationships, the anniversary of the incident, or situations such as seeing the perpetrator or testifying in court, can trigger intense feelings.

(Previous 2 sections adapted from RAINN "Impact of Rape," and The Stone Center at Wellesley "Taking Care of Yourself: Sexual Abuse and Interpersonal Violence Education.")

What can be done to minimize the risk of sexual assault?

Sexual assault and rape can happen to anyone at anytime. Perpetrators, not survivors, are responsible for sexual assaults. Only a perpetrator can prevent a sexual assault, but we can all take steps to reduce the risk. Some prevention strategies for everyone include:

Respect the rights of others.

  • Listen to the messages your partner is giving. Be sensitive to both verbal and nonverbal communication. Ask. Double check that you both are doing what you want.
  • The absence of the word "no" does not constitute consent. Make sure you have consent by asking your partner what they want to do. If your partner seems confused or unsure, it's time to stop.
  • Remember that having done something sexual previously is not a blanket "yes" for the future.
  • Remember that your partner can change "yes" to "no" at any time. Respect their choice.
  • Know which behaviors constitute rape and sexual assault, and understand that most incidents happen between people who know each other.
  • If you choose to drink, be responsible. Alcohol consumption greatly increases the risk of sexual assault.
  • Never slip anyone any type of drug. Not only is this illegal, but you don't know what effect a drug can have on someone.

Increase your safety.

  • Think about what you really want from a partner before a possibly uncomfortable or dangerous situation occurs.
  • Communicate clearly. You have the right to say "no" or "I'm not sure."
  • Go to a party with friends, not alone. Keep track of your friends and leave with them. Don't leave alone or with someone you don't know well.
  • If you choose to drink, be careful. Offenders often take advantage of people who have been drinking..
  • Know what's in your drink, whether it's non-alcoholic or contains alcohol. Open the can yourself, make your drink yourself or watch it being made, and don't leave your drink unattended. Avoid punch bowls-- there is no way to know how much alcohol is in them, and since date rape drugs are odorless, colorless and tasteless they can be added to punch without anyone knowing. Date rape drugs can cause dizziness, disorientation, loss of inhibition, blackouts, and loss of consciousness. If you feel any strange symptoms, tell someone you trust right away. Follow this link for more information on date rape drugs.
  • Know which behaviors constitute sexual assault and rape. Understand that most incidents occur between people who know each other.
  • If something happens, it wasn't your fault. You have the right to get anonymous or confidential support from resources on campus and off campus.

Look out for the safety of friends.

  • When going to a party with friends, keep track of each other while you're there. Plan to leave together and don't let anyone leave alone.
  • If a friend decides to leave a party with someone else, talk to them about their safety. If you are worried about someone, it's ok to try to protect them from harm.
  • If someone seems highly intoxicated, call Brown Emergency Services at 401.863-4111. There is no discipline for someone who needs medical care for intoxication.
  • Learn more about sexual assault and rape and how to help a friend who may have been assaulted.
  • If a friend discloses to you that they have been sexually assaulted, don't take it all on yourself. Use Brown or off campus resources for advice and support for your friend and for yourself.

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Links you can use

The Office of Student Life, Student Handbook
This is an online version of the Student Handbook that links to the section on policies and regulations. Brown's definition of sexual misconduct is outlined here as well as the steps taken when an assault occurs.

Day One: The Sexual Assault and Trauma Resource Center
Day One is the RI resource for victims of sexual assault and their families. The site provides information on a range of topics, including sexual assault, child sexual abuse, internet safety and sex offender management. Day One offers individual and group counseling for survivors of sexual abuse, child sexual abuse and for their families.

Rape, Abuse, and Incest Network (RAINN)
This web site offers information and statistics on sexual assault and can locate a local rape crisis center in your area.

Rape Treatment Center
This web site offers information on the impact of rape, date rape drugs, facts and statistics, as well as a comprehensive list of links to other resources.

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Disclaimer: BWell Health Promotion is part of Health Services at Brown University. Health Promotion maintains this site as a resource for Brown students. This site is not intended to replace consultation with your medical providers. No site can replace real conversation. Health Promotion offers no endorsement of and assumes no liability for the currency, accuracy, or availability of the information on the sites we link to or the care provided by the resources listed. Health Services staff are available to treat and give medical advice to Brown University students only. If you are not a Brown student, but are in need of medical assistance please call your own health care provider or in case of an emergency, dial 911. Please contact us if you have comments, questions or suggestions.