Smith College Admission Academics Student Life About Smith Offices
For Students
For Parents
For Faculty
Nutrition and Food
Mental Health
Student Affairs
Center for Work & Life
Center for Work & Life puzzle motif image
Wellness Education

FOR STUDENTS: Responding to Sexual Assault

EMOTIONAL - Smith College Counseling Service, located in the Health Services building, provides counseling for crisis and healing. Emotional support is a major part of the recovery process. Friends and family can contribute greatly to recovery, but sometimes an objective outsider can be an important support.

MEDICAL - Medical evaluation is a valuable resource if a person is sexually assaulted. Smith students can go to Cooley Dickenson emergency room to be seen by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, who will provide preventive treatment for STIs, treat for injuries and illness, and provide emergency contraception, as well as collect evidence in case you decide to prosecute. It is up to the survivor whether or not to seek medical evaluation.

LEGAL - Campus Police’s info on prosecuting: “Survivors are involved in all decisions about proceeding with criminal charges. If the survivor of a rape or sexual assault chooses to proceed in this manner, DPS will provide assistance and guidance and will serve as a liaison with the District Attorney’s Office. The survivor name in all reports of sexual assault is kept confidential, by Massachusetts law.”

When a student calls Campus Police to report being sexually assaulted, the first thing that happens is that an officer comes over to take an initial statement. Then a specially trained sexual assault investigator takes over. This officer will take a more detailed statement, can transport the survivor to hospital if desired, and can give information about the legal process to help the student in case they decide to pursue criminal charges; if the survivor knows who the attacker is and wants to file charges, Campus Police can obtain a warrant and the person, who will be sent to the local jail, with bail set by clerk’s office. Whether or not the survivor chooses to pursue criminal charges, Campus Police will issue a No Trespass, to prevent the attacker from being on campus.

If the survivor does not know who the attacker is, Campus Police may send out a Campus Police alert in order to inform the community of an unknown attacker and ask for further information to help them find that person. No information is ever given to the local or state police, unless there is a series of attacks and they are collaborating on an investigation.

Supporting a Survivor

Part of the trauma of sexual assault is that the survivor’s freedom to choose what happens to their own body was taken away, so their support system can help by allowing them to have control over what happens next. Regardless of what you may feel is the “right” thing to do, the best course of action is the one that feels safe and right to the survivor. Listen compassionately and without judgment, knowing that assault is never the survivor’s fault!

Everywoman’s Center Rape Crisis Hotline

Counseling Services
Call x2840 for appointments and services.

Preventing Sexual Assault

Stepping up as a bystander is one of the best ways to prevent sexual assault, from unpropping doors to speaking up when you see a sketchy interaction.

“Is there a problem?”
Not knowing when to intervene is one of the main barriers to bystanders stepping up. Cues that a situation is sketchy or even dangerous might be obvious or they might be more subtle:

  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Trying to get someone drunk in order to “hook up”
  • Physically separating a person, to get them alone
  • Intimately touching someone in public, especially if they’ve just met and/or the other person is drunk

“There’s a problem! What do I do?”
General tips for bystander interventions:

  • Be friendly. Antagonism begets antagonism, and we want you to be safe too. Also, being friendly will decrease any awkwardness you might feel. You’re not confronting, you’re just checking in.
  • Recruit help – multiple people means more diffusion of the situation.
  • And be as intrusive as necessary. You’re making sure both people are safe. If the building were burning down, you’d break up the conversation or knock on the door, right?

Some intervention strategies:
THIRD PERSON. Find a friend of one of the two people and let them know the situation is uncool. Ask them to step in and help their friend. Or get a friend to step in with one person while you step in with the other.

DISTRACTION. Take one person aside and talk to them about anything – the party, their drink, your toenails. Or step between the two people to diffuse the situation – you can just say, “Hiya! What’s up?” or “What’s going on?” Your presence will help diffuse the situation.

INTERRUPTION. Knock on the door. Or just walk in. Better to interrupt a scene than standing around while someone is assaulted. Say, “Hey, we need you downstairs,” or, “Is everybody okay?” or anything to change the mood.


It’s true that “No means no,” but there’s more to consent than that. “I’m not sure,” means no. “Wait,” “Stop,” and “Hold on” all mean no. Pushing a hand away means no. Pulling away means no. Not responding means no. Silence means no.

If you’re wondering, “What if they’re just saying no because they feel like they’re supposed to, or they’re playing hard to get?” No still means no. It doesn’t matter why they’re saying it. If they’re playing hard to get and you stop, if they actually wanted you to keep going, they’ll let you know that. If they just feel like they’re supposed to put on the brakes even though they want to keep going, stopping gives them an opportunity to consider how much they really feel comfortable with.

A person gives consent with an explicit, “Yes.” That yes may come in the form of verbal or non-verbal communication. Non-verbal consent may take the form of moving a partner’s hand to where the person wants it to be. Anything short of that and you don’t know for sure that someone is consenting.

The best way to get clear consent is to ask for it. “Can I kiss you?” “Is this okay?” and “What would you like now?” are all options. “There?” and “Like that?” are ways to ask for consent that open up communication about pleasure and might feel more comfortable to some people.

Why don’t we ask for consent all the time? Our culture is pretty hung up about sex and people often feel less comfortable talking about sex than they do having it. You can begin, one person at a time, to create a new culture, where talking about sex with someone you might eventually have sex with is a normal, healthy, even sexy part of a relationship.

Also, too often, a person might think, “But if I ask, the other person might say no!” Well exactly. It’s in your interest to give someone a chance to say no, so that you know your partners want to be there with you.

Another important thing to know is that consenting to one thing doesn’t mean someone has consenting to anything else. Consenting to stay the night is just that – it doesn’t inherently mean the person has consented to anything specific that might happen while they’re there. Consenting to kissing doesn’t mean a person has consented to manual sex. And everyone is free to withdraw consent whenever they want to, even right in the middle of things.



Words of Wisdom

Responding to Sexual Assault

Wellness Reps

Want to quit smoking?

DirectoryCalendarCampus MapVirtual TourContact UsSite A-Z