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What Should I do if I am Sexually Assaulted?

Some survivors of sexual assault experience confusion, shock, and numbness. You may have difficulty believing that an assault occurred or that it is serious. This shock, which may last from a few hours to a few days, protects us from feeling overwhelmed. As the numbness lifts, you will probably begin to experience other feelings, which at times can be particularly intense. These strong emotions are a normal grief reaction to a very abnormal situation.

(Adapted from

Recovery from this trauma will most likely take some time. How long depends upon the nature of the crime, its impact on you, and the support you receive during your healing.

Many survivors find it helpful to meet with a counselor to share their thoughts and feelings as well as to get needed support, understanding, and reassurance. In addition, trained counselors can provide information about available resources. Counselors are available at Counseling & Psychological Services, 225 Bird Building. The phone number is 828.227.7469.

Even if your assault happened days, weeks, months or years ago, it is never too late - or less important - for you to seek help and start your healing process.

If you have been assaulted recently, it is important for you to take care of yourself. Please consider the following:

  • Get to a safe place as soon as you can. If the perpetrator poses an immediate danger to you or anyone else, call the WCU Police (828.227.8911) 24 hours a day. If you are off campus, call 911.
  • Try to preserve all physical evidence even if you don't know if you want to report the assault to the police. Collecting physical evidence must occur within 96 hours (4 days).
  • Do not eat, drink, bathe, shower, wash your hands, use the toilet or brush your teeth.
  • Don't change your clothes if possible, but if you need to change, put all of the clothes you were wearing in a plastic/paper bag and bring them with you to your medical exam.
  • Take a minute to write down everything you remember about the assault, including a description of the assailant.
  • You should seek medical care as soon as possible, even if you don't have any apparent injuries. For your health and self-protection you might consider preventative treatment for sexually transmitted infections and/or pregnancy.
  • If you are a female, you can prevent pregnancy by taking emergency contraception within 120 hours (5 days) of the assault. Emergency contraception is most effective when taken as soon as possible.
  • Medications to prevent the development of some sexually transmitted infections can be provided by Health Services. HIV prophylaxis treatment needs to be started within 72 hours. (For more on what to expect during a post-sexual assault exam, click here.)
  • Screening for date rape drugs may 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
  • Consider contacting the police and/or University officials to report the assault. Reporting the incident is a very personal, difficult decision. For some survivors, reporting the crime can help regain a sense of personal power and control; but for others, engaging with the criminal justice system may be a difficult and painful experience. See the WCU Police website for information about reporting a rape or sex offense crime and information about the criminal justice system.

(Adapted from RAINN, "What should I do if I am sexually assaulted?")


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