Resources, support available for survivors of sexual assault and misconduct

August 20, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For new and returning students, the beginning of the academic year is a good time to review or become familiar with the variety of safety resources and services available at the University, such as options for seeking care and making a report of sexual assault or misconduct.

As part of Penn State’s efforts to create an environment focused on safety, reporting and accountability, the University has implemented a variety of efforts aimed at educating students about consent and combating sexual assault.

Penn State encourages individuals who have been victims of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct to make a report by contacting the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response or the University’s Title IX Coordinator. The Gender Equity Center also is available to provide confidential support and resources to students. 

“No matter the circumstances, sexual assault is never your fault,” said Chris Harris, Title IX coordinator at Penn State. “We are committed to providing survivors with the information, help and support they deserve. If you’ve been the victim of sexual assault or harassment, we encourage you to seek care, discuss your options, and make a report to the University and/or law enforcement.”

Understanding the importance of consent and what constitutes sexual assault

Whether a student chooses to or not to have sex is a valid and personal decision. In every sexual encounter, consent must be informed, freely given and mutual. If a person does not give consent, such as in any of the below examples, and another party continues with a sexual encounter, this is sexual assault. 

  • Consent is affirmative and ongoing: If a person is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol or is unconscious, they cannot consent.
  • Consent can be either verbal or nonverbal, but it must be clearly given: If you’re unsure if someone has given consent, then stop immediately. Make sure you clearly receive and confirm the other party’s consent before initiating or continuing.
  • Not saying “no” doesn't mean “yes”: If a person simply doesn’t say “no,” this is not consent. If a person has to be pressured or convinced into giving consent, it is not truly consent; it is coercion.
  • Individuals can change their mind: If a person says “yes” but later changes their mind, they are no longer giving consent. You can consent initially and then decide to stop; everyone has the right to change their mind and withdraw consent.

Options and steps to take following sexual assault

The steps you take after a sexual assault are very personal and do not have to mirror those of others; support is available when you are ready.

For confidential support and advocacy services, as well as to discuss your options, students can consider reaching out to the Gender Equity Center. In addition, Counseling and Psychological Services also provides confidential counseling and support services. Employees and resources that are designated as “confidential” do not disclose your information to the police or University without permission except for some very limited situations such as imminent threat of harm. 

If you have been sexually assaulted, consider the following:

  • Know it was not your fault. No matter what you were doing, what you were wearing or if you were drinking, a person is never at fault for being sexually assaulted.
  • Go to a safe place as soon as you can; in an emergency, call 911.
  • Try to preserve all physical evidence and save any text messages, emails or photos; do not bathe or use the bathroom.
  • Contact a close friend to be with you until you feel safe again.
  • Get medical attention as soon as possible; have a friend accompany you.
  • Consider whether you would like to make a report to the University and/or the police.
  • See a counselor or advocate to help you understand your feelings and access resources and support services.

For students and employees who have been impacted by sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, there are multiple resources available to meet your needs, including:

  • Confidential survivor advocacy and support services.
  • Free psychological counseling and psychological support.
  • Free or low-cost health care options for students.
  • Academic accommodations.
  • Housing and/or employment modifications.
  • Referrals to local community agencies for additional services.

Dating and domestic violence concerns during COVID-19

Movement restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic have increased domestic abuse worldwide. Penn State students who are concerned about their safety or the safety of someone else, no matter where they are, can visit Victim and Survivor Support and Advocacy for more information on how to recognize abuse, find a safe space, and for resources related to victim and survivor protection and support.

Resources at University Park

The following medical, counseling, advocacy, and police and safety services are available to Penn State students and employees. If at any time you don't know where to turn for support, staff in the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response can assist you.

Medical services:

It is important to seek immediate medical care after any physical or sexual assault to make sure you're physically OK and to collect and preserve evidence. Evidence can be preserved for the future, even if an individual is unsure at the time if they plan to pursue action. For students, University Health Services can provide an initial nonevidence collection medical evaluation and one follow-up visit at no charge. At Mount Nittany Medical Center, individuals may choose to have either an evidence collection exam or a nonevidence collection exam. Staff are specifically trained and sensitive to your needs and concerns. Finally, in the event of an emergency, seek immediate assistance by calling 911.

Reporting resources:

You have options if you choose to report an incident of sexual assault or misconduct. Reports can be made any time to the University and law enforcement; however, individuals are encouraged to make reports as soon as possible after an incident.

Students and employees are encouraged to file a report online, in person in 222 Boucke Building, or via a virtual drop-in appointment. For immediate assistance, call the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response at 814-867-0099. In an emergency, call 911 or campus police at 814-863-1111.

Emotional support, advocacy and counseling services:

There are a variety of University resources available to support those who have been impacted by sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct. Advocates also can provide information about reporting options. “Confidential” resources and employees do not disclose the information you share to the police or University without permission except for some very limited situations such as imminent threat of harm. 

Penn State Crisis Line: 1-877-229-6400

Penn State Crisis Text Line: Text “LIONS” to 741741

Safety and educational services:

Resources at all Penn State campuses

Below is a list of contact information for designated support resources at each Penn State campus. These individuals and offices can connect students and employees with available medical assistance, emotional support and advocacy resources. If at any time you don't know where to turn for support, staff in the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response can assist you. 

Off-campus resources

For more information regarding available Penn State resources, support services and procedural options, visit TitleIX.psu.edu.

Last Updated August 20, 2021