Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a major problem in our society and particularly so on college campuses. As police, our primary goal in these cases is to ensure the health and safety of the victim of the crime (also referred to as sexual assault survivor) as well as the safety of the community and public at large. Boston University Police is committed to investigating these crimes professionally, identifying and arresting offenders, and assisting those affected to get the assistance they need with criminal justice, BU disciplinary system, and health and counseling care.

Reporting Sexual Assault – 617-353-2121

  • Get to a safe location
  • Get immediate medical attention.
  • Notify BUPD
  • Preserve any evidence of the assault
  • Boston University offers professional counseling through SARP

Making the decision to report is a very difficult one for most survivors of sexual assault. We strongly recommend timely reporting and want people to know what to expect should they decide to report to the police.

By choosing to report a sexual assault to police, survivors are not required to go forward with the case. The statute of limitations on rape in Massachusetts is 15 years. Reporting the incident to police in a timely fashion is helpful to the investigation and increases the likelihood of collecting evidence that can be preserved should the survivor ever decide to go forward with a criminal case. However reports may be made at any time.

Confidentiality is a major concern for survivors considering reporting. Please know that BUPD will protect and respect the privacy of individuals to the greatest extent possible and share information only on a need-to-know basis. It is prohibited by law for police to disclose the identity of a victim or survivor in any manner, including to non-law enforcement persons or to the media, including campus publications. A brief account of the incident, and the name of any arrested person, is all that may be released.

Medical Treatment / Evidence Preservation

BUPD will encourage and assist survivors of sexual assault in getting medical treatment. There are two primary reasons for this: (1) to diagnose and treat the full extent of any injury or physical effect (sexually transmitted infection or pregnancy) and (2) to properly collect and preserve evidence. There is a limited window of time within which to preserve physical and other forms of evidence. Current guidelines suggest that after 4 or 5 days evidence will be lost in most cases. For this reason, having a medical examination as soon as possible is recommended however taking this step does not commit a person to any course of action. While not preferable, evidence can still be collected even if the person has bathed or showered since the assault.

 What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is term that is used to describe several different crimes under the law. There are two categories of sexual assault:

1) Forcible sex offenses which include:

  • Rape – sexual intercourse or unnatural sexual intercourse with a person and compelling such person to submit by force and against his or her will or compelling such person to submit by threat of bodily injury.

What does this mean? Plainly speaking, rape occurs when one person penetrates another without consent. Penetration means going inside the vagina, anus, or mouth. This may occur with any body part such as, fingers, penis, tongue or some other object.

  • Indecent assault & battery – intentionally and without consent, having physical contact of a sexual nature with another person, such as the indecent touching of another person’s private parts

What does this mean? This occurs when one person touches another person in a sexual manner without consent. Unwanted touching under the law is called a battery. When the area touched are the female breasts or the genital or buttocks area of any person, it is a sexual assault.

2) Non-forcible sex offenses which include:

  • Statutory Rape – sexual intercourse or unnatural sexual intercourse with a child under 16 years of age

What does this mean? In Massachusetts, children under the age of 16 cannot legally consent to having sexual relations however they may have been a willing participant in the act, this law is aimed generally at teenagers. If the child is younger or an unwilling participant, the crime is a forcible sex offense and is charged under the rape laws.

  • Incest – Persons within degrees of consanguinity within which marriages are prohibited or declared by law to be incestuous and void, who intermarry or have sexual intercourse with each other, or who engage in sexual activities.

What does this mean? It is unlawful for people who are related to consent to sexual activity with one another. If the act were not consensual, the crime would be a forcible sex offense and charged under the rape laws.

Learn more about sexual violence at Jane Doe Inc.

What is Consent?

Consent is agreeing to something. Consent must be informed and voluntary, and can be withdrawn at any time. Consent can be given by words or actions as long as those words or actions create mutually understandable permission regarding the scope of sexual activity. There is no consent when there is force, expressed or implied, or when coercion, intimidation, threats, or duress is used. Whether a person has taken advantage of a position of influence over another person may be a factor in determining consent.

Silence or absence of resistance does not imply consent. Past consent to sexual activity with another person does not imply ongoing future consent with that person or consent to that same sexual activity with another person.

If a person is mentally or physically incapacitated or impaired so that he or she cannot understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual situation, there is no consent; this includes impairment or incapacitation due to alcohol or drug consumption that meets this standard, or being asleep or unconscious.

Effect of drugs and alcohol on consent:
Individuals should be aware of, and carefully consider, the potential consequences of the use of alcohol or drugs. Alcohol and other drugs can lower inhibitions and create an atmosphere of confusion over whether consent is freely and affirmatively given. If there is a question about whether someone consented to sexual activity after consuming drugs or alcohol, the University will examine the issue from the perspective of a reasonable person. Specifically, the University will consider whether the respondent reasonably should have known about the impact of alcohol and other drugs on the complainant’s ability to give consent.

What about Sexual Harassment?

All Sexual assault is always sexual harassment but some levels of sexual harassment do not rise to the level of sexual assault. For a full discussion of sexual harassment and workplace policies click here.

General Safety Tips

No advice can guarantee your personal safety – even if you were to follow every suggestion. These safety tips suggest minimizing time when you are alone and therefore more vulnerable to a possible attack and maximizing situational awareness and quick access to help. We offer these as a way to get people thinking about their personal safety habits, not to shift blame to victims of crime.

  • Avoid walking alone after dark
  • Use Scarlet Safe Walk
  • Use well-lit, well traveled areas when walking at night
  • Know the location of all blue emergency phones.
  • When going to a party or a bar, go with a friends and leave together
  • When using taxi or ride share services, go with a friend if possible
  • If you drink alcohol, don’t overdo it
  • Get educated about club drugs and date rape drugs
  • Keep your doors and windows locked
  • Do not open your door until you know who is there
  • Carry a cell phone program BUPD 617-353-2121 into the phone
  • Trust your instincts
  • Be aware of your surroundings

Sexual Assault Bill of Rights / University Policy

Boston University is committed to the prevention of sexual assaults on our campus. BU has developed a comprehensive policy which governs how the university will handle reports of sexual assault administratively and through the university’s internal disciplinary system. Incorporated into this policy is the so called Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights which was signed into federal law in 1992 and is codified in a piece of legislation known as the Clery Act.

  • Survivors shall be notified of their options to notify law enforcement.
  • Accuser and accused must have the same opportunity to have others present.
  • Both parties shall be informed of the outcome of any disciplinary proceeding.
  • Survivors shall be notified of counseling services.
  • Survivors shall be notified of options for changing academic and living situations.

Disciplinary Procedures

If the offender is a student, the Dean of Students Office handles the disciplinary proceedings outlined here.

If the offender is an faculty or staff Human Resources handles the disciplinary proceedings outlined here.

Educational Programs

The University engages in a variety of educational programs designed to promote awareness and prevention of sexual assault. See the results of the latest climate survey on sexual assault on the BU Campus.

Crisis Intervention and Rape Counseling Services

The police can assist you in contacting a counselor. The crisis intervention and counseling services provided by Boston University SARP (Sexual Assault Response and Prevention) are available to all members of the campus community and are trained to help the victims of sexual assault and other traumatic incidents. The counselor can meet a victim at the hospital and assist her or him in any way possible. If additional counseling is needed, the crisis counselor can help arrange it.

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