What is sexual violence?
Sexual violence is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “sexual activity when consent is not obtained or not freely given”. It has been categorized as a serious public health concern in the United States as it impacts every community and affects all types of people. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. College-aged women are especially vulnerable, with estimates of 1 in 4 women being sexually assaulted while in college.
Sexual violence occurs when one person makes the choice to violate or ignore another person’s wishes or rights using sexual means. Perpetrators are generally someone that the victim knows. If sexual violence occurs, it is NEVER the fault of the victim.
What To Do If You or a Friend Has Been Sexually Assaulted
There are resources both on and off campus to utilize in the event of a sexual assault. Please note that different people and departments have different reporting obligations.
If you are, or you suspect someone else is in immediate danger, call 911.
WVU’s Carruth Center for Counseling and Psychological Services provides confidential counseling and advocacy specifically for WVU Students. Services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week: (304) 293-4431. The Carruth center also participates in a crisis text line; To use, simply text “WVU” to 741741 and a trained counselor will respond. Please note that the crisis text line counselors are NOT affiliated with the Carruth Center or WVU.
WVU’s University Student Conduct and Discipline Policy prohibits sexual violence of any kind. The Title IX professionals can help survivors navigate the complaint, investigation, and sanctioning process. For more information, please call their office (304) 293-5600, or visit their website.
The Rape and Domestic Violence Information Center (RDVIC) operates a 24-hour hotline to provide support: 304-292-5100. RDVIC also provides emergency shelter, counseling, support groups, victim advocacy, community education, and volunteer opportunities. All services are confidential and free of charge. They operate an office in the local Morgantown area.
Aside from contacting a professional, it is always helpful to have someone that you trust and care about with you. Reach out to a friend or family member to help you through the process. If you know or suspect a friend of family member has been a victim of sexual assault, let them know that you are there any time they need, respect their boundaries and decisions, and affirm that they are never to blame. Approach all conversations with a judgement-free tone, don't ask questions that might be triggering for them, and allow them to share information with you at their own pace.
It may be necessary to seek help with medical care, evidence collection, and access to emergency contraception and/or medicine to help prevent sexually transmitted infections.
You can obtain both medical treatment and a Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence kit (AKA “SAFE kit”) at the hospital. SAFE kits can only be completed within 96 hours of the sexual assault, and emergency contraception can be effective up to 5 days after the assault. Please note that even if you do not disclose the sexual assault within 96 hours, you can still report it to law enforcement and/or the university. Consenting to a SAFE kit does NOT mean you have to press criminal charges but ensures the collection of evidence if you later decide to press criminal charges.
In order to preserve evidence for a kit, it is important not to shower or change your clothes. (Even if you have showered or changed your clothes, you can still request a rape kit within 96 hours.) Clothes may be collected as part of a rape kit, so bring a change of clothes with you to the hospital if possible. Please don’t eat or drink anything, or brush your teeth before going to the hospital, in order to preserve evidence.
All care provided by a healthcare professional remains confidential unless state law[LM1] requires it be reported for your safety. Healthcare professionals are required to report the following to Child Protective Services and Law Enforcement: abuse and neglect of a minor (anybody under the age of 18 that is not legally emancipated), abuse and neglect of an incapacitated adult, and injuries suspected of being sustained by a gun, knife, other sharp object, or burns from suspected arson.
Although you can go to any hospital, WVU Ruby Memorial Hospital (304-598-4172) and WVU Student Health (304-285-7200) will waive the cost of the examination if you identify yourself as a WVU student at the time of the examination.
[LM1] You can also make the choice to report the sexual assault to law enforcement. You can begin a criminal investigation by contacting the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the assault occurred. (If you are unsure of the jurisdiction, contact any police department for help.) Please be aware that if the sexual assault was perpetrated by another student, the police department will share your report with WVU as well.
Once the criminal investigation is complete, the prosecutor’s office will decide whether to press charges against the perpetrator. Even if the perpetrator is arrested, they may be released on bail pending their criminal hearing. The Monongalia County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has a Victim Assistance Program to help victims navigate the criminal system: (304) 291-7286.
Even if you sign a form indicating that you do not wish to file criminal charges, you still have the right to file criminal charges at a later time.
- West Virginia University Police Department: (304) 293-3136
- Morgantown Police Department: (304) 284-7522
- Westover Police Department: (304) 296-6576
- Granville Police Department: (304) 599-5080
- Star City Police Department: (304) 599-3550
- Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department: (304) 291-7290
- West Virginia State Police: (304) 285-3200