Top of Page
Skip main navigation

Initial Responses to an Incident of Sexual Violence

A. Victim/Survivor’s Response

After an incident of sexual violence, a victim may feel a variety of things, including not fully remembering or understanding what happened, self-blame, denial, anxiety, depression, physical pain, and/or emotional numbness. NSU’s primary concern is the safety and well-being of any person affected by sexual violence during this difficult time. Secondary concerns are the apprehension of the assailant/prevention of further violence and preservation of evidence of the crime. Here is a printable brochure regarding rights and options if you have experienced sexual violence. 

Care for Physical Injuries, Forensic Exams, and Physical and Emotional Well-Being

Victims are encouraged to seek medical care for injuries as well as testing/treatment for sexually transmitted infections (if relevant) from licensed medical care providers. Given the importance of collecting evidence if a crime may have occurred, it is encouraged (but not required) to obtain a forensic sexual assault exam, conducted by specially trained professionals. The closest location to obtain such an exam from the Fort Lauderdale/ Davie Campus is the local sexual assault center, and it is ideal to call the 24-hour helpline to speak to their confidential staff and discuss resources and services: 

Nancy J. Cotterman Center
400 NE 4th Street
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301
954-761-RAPE (7273) - 24-hour helpline

Any person can call the 24-Hour Sexual Assault Helpline and confidentially discuss options after experiencing sexual violence. Services provided at the center include crisis intervention, counseling, advocacy, accompaniment, information and referrals, and forensic medical exams for victims of sexual assault and survivors of child abuse. A forensic medical exam can be conducted even if the victim/survivor has not reported the crime to the police (if the victim is 18 years old or older). Victims are encouraged to seek an exam as soon as possible, within 120 hours following sexual violence. Some evidence may be able to be collected even after that time. 

Individuals outside of Broward County can call 800-656-HOPE (4673) to learn about resources in their location from RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network). Victims are also encouraged to seek out confidential resources which can offer counseling and other services related to mental health care and processing traumatic events.

Preservation of Evidence

It is important that victims consider preserving evidence that may help prove that a crime occurred or may help in obtaining a protective order. Even if a victim is not sure what action(s) they may or may not want to take yet, preserving evidence can maximize these choices when a victim is ready to make a decision. If a victim can avoid showering, washing, brushing teeth or hair, changing clothes, or cleaning/removing things from the area where a crime occurred, these steps can help to preserve evidence. It is ideal to have evidence collected within 120 hours, but some may be obtained later. If a victim does need to remove clothing, the items should be placed in a paper bag to preserve them. Even if a victim has already cleaned up from the assault, the crime can still be reported and forensic medical exam/treatment and/or counseling can still be obtained.

If any crime happens on campus, the university encourages contacting the NSU Public Safety Department at 954-262-8999 and/or the local police, who can make a report and coordinate collection of evidence from the scene. Often NSU Public Safety and the Davie Police will respond, and they will likely contact the appropriate investigations unit. Davie Police also have a Victim Advocate. It is important to note that this Victim Advocate may not maintain the same level of confidentiality as the staff at the Nancy J. Cotterman Center or another rape crisis/domestic violence center. 

B. University’s Response

This section explains some of the initial responses taken by specific entities at the university.

Title IX Coordinator Response

The Title IX Coordinator provides coordination of services, options, and information to those affected by sexual violence (and other forms of sexual misconduct). Reports can be submitted online directly to the Title IX Coordinator. These are reviewed during business hours and then the Title IX Coordinator will reach out to any known victim(s) to offer information and assistance. Persons needing immediate assistance can contact NSU Public Safety, The Center for Student Counseling & Well-Being, the Nancy J. Cotterman Center or the free and confidential national sexual assault hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). 

Public Safety/Law Enforcement Response

Public Safety is the university entity designated to receive reports of crimes of sexual violence, as well as other incidents affecting the campus. If the incident may constitute a crime that occurred in the jurisdiction of the Davie Police Department, the Davie Police will also respond. If a crime occurred off-campus or outside of the city of Davie, Public Safety can assist in locating and contacting the appropriate law enforcement for that jurisdiction.

When public safety or police officers arrive to take a report, they can assist the victim in obtaining medical assistance and with other immediate needs, but their focus (pending no safety concerns) is on learning what happened and conducting an investigation as to whether a crime occurred.  They will likely ask for a brief account of what happened, a physical description of the assailant, and any information about where the individual might be (if known). It is up to a victim how much information he or she wishes to share. For example, a victim who has experienced trauma may prefer to have rest from one or two sleep cycles to mentally organize information about what has happened before participating in a more detailed interview. However, the police will want to get as much information as they can, as soon as they can, so they can do their part to investigate what occurred.

Reports to NSU Employees

When an NSU employee receives a report of sexual violence (which includes dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking), from a victim or from a third party, the employee should:

  • offer to provide the Title IX coordinator’s contact information
  • encourage the victim to seek confidential assistance for medical concerns and counseling
  • inform the Title IX coordinator of the information that has been reported (including any known name[s] of victims or potentially responsible parties) to ensure NSU can offer victims information about their rights, resources, and options for reporting and resolving the incident

NSU employees must take the above steps for incidents that they observe directly, as well as incidents they learn about indirectly, whether they occurred on-campus or off-campus. 

Response to Third Party and Anonymous Reports

The university is obligated to respond to reports of sexual violence that are received anonymously and from third parties. In these cases, the Title IX Coordinator should be informed of the information and s/he will attempt to communicate with a reported victim in a sensitive manner to ensure the reported victim has information about rights and options.

C. Rights and Options for Victims of Sexual Violence

Any NSU student or employee who has experienced sexual violence (including sexual assault, dating or domestic violence, and/or stalking) has rights and options available to them under federal law. These include: 

  • be promptly notified of their rights and options upon report of an incident to a responsible employee;
  • learn about and access existing resources on- and off-campus for counseling, health, mental health, victim advocacy, legal assistance, visa and immigration status, student financial aid, and other services available for victims within the institution and the local community;
  • learn about options for, assistance in, and how to request changes to, academic, living, transportation, and working situations or protective measures and to
      • have such requests be provided when they are reasonably available, and
      • expect that the burden on the victim will be minimized when possible and appropriate;
  • report to law enforcement, the university, both, or neither;
  • be assisted by campus authorities in notifying law enforcement, if requested by the victim, and to pursue legal action available under the civil and criminal laws of the jurisdiction where the reported crime may have occurred;
  • obtain orders of protection, no-contact orders, restraining orders, and other such legal orders, in accordance with applicable laws;
  • be notified of the university’s obligations for complying with lawful orders and to honor requests from the victim to assist in obtaining them when relevant;
  • be free from pressure that would suggest that the victim (1) not report crimes committed against him or her to civil and criminal authorities or to the campus Public Safety and disciplinary officials; or (2) report crimes as lesser offenses than the victim perceives them to be;
  • be provided with equitable rights as the responding party in any investigation or resolution process.
Return to top of page