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For Survivors of Sexual Misconduct

Experiencing sexual misconduct is difficult and overwhelming. Survivors often experience a range of emotions including fear, anxiety, and confusion. Please remember there is no one way to respond or a “normal” way to feel. While Northwestern strongly encourages survivors to seek medical care and counseling services, and to report the incident to the university and police, above all, it should be a survivor’s choice whether to seek help or tell others about their experience.


Get to a safe place as soon as possible. The primary concern is for your immediate safety. Consider contacting someone you trust to be with you and support you and/or contact the police.

Medical care

Survivors of sexual misconduct may not feel that they need to seek immediate medical attention, and many choose not to. However, Northwestern strongly encourages you to seek medical attention as soon as possible to ensure your physical well-being. Even if you are not, or do not appear to be, physically hurt, a medical examination is strongly recommended to maintain all legal options.


Try to preserve all physical evidence. Do not bathe, shower, smoke, or change clothes before seeking medical attention. Preserving evidence is important in later proceedings and/or legal action, including seeking a civil no-contact order and/or an order of protection. 


Talk with an advocate or a counselor who will provide confidential emotional support, help explain your options, and offer other relevant information. 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. A member of CARE can help explain and navigate these options.

For situations involving an accused student and a complaining student, students have the option of filing a complaint through the University Hearing and Appeals System, the formal campus student disciplinary process.

Additional University resources and support is available through the Women’s Center (847-491-7360) or, in the case of students, Center for Awareness, Response and Education (CARE: 847-491-2054). Students can also talk about a sexual misconduct with Student Conduct at 847-491-7360 or 847-491-4582 and/or a mental health professional at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS: 847-491-2151).


Consider reporting the incident to University Police and/or a Title IX Coordinator or Deputy Coordinator who can provide support and identify available resources. Reporting to the Police or Title IX Coordinator will likely result in the initiation of an investigation. These resources are private, but not confidential.

Learn your options

In addition to a 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.  Additionally, individuals who have experienced sexual misconduct may seek interim protective measures and reasonable accommodations in their academic, living, transportation, or working situations.

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 link below to learn more.

Resource Information: Resource Guide on Sexual Misconduct and Title IX

Rights of victims of sexual assault

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. It also requires the school to notify victims of their option to report their assault to the proper law enforcement authorities. The “Campus Sexual Assault Victims' Bill of Rights” provides for the following:

  1. Accuser and accused must have the same opportunity to have others present throughout disciplinary proceedings.
  2. Both parties shall be informed of the outcome of any disciplinary proceeding at the same time. At no time can a victim be required to keep the outcome confidential.
  3. Survivors shall be informed of their options to notify law enforcement.
  4. Survivors shall be notified of existing resources for counseling, mental and physical health, and victim-advocacy and legal assistance services.
  5. Survivors shall be notified of options for changing academic, transportation, work, and living situations.

Medical assistance and preservation of evidence

Whether or not a survivor decides to report an incident to the police or the University, individuals who experience sexual misconduct are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical attention in order to treat physical injuries, test for and treat sexually transmitted infections, test for pregnancy, and access emergency contraception (if requested). In addition, a hospital can perform an evidence collection kit and test for “date rape” drugs, if applicable.  Even if a survivor of sexual misconduct has not been physically hurt, a medical examination is strongly recommended to maintain all legal options.

Under Illinois law, medical personnel are required to alert police when it reasonably appears that the person requesting the treatment has received an injury sustained as a victim of a criminal offense, including sexual assault or violence. However, individuals have the right to refuse to speak to the police.  

A survivor may allow the collection of evidence even if he or she chooses not to make a report to law enforcement.  In Illinois, a survivor may allow the collection of evidence even if he or she chooses not to make a report to law enforcement. After the evidence is collected, Illinois law requires hospital staff to store it for two weeks.  A sexual assault evidence collection kit may not be released by an Illinois hospital without written consent from the survivor.

If a survivor chooses not to make a complaint regarding an incident, he or she nevertheless should consider speaking with University Police or other law enforcement about preserving evidence in the event that the survivor changes her/his mind at a later date.

In order to preserve evidence, an individual who has been sexually assaulted should not shower, bathe, douche, smoke, or change clothes or bedding before going to the hospital or seeking medical attention. If the individual decides to change clothes, he or she should not wash the clothes worn during the assault and should bring them to the hospital or medical facility in a paper bag.

These steps are important to help preserve evidence for possible use in legal actions or requests for a civil no-contact order and/or an order of protection. Because evidence dissipates quickly (usually within 48 - 96 hours), thereby making investigation, possible prosecution, disciplinary proceedings, or obtaining protection from abuse orders related to the incident more difficult, individuals who wish to preserve evidence are encouraged to seek medical attention immediately.  

Survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, and dating violence are also encouraged to preserve evidence by saving text messages, instant messages, social networking pages, and other communications, and keeping pictures, logs, or other copies of documents, if they have any, that may be useful to University investigators or police.

Confidential advice and counseling services

The following resources are available for individuals to discuss incidents and issues related to sexual misconduct on a confidential basis. These confidential sources can advise individuals about resources, services, and options available both on- and off-campus. Because of the confidential nature of these resources, disclosing information to or seeking advice from a confidential counselor does not constitute reporting an incident to the University and therefore will not result in any formal response or intervention by Northwestern officials.