Wellbeing

Advice for College Students

A sexual assault investigator on what you need to know about taking action in the aftermath of an assault.

For more than 20 years, I have been investigating sexual assault cases, first as a police officer, then as a detective, and now as the lead investigator of sexual interpersonal misconduct cases at Loyola Marymount University (Editor’s note: Alicia is also a WW Leader and WW Ambassador).

If you’re a victim of sexual assault on campus, here’s what I recommend:

 

Talk to someone


If you don’t want to go to campus police right away, report the incident to a faculty or staff member, or a friend. If you speak with an investigator, remember that you are in control. The only time we will go against a victim’s wishes is if we see a threat to campus safety.

 

Reach out to campus resources


Processing an assault can bring on intense feelings of loneliness. An investigator will point you to a counselor to help you start healing. Discuss your needs. You might want to change classes or your living situation, and an investigator can help.

 

Get a physical


Regardless whether you report it, it’s important to go for a physical exam within five days after the incident. (If you’re outside the five-day window, still see a doctor to get an exam.) The reason is twofold: to ensure that you’re safe from any diseases and to get a sexual assault kit. A sexual assault kit is a way to preserve DNA from the body and clothing to serve as evidence, which is crucial if you change your mind about reporting the incident.

 

Gather the evidence


We can solve cases without evidence, but it could get complicated. Along with getting a sexual assault kit, save any relevant text messages, take photos of your injuries, and don’t wash clothing that you were wearing. These items will help validate what you’re saying.

 

Know this


Silence today is not silence forever. In the wake of an incident, you can be shocked and scared. You may say no to reporting it at first, but you can change your mind the next week—or month. You can always speak up.

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, click here for resources.