Sexual assault is a crime; if you are the victim of a sexual assault you are strongly encouraged to report the assault. According to New Hampshire law, sexual assaults involve the use of force or threat of force to sexually touch or penetrate the victim's body or forcing the victim to touch or penetrate the offender's body. Threats of death or use of a weapon increases the severity of legal charges. Sex crimes can be prosecuted even if the victim knew the attacker, the victim did not fight back, the victim had consensual sex with the attacker previously, or the victim was intoxicated or unconscious.
If you have been sexually assaulted:
Seek medical attention immediately. Do not shower, change clothes, or disturb the scene of the attack. Go to the emergency room of a hospital; ask a friend to go with you, if possible. Local hospitals include Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, at 789 Central Avenue Dover, NH; Portsmouth Regional Hospital, at 333 Borthwick Avenue Portsmouth, NH; and Exeter Hospital, at 5 Alumni Drive Exeter. UNH Students, Staff and Faculty members can also utilize the UNH Health Services, at 12 Ballard St Durham, NH. Hospital personnel will treat the physical consequences of assault, such as injury, infection, disease, and pregnancy. They can collect evidence that will be needed if you report the crime. The hospital personnel can perform an anonymous evidence collection kit if you so wish. An advocate from the UNH Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP) can accompany you to the hospital. SHARPP is a University of New Hampshire program dedicated to providing free and confidential advocacy to survivors of sexual assault, initmate partner violence, sexual harrassment, and stalking. SHARPP provides support and services to survivors as well as friends, families and allies who may be affected by the trauma, and/or looking for ways to support someone about whome they care. For more information about SHARPP, click here.
If you choose to notify the 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 your body. The gathering of physical evidence can provide important evidence and support of criminal charges leading to a successful prosecution.
If you choose not to immediately report the incident days, weeks, or even months after the assault, important support systems are still available and can be arranged; however, criminal investigations become much more difficult.
Sexual assaults are felony level crimes. The UNH Police Department’s Investigative Services Division will investigate sexual assaults that occur on campus; however, the prosecution of sexual assaults is within the authority of the Strafford County Attorney’s Office. The Strafford County Sexual Assault Protocol is the guiding policy for all Strafford County law enforcement agencies. Understand that the protocol requires responding officers to take a “minimum facts” interview of your story. The officer will speak with you about scheduling a full interview at a later date at the County Attorney’s Office. The UNH Police Department can provide transportation to this interview and a SHARPP advocate can accompany you. This goal of this protocol is to prevent you to be forced to retell your story numerous times.
If you are UNH student, staff or faculty member the UNH Counseling Center can help treat the emotional consequences of the assault. For those victims of sexual assault outside of the UNH community you are encouraged to seek counseling as well. SHARPP advocates can assist you in finding counseling that is right for you.