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Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include penetration (also known as rape), attempted rape, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, or fondling or unwanted sexual touching. 

Rape is a form of sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape. The term rape is often used as a legal definition to specifically include sexual penetration without consent.

Date rape (also known as acquaintance rape) is a form of sexual assault. It is the act of forcing sex on a date or acquaintance. Of those who have been raped, about 85% report that they know their attacker. For more information about these situations, see Acquaintance Rape

Nobody has the right to pressure you for sex, not even:

  • after paying for a meal or other expenses
  • if you are dressed provocatively or have been flirting
  • if you agree at first but later changes your mind
  • if you’ve had sex before

If a person is incapacitated, they cannot give consent to any sexual acts. A person can be incapacitated during sleep or blackouts, as well as other situations. If alcohol or drug use is involved, a person does not have to be intoxicated or drunk to be considered incapacitated. Rather, incapacitation is determined by how the alcohol or drug consumed impacts a person's decision-making capacity, awareness of consequences and ability to make informed judgements.

If you are sexually assaulted or raped, any emotional response is normal. You might:

  • feel very upset, very calm, or something in between
  • feel afraid, angry, numb, embarrassed, humiliated, sad, helpless, mistrustful
  • find yourself often thinking about the assault or trying to block it from your mind
  • have physical reactions, such as problems sleeping or eating, soreness or pain from the assault, or tension and distress

The effects of date rape are both emotional and physical. After effects can include:

  • loss of trust in oneself and others
  • loss of confidence in judging a person’s character
  • avoiding particular interactions, potentially causing difficulty for daily routines and responsibilities, such as going to class, or speaking to professors and acquaintances

Depression and anxiety are common after-effects of rape, adding to feelings of helplessness, guilt, or shame.

Sexual problems may occur, being uncertain about how to relate to someoneone sexually after the assault.

Recovering from sexual assault takes your energy. Your emotional and physical reactions to the assault tax your inner resources.


What to Do 

Honor what you need to do to recover, whether it’s sleeping a lot, crying, being with other people more than usual, or being by yourself.

Look for ways and people to help you through. You are the best judge of what you need to do and what you are ready to do.

  • Tell someone you trust.
    It can be a comfort to have someone you care about to talk to, to help you regain a sense of security, to provide companionship, and to be a sounding board as you sort through decisions and options.
  • Get a medical exam as soon as possible.
    You need to take care of your health by having injuries treated and preventing pregnancy and STDs. Getting proper health care also can relieve some stress.
    • If you want to report the assault to the police, you must have a physical examination within 72 hours; the sooner the better.
  • Report the assault to the police and/or Public Safety.
    You might feel more in control if you inform the authorities of the assault. You might want to pursue criminal or disciplinary action so that the assailant is held responsible and to help keep other students safe.
    • This is an important decision; if you aren’t sure you want to go to the police, consider making an initial, informal report so that you can learn about what taking formal action would require and to get help managing the impact of the assault.
  • Get support from a professional counselor.
    A trained professional can provide unique assistance by sharing information about the healing process; being an objective, experienced listener; helping you assess options and make decisions you are comfortable with; and being there for as long as you need someone.

The university can help provide support and assistance when seeking long-term mental health services. Click here for more information on reporting an incident.

Resources both on- and off-campus are available for use at any point in time.

Counseling and Psychological Services is available for free and confidential counseling for sexual assault, as well as a variety of other concerns. Contact them at 610.902.8561.

Denise Johnston, Cabrini’s Title IX Coordinator, can be reached in Grace Hall, Room 160, at 610.902.8207 or denise.m.johnston@cabrini.edu

The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available for free off-campus help and can be reached at 1-800-656-HOPE or online.rainn.org.


How to Support Someone Affected

  • It is never the victim’s fault. The assailant is always responsible.
  • Each person’s reaction to being sexually assaulted is unique.

Your friend may be calm or upset, eager or reluctant to talk, willing or unwilling to take action, able to continue daily activities or in need of non-routine time and space to heal.

As a friend:

  • Believe what you are told.
    Accept the description of the experience as described. Don’t second-guess your friend’s behavior.
  • Assure your friend about who is responsible for the assault.
    Many survivors of assault blame themselves for the attack. Let your friend know that no one deserves to be assaulted and that the attacker is responsible for the assault. 
  • Let your friend take control of the recovery.
    Sexual assault is an experience in loss of control. It isn’t helpful to further rob your friend of control by pushing.
    • The decisions your friend makes about how to cope with the assault will depend on many variables.
    • You can help your friend by identifying options and possible outcomes while not controlling the decisions.
  • Encourage your friend to seek medical attention.
    Physical injuries from sexual assault can range from scratches and bruises to severe trauma and are not always visible.
    • Survivors of rape need to protect themselves from STDs and pregnancy.
    • If your friend decides to press charges, a properly conducted physical examination can provide important evidence.
  • Provide emotional support.
    Your friend has confided in you, trusts you, and needs your comfort.
    • Follow your comforting instincts; let your friend express any and all emotions and thoughts.
    • Use touch, tone of voice, or whatever seems appropriate to communicate your caring.
    • Ask about what helps.
  • Listen. Listen some more.
    After the immediate aftermath of the assault and into the long-term (sometimes months or more) healing process, your friend might need to review what happened over and over or just be with you without talking.
  • Get support for yourself.
    You have your own reactions to the assault. They might include anger, vengefulness, helplessness, sadness, or confusion. Find your own support person to help you talk about what you are experiencing.

Resources both on- and off-campus are available for use at any point in time.

Counseling and Psychological Services provides free and confidential counseling for Cabrini students. To make an appointment, call 610.902.8561.

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