Rape Defined

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts rape is defined as:

The penetration of any bodily orifice without consent and with force or threat of force. Penetration can be with fingers, objects or penis to the vagina, mouth or anus.

In addition, in Massachusetts it is illegal to have sex with someone who is incapable of giving consent because:

  • They are intoxicated.
  • They are unconscious.
  • They are mentally incompetent.
  • They are under age.

Myths and Reality

  • Myth: Rape is an expression of sexual desire.
    Reality: Rape is a crime of violence that uses sex to take power and control from the survivor.
  • Myth: Rape is usually committed by strangers.
    Reality: In over 50% of reported rapes the victim knew their attacker well. Mary Koss found in her survey of college students in 1986 that 84% of women raped knew their attacker. Rape occurs everywhere, during the day and night, by people we know and total strangers.
  • Myth: Men are never victims of sexual assault.
    Reality: 7% of rape victims are male (Massachusetts Department of Public Safety). However, the prevalence of crimes against men is surely under-reported, particularly because most men who have been raped are victims of childhood rapes. The additional stigma of being a male victim can make recovery that much more difficult.
  • Myth: Women who drink are asking to be raped.
    Reality: No one asks to be raped. Rape victims transcend the boundaries of race, class, age, and appearance. There is no set formula; it can happen to anyone. Alcohol does play a role in the prevalence of sexual assault: 75% of male perpetrators and 55% of female victims in the Koss survey said they were drinking at the time of the attack. The intoxication of either party is never an excuse to force someone to have sex. If the victim is intoxicated s/he may not be capable of giving consent. On the other hand, the alleged perpetrator is responsible for his/her behavior regardless of intoxication.

What Constitutes as Consent?

You can't have sex with someone if they say "No". That is easy to understand. But the fact is that you cannot have sex with someone unless you have consent. So how do you know exactly what consent is? Generally defined, consent is explicitly communicated, reversible, mutual agreement in which both parties are capable of making a decision. But sometimes it is more complicated than this.

  • Is it a simple "Yes"?
  • Does it have to be verbalized?
  • What if the person is drunk or high?
  • What if they don't say anything at all?
  • Can consent be implied?

Men and women are both constantly giving and receiving mixed messages about sex. Women are still taught by our culture that they are obligated to resist a little bit, even if they really want to have sex. Men are told that women's initial resistance to sex is to be ignored as a token effort. Men are taught to be persistent and women are taught to accept that their refusals may be ignored. This combination of cultural messages creates confusion over what exactly constitutes consent.

  • Consent is a "Yes" in response to requests for sexual acts.
  • Silence is not necessarily consent.
  • "No" is not consent.
  • In Massachusetts, consent cannot be given by someone who is not of sound mind and body. Someone who is drunk, high, unconscious or mentally incompetent may not be able to give consent to a sexual act.
  • Submission is not necessarily consent. There is a fine line between persuasion and coercion. Having sex with someone who reasonably believes that there is a threat of force meets the legal definition of rape in Massachusetts.

If You Are Raped

  1. Get To A Safe Place
  2. Tell Someone
  3. Get Medical Attention
  4. Take Care Of Yourself
  5. Report It

Get To A Safe Place

Once you are safe, call the Campus Police (24 hours) at the numbers to the right, or Health Services. Off campus, call the local police at 911.

At Hampshire, you may contact the Sex Offenses Services (SOS) Coordinator.

Tell Someone

You may feel ashamed or embarrassed, like no one will believe you or that you are in some way to blame for the attack. The most important thing to remember is that whatever happens no one should be forced to have sex against their will. Telling someone will give you an outlet to express your emotions. Feeling overwhelmed is a natural response and contacting someone who can help will assist you sorting out what resources are available and what, if anything, you want to do.

Confidential resources that can be accessed at the time of the assault:

  • Health Services for medical assistance and counseling (during business hours)
  • Local sexual assault hotline:  413-545-0800  (888-337-0800 TTY)
    Center for Women and Community at the University of Massachusetts (formerly Everywoman's Center)

Other important resources include:

  • Dean on Call (available 24/7 while college is in session through Campus Police)
  • Campus Police
  • Residence Hall Staff

Rape crisis centers are listed in the Yellow Pages under "Rape" or "Social/Human Services" and other resources are listed under Sexual Assault Resource Guide

Get Medical Attention

Medical care after a rape can detect injuries and test for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). In addition, a health care provider can collect evidence that could be used should you ever decide to take legal or disciplinary action. Although the Health Services has trained staff, survivors* will be sent to Cooley Dickinson Hospital for the medical follow-up after the initial assessment. When appropriate, blood and urine samples to test for the drugs Rohypnol and GHB may be collected at the Health Center. Emergency contraceptives can also be dispensed.

** While physical evidence may be collected during treatment, all prosecution decisions remain solely the decision of the survivor.  Evidence collected does not have to be used in a case; however, failure to obtain the evidence may make prosecution more difficult.

Note: Both the terms "victim" and "survivor" appear in this booklet. "Victim" is used to refer to the individual at the moment of the crime, or shortly thereafter. "Survivor" is used as a less stigmatizing, more empowering way to identify the individual no longer powerless in that moment.

Take Care Of Yourself

Rape is a traumatic experience and there is no set formula for recovery. Seek counseling to support and guide you through the healing process.

Report It

Only 1 of 10 women ever reports a rape. The number of men who report is even smaller. There are many reasons why this number is so low. Survivors may…

  • Feel ashamed
  • Think that the pain will go away
  • Not be sure if what happened was really rape
  • Believe they are responsible in some way

The decision to report is totally up to you. For many survivors having their number counted, at least, is an important step in regaining the power they lost. You can discuss your situation with any of the resources listed in this booklet before you make a decision. There are many options to explore; the most important thing is to choose the path that is most comfortable and productive towards your recovery.

Surviving the Assault

If you are assaulted, your goal is survival. Your best weapon is your ability to think clearly and put your welfare first. Whatever you do to escape is okay: scream, bite, punch, kick, grading your keys into the assailant's body. There are as many responses as situations. Here are some possibilities:

  • Use your voice---talking can effectively diffuse some assaults. Speak calmly, not crying, pleading, or moralizing. Try to maintain eye contact. If help is within hearing distance, you may try screaming "Fire!" or "Help!" instead of "Rape!" since the former are more recognizable distress calls.
  • Stalling is an intermediate approach to give you time to recover from initial shock and to assess your situation. Do the unexpected convincingly. Stalling can take many forms: pretending to cooperate, going limp and sinking to the ground, or faking sickness.
  • Running away is an option if you are sure you can make it to a safe place.
  • Physical resistance must be quick, hard, and vicious in order to be effective. This option is not for everyone; many people cannot use physical resistance. Remember, the goal is to survive the assault. Resistance should be geared to allow escape. If you think your natural reaction would be to fight, then make sure you know how to do so effectively. The Campus Police Department regularly offers self-defense classes. The Office of Residential Life and the Office of the Dean of the College can also assist with crime prevention programs.
  • Weapons can take the form of many items---combs, keys, nail file, hair spray, books, pens, pencils, umbrellas. You can also use your body, voice, teeth, knees, hands, fingers, thumbs, feet, and legs to defend yourself. Direct your defense to vulnerable locations such as the eyes, throat, knees, top of the foot, and groin. Remember, though, any weapon could be taken away from you and used against you.

Preserving the Physical Evidence

If you report an attack, before campus police officers arrive, go to a safe place like a neighbor's room, but try to preserve the physical evidence. If the attack occurs outside, use the Blue Light phones to call for help.

  • Do not change your clothing. If you must change, place your old clothes in a paper bag.
  • Pack a change of clothes to bring to the Health Center or the hospital.
    Note: Health Services will refer survivors to the Cooley Dickinson Hospital for the evidence collection examination. Campus Police Officers can assist you in getting to and from the hospital and can accompany you during any part of the process you wish.
  • Do not wash or clean your clothing.
  • Do not take a shower, bathe, or clean up.
  • Do not apply medication or cosmetics.