Sexual Violence

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault occurs when an individual is forced or threated with force to engage in unwanted sexual activity. It is never the fault of the victim. Northwestern University considers sexual assault a serious crime.

University Police offers free Rape Aggression Defense Training that teaches women options in defending themselves in the event of an attack. 

The facts:

  • College-aged women are four times more likely to be a victim of sexual assault.
  • One in six women will be a victim in their lifetime.
  • Rapists are usually not strangers. More than 80% of sexual assaults are committed by people familiar to the victim.
  • More than 70% of sexual assaults involve the consumption of alcohol by the victim and/or assailant.

A woman has the right to:

  • Dress as she pleases.
  • Agree to have sex with someone and then change her mind at any time.
  • Be treated with respect at all times.

What to do during an attack

If you are attacked try to stay as calm as possible. Think rationally and evaluate resources or options.

  • Escape is always the best defense. Consistently look for opportunities to get away.
  • Depending on the circumstances, you might try to negotiate with the attacker, scream to attract attention, act "crazy," or do whatever it takes to stop the assailant.
  • Choosing not to resist is NOT consenting.

Rape Drugs

Rape Drugs are substances used by sexual predators to incapacitate a victim so he/she cannot resist an assault. When these drugs are used, victims often cannot recall what happened to them. Most rape drugs are colorless, odorless and tasteless so they can be slipped into a victim's drink without the victim noticing.

If you or someone else seems extremely drunk after only a small amount of alcohol, a rape drug may be involved. Two prevalent rape drugs are:

  • Rohypnol (Roofies, Rope, Ruffies, R2, Ruffles, Roche, Forget-pill)
  • Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB, Liquid Ecstasy, Liquid X, Scoop, Easy Lay)

Reduce your risk

  • Be alert at all times and trust your immediate instincts.
  • Never go out alone.
  • Communicate your sexual values, expectations and intentions clearly and openly when with a partner.
  • Be aware that alcohol and drugs compromise your awareness and your ability to identify and act on your feelings.
  • Never leave your drink unattended or accept a drink you didn't see made.

If you are a victim (survivor) of sexual violence

It is not unusual for a sexual assault victim to feel afraid to talk to someone after an attack. But it is very important to notify University Police to ensure you get adequate medical attention and resources. Contacting the police does not mean you are obligated to take the attacker to court.

1. Get to a safe place as soon as possible. Following an incident, the primary concern is for the sexual violence survivor’s safety. Contact someone you trust to be with you and support you.

2. Seek medical attention as soon as possible to ensure your physical well-being.

3. Try to preserve all physical evidence. Do not bathe, shower, or change clothes before seeking medical attention. Preserving evidence is important in later pursuing a criminal or other judicial case. Timely reporting to the police is an important factor in successful investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases. 

4. Consider reporting the incident to University Police and/or the University Women’s Center (847-491-7360) or Center for Awareness, Response and Education (CARE: 847-491-4618) who provide sexual assault support and resouces. Students can also talk confidentially about a sexual assault with a mental health professional at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS: 847-491-2151).

5. Talk with an advocate or a counselor who will help explain your options and provide relevant information and emotional support. In addition to a student survivor’s choice to pursue options through the legal system, if the alleged perpetrator is University affiliated, there are disciplinary and non-disciplinary options available through Northwestern University, including the Sexual Assault Hearing and Appeals System (SAHAS). A student survivor can discuss these options by contacting CARE or the Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution at (847) 491-4582.

If you experience sexual violence

If you are a survivor of sexual violence, you have rights and you have options. Title IX and Northwestern offices exist to help you get the support you need. Whether you are a student, faculty, or staff member, you have the right to file a complaint through the university and/or to explore other options. Please click the appropriate link below to learn more.

Quick Resource Sheets For:

Campus sexual assault victims' bill of rights

The United States Congress enacted the "Campus Sexual Assault Victims' Bill of Rights" in 1992 as a part of the Higher Education Amendments of 1992 (Public Law: 102-325, section 486(c)). This law requires that all colleges and universities (both public and private) participating in federal student aid programs afford sexual assault victims certain basic rights.

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

University Police Guarantee for Sexual Assault Victims

The Northwestern University Police recognizes sexual assault as a serious crime and encourages victims to report incidents. Our guarantee for sexual assault victims reflects our concern for survivors and emphasizes sensitivity, privacy (to the extent possible) and the need for trust and confidence. Our primary concern is for the victim. The investigation and the prosecution, or discipline, of the suspect may prevent future assaults. For these reasons, Northwestern University Police has adapted this guarantee for sexual assault victims.

  • We will meet with you privately, at a place of your choice, to take a complaint.
  • If you feel most comfortable talking with a female or male officer, we will try to accommodate your request.
  • We will fully investigate your case. We will keep you informed on the progress of the investigation and/or prosecution.
  • Our officers and other staff will not prejudge you, and you will not be blamed for what occurred.
  • We will continue to be available to answer your questions, to explain the law enforcement and judicial systems and be willing listeners.
  • We will help arrange for any hospital treatment and/or other medical needs.
  • We will provide you with information regarding on and off campus counseling and other resources.
  • We will treat you and your case with courtesy, sensitivity, dignity, understanding and professionalism.
  • We will consider your case seriously, regardless of your gender or the gender of the suspect.
  • We will not release your name to the media and will request the media to respect your privacy.
  • For situations involving an accused student and a complaining student, students have the option of filing a complaint through the University Sexual Assault Hearing and Appeals System, the formal campus student disciplinary process. We will provide information about support resources, legal rights, and complaint options within the University, including your rights under Title IX. For more information, visit


The University Women’s Center (847-491-7360) and Center for Awareness, Response and Education (CARE: 847-491-4618) provide confidential sexual assault survivor resources and support services. Students can also talk confidentially about a sexual assault with a mental health professional at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS: 847-491-2151).

Sexual Health & Assault Peer Educators (SHAPE) and Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault (MARS) are Northwestern student groups affiliated with CARE who have been trained to provide workshops and presentations about sexual violence, as well as to act as a resource to individual students.

University employees can access counseling support through a contracted employee assistance program. Visit the Human Resources Faculty / Staff Assistance web page for additional information.