New Hampshire

Sexual Violence

Who Experiences Sexual Violence?

You, a loved one, a friend, a co-worker or a neighbor may have been sexually assaulted. You may have been exposed to sexual violence through television, newspapers, magazines, or the internet. Sexual violence affects victims young and old, healthy and infirm, wealthy and people living in poverty, employed and unemployed, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation/identity, educational status, and relationship status, religious or political affiliation.

Sexual assault happens to people you know and feel connected to. With recent national statistics indicating that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men will be assaulted in their lifetime, chances are you already know a survivor.

According to the NH Violence Against Women Survey:

  • Nearly one in four women has been the victim of sexual assault at some point in their lifetime. Nearly one fifth of New Hampshire women were the victim of sexual assault with penetration.
  • Sexual violence is a crime in which youth are particularly at risk. Forty-one percent of the most recent sexual assaults reported in this survey occurred before the victim’s 18th birthday, and 83% occurred before the age of 25.
  • The majority of the victims of sexual and/or physical violence knew the perpetrator of their most recent assault.
  • Consistent with other research, women reporting multiple types of abuse also reported poorer physical health. Women who report having a chronic disease or medical condition were more likely to report.

-NHCADSV, 2006

What Is Sexual Violence?

Sexual violence can be non-verbal, verbal, or physical. Behaviors are unwanted, repeated, and unreciprocated. Some environments support a culture where sexual violence is accepted or condoned. This is called “rape culture” or a “culture of violence.”

Sexual assault includes (over or under clothing):

  • Gropes
  • Pinching
  • Rubbing body parts against a person
  • Fondling
  • Unwanted kissing & touching
  • Cornering a person and verbally harassing them
  • Coercing or threatening someone to have sex
  • Facilitating someone becoming incapacitated in order to have sex (Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault)
  • Rape with penetration of any bodily orifice with another body part or an object
  • Forced participation in pornography
  • Forced participation in prostitution

Sexual harassment, while often verbal, can affect victims in the same way that physical assaults do.

Sexual harassment includes:

  • Stares, gestures, and jokes
  • Forced exposure to pornography
  • Posters, calendars and signs that sexualize women and children
  • Phone calls, emails, and texts of a sexual nature
  • Whistles and catcalls
  • Sexual names like “slut”, “bitch” or “whore”
  • Gender putdowns and misogyny (intense hatred of women)
  • Graphic musical lyrics, music videos and images

What is consent?

Consent means that a person has given permission or agreed to participate in a behavior or act. For consent to be given, a person must be aware of what they have agreed to and have the capability to understand and enter into the agreement. Here are some important things to remember regarding consent and sexual violence:

  • “NO means NO.”
  • Consent can be given and withdrawn at any time.
  • Consent can not be given if a person is unconscious.
  • Consent can not be given if the person is coerced or threatened in anyway to enter into the agreement or to give permission.
  • Consent can not be given by someone who does not have the cognitive ability to understand the act or agreement.
  • Consent can be verbal and non-verbal. If verbal consent is NOT given, assume that consent has NOT been given.

Why does sexual violence occur?

Sexual assault is not about sex. It is about power and control. In cases of sexual assault and sexual harassment, the perpetrator’s goal is to exert and maintain power and control over the victim. Sexual assault is NOT about fulfilling sexual needs or desires. Sexual assault is meant to humiliate, intimidate, and harm the victim. Victims are NEVER responsible for sexual assault or sexual harassment. The responsibility for sexual crimes should be assigned to the perpetrator. For example, if someone robs a bank, the crime is theft and the weapon is the gun or threat of harm. Similarly, in sexual assault, the crime is theft of dignity, sense of safety, and personal power and the weapon is sexual acts and language.

Who commits sexual violence?

The majority of people who experience sexual violence are assaulted by someone they know: a family member, current or ex-partner, or acquaintance. Stranger assaults, though they do occur, are less frequent.

How do I get help for me or someone I care about?

  • Listen and believe what you are told.
  • Always remember it is not the victim’s fault.
  • Validate the victim’s feelings and strength.
  • Help the victim understand it is not her/his fault.
  • Support the victim’s right to make her/his own choices about how to handle the assault.
  • Provide information about community services.
  • Encourage the victim to call the YWCA Crisis Service.
  • Get informed about sexual violence and how to stop it.

Safety First

Get to a safe location. Call a friend, family member, or the YWCA 24 hour crisis line at 603-668-2299.
If you need medical help, call 911, go to your local hospital, or your own doctor’s office. An advocate will meet you at the hospital or the doctor’s office. If you would like, you can request that the police come to you at the scene, your home, or at the local hospital.

Medical Attention

Getting medical attention is about your health and safety. Going to the hospital is not a decision to report the crime. Law enforcement will respond to the hospital if you request that they be called. You do not have to go alone. An advocate will meet you at the hospital 24 hours a day via the crisis line to discuss your concerns, options, and provide support. If family or friends accompany you to the hospital, advocates can offer them support as well with your permission.

Benefits to a Medical Exam

  • Nurses and doctors can diagnose or treat any health problems associated with sexual assault including sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV.
  • Medications can be prescribed to prevent any STIs.
  • Emergency contraception (EC) Plan B can be discussed and prescribed if assault related pregnancy is a concern.
  • Tests can be done to determine whether “date rape” drugs have been used.
  • If you are not sure if you want to report to the police, evidence can be collected by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) to preserve evidence in case you want to report or press charges later. The evidence of this crime will be held for 60 days.

Important Notes About SANE Exams

  • Sexual assault exams do not have to be reported to your insurance company. There are funds through the NH Victim’s Assistance Commission to pay for SANE exams for any victim requesting assistance with payment.
  • If you are a college student on your parents’ insurance and have not told your parents about the assault, or if you were sexually assaulted by your partner, you can request that the hospital does not submit the charges to the insurance company for your privacy and safety.
  • All exams of youth under the age of 18 will be reported to the NH Department of Children, Youth and Families per NH RSA 169 C:29 and C;30, the mandated child abuse reporting law.

Even if you do not go to the hospital, it is recommended that you see your own doctor for follow-up care after the assault to make sure you are healthy.

Reporting the Assault to the Police

Whether you seek medical attention or not, you have the right to report the assault to the police department. You may call 911 to have an officer respond to the scene of the assault or to your home. You may also walk-in to the local police department and file a report there. You do not have to do this alone. An advocate can meet you at the local police department and offer emotional support while you file the report. The YWCA Crisis Service covers the following cities and towns:

  • Manchester Police Department 668-8711
  • Derry Police Department 432-6111
  • Goffstown Police Department 497-4858
  • Londonderry Police Department 432-1118
  • Weare Police Department 529-7755
  • Auburn Police Department 483-2134
  • New Boston Police Department 487-2433
  • Bedford Police Department 472-5113
  • Deering Police Department 464-3127

When reporting a sexual assault, most often a uniformed patrol officer will take the initial report. That report is then assigned to an investigating officer who will contact the victim for a follow-up interview.

Victims/survivors are under no obligation to report sexual assaults to law enforcement. Some survivors report that reporting the crime to law enforcement helped them to feel safer and reclaim their power by holding the perpetrators accountable. However, for others, the criminal justice process can feel overwhelming. Advocates can support victims/survivors who would like to use the criminal justice system through the court process. You do not have to do this alone.

What can I expect after the assault?

People who have been sexually assaulted have many valid reasons to feel unsafe in the world and in their relationships. Many victims/survivors experience similar feelings and thoughts about being assaulted. If someone you care about was assaulted, you may experience some of the same feelings.

Acute Stage (2 days to 2 months)

Common feelings and thoughts include shock, fear of the attacker, vulnerability, physical pain, difficulty communicating, misdirected anger, guilt, flashbacks, humiliation, disclosure concerns, disempowerment, and denial.

Reorganization Stage (2 months to 1 year)

Common feelings and thoughts include high stress, sense of loss, somatic symptoms, generalized fear of attack, self-blame, altered lifestyles, sleep disorders, hyper vigilance, phobias, sexual dysfunction (absence of interest or increased interest), eating disorders, criminal justice concerns, realigned support network and depression.

Integration Stage (1 year to Lifetime)

Common feelings and thoughts include occasional flashbacks, perceptual or sensational triggers, and depression around the anniversaries of the trauma.

You can survive and recover from sexual assault. The YWCA Crisis Service can provide referrals for qualified counselors who can work with victims/survivors to feel safe again and reclaim their voices and personal power. There are also support groups offered at the YWCA for survivors of sexual violence.

What about Child Sexual Abuse?

The YWCA Crisis Service advocates respond to Child Advocacy Centers (CAC) in Manchester and Derry to support parents of children who may have been abused. There are some important things you should know about the advocate:

  • Conversations with crisis service advocates are covered under NH RSA 173C:1 and are confidential except for mandated reporting for child or elder abuse and neglect (NH RSA 169-C:29 and C:30).
  • Crisis service advocates are not part of the investigative team.
  • The YWCA Crisis Service safety policy states that advocates must report any threats of self-harm or harm of others to the appropriate social service agencies for the health and safety of clients and staff.

We believe that you and your child(ren) are entitled to physical, emotional and sexual safety at all times. By having child victims/survivors interviewed at the Child Advocacy Center (CAC), children only have to be interviewed once. A visit to the CAC is:

  • A good way to determine if your child has been mistreated in anyway.
  • A good way to determine if your child needs medical care or mental health support.
  • A positive step towards safety for you and your child(ren).
  • The beginning of a hopeful working relationship between you and the YWCA Crisis Service.

Common parent/guardian responses to child abuse and child sexual abuse:

  • Shock
  • Fear
  • Confusion
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Worry
  • Embarrassment
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Betrayal
  • Relief that the secret is out
  • Memories of other abusive situations from their own life

Some practical concerns if the abuser lived at home:

  • Housing
  • Utilities
  • Transportation
  • Visitation
  • Child support
  • Divorce & Custody

Emotional concerns for children:

  • Need to feel safe
  • Need to know they are not to blame
  • Need someone to talk to
  • Need to know their body belongs to them and is safe
  • Need to know that both parents are okay
  • Need routine and normal discipline
  • Need healthy physical contact

The YWCA advocates can provide referrals for counselors who are skilled with working with children and their families as they cope with child sexual abuse.