The Merrimack College Police Department (MCPD) is committed to responding to reports of any form of sexual assault in a professional and empathetic manner.
Our focus is on the health and safety of the victim/survivor of the assault as well as the entire campus community. Many of our officers are certified by the State of Massachusetts as sexual assault investigators. Those officers are dedicated to investigating reports of sexual assault, working with victims/survivors, identifying offenders, and gathering evidence. Officers work closely with Residence Life, the Office of Community Standards, the Title IX Coordinator, Hamel Health Center, The Counseling Center, law enforcement partners, and the Massachusetts Criminal Justice System in efforts to provide victims/survivors with safety, resources, and justice.
Definitions of Sexual Assault
- Any sexual penetration (anal, oral or vaginal), however slight, with any object or sexual intercourse by a person upon another person without effective consent, by force or by threat of bodily injury.
- Sexual penetration includes vaginal or anal penetration by a penis, object, tongue or finger and oral copulation by mouth to genital contact or genital to mouth contact.
- Any intentional sexual touching, however slight, with any object by a person upon another person without effective consent. Sexual touching includes any bodily contact with the breasts, groin, genitals, mouth or other bodily orifice of another or any other bodily contact in a sexual manner.
- Any disrobing of another or exposure to another by a person without effective consent.
Title IX Sexual Harassment
- Sexual harassment is any unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offense that it effectively denies an individual equal access to the College’s education program or activity.
- A form of sexual harassment exists when submission to or rejection of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature results in adverse educational or employment action, or the threat of such adverse action, or when submission is made a condition of educational or employment advancement.
Effective consent is defined as informed, freely and actively given mutually understandable words or actions that indicate a willingness to participate in each form of sexual activity. Consent is mutually understandable when a reasonable person would consider the words or actions of the parties to have demonstrated agreement between them to participate in the sexual activity.
In the absence of mutually understandable words or actions, neither party should assume that it is permissible to engage in sexual activity. Consent to some form(s) of sexual activity does not necessarily mean consent to other forms of sexual activity. Consent to sexual activity may be withdrawn at any time at which point all sexual activity for which consent has been withdrawn must cease.
Consent can NEVER be given by the following:
- Minors (in Massachusetts, those not yet sixteen (16) years of age)
- Mentally disabled persons
- Individuals who are incapacitated as a result of alcohol or other drug consumption (voluntary or involuntary)
- Individuals who are unconscious, unaware or otherwise physically helpless
- Individuals who are forced, coerced, intimidated or threatened
Deciding to report sexual assault can be difficult for many victims/survivors. Although reports can be made at any time, we encourage timely reporting. Timely reporting ensures that victims/survivors obtain all the available attention and resources needed to assist them through the process. Timely reporting also improves the quality of investigations and provides an opportunity for officers to collect potential evidence. Reporting a sexual assault to MCPD does not mean that the victim/survivor must participate in criminal prosecution and/or the College conduct process.
Reporting an Assault
Different employees at Merrimack College have different requirements regarding maintaining confidentiality. Most employees are considered Responsible Employees and are mandated to report acts of Sexual Misconduct that they are made aware of. They must also report the names of the complaining party and the responding party involved in the sexual misconduct. This reporting is required in order to ensure that anyone who is a victim/survivor of sexual misconduct receives appropriate resources and accommodations. In addition, the reporting requirements allow for the protection of the Merrimack College Community and the tracking of incidents.
MCPD officers are not confidential reporters. This means that when a victim/survivor reports a sexual assault to a member of MCPD, the Title IX Coordinator must be informed of the report. However, MCPD respects the privacy of everyone and will only share information with those allowed by law.
If a survivor wishes to keep the details of the incident confidential, they should speak with on-campus counselors or health providers at the Hamel Health Center (978-837-5441) and The Counseling Center (978-837-5444).
They may also speak to an off-campus crisis center, such as:
If You Have Been Sexually Assaulted
What to Do Immediately
- Get to a safe location
- Call the Merrimack College Police at 978-837-5911. If you are not on campus call 911 to contact the police department in the city or town where the assault occurred.
- Evidence of sexual assault and/or the identity of the perpetrator can be left on the body of the victim/survivor. For this reason, it is important that a victim/survivor not bathe, shower, douche, or use the bathroom immediately after the sexual assault. Drinking and/or brushing teeth should also be avoided prior to a sexual assault examination at a hospital.
- Evidence of sexual assault and/or the identity of the perpetrator can also be left at the location where the assault occurred. Victims/survivors should not clean up the location where the assault took place because officers may be able to process the location to gather evidence of the assault.
- Victims/survivors should bring a change of clothes with them to the hospital. If a survivor needs to change clothes prior to going to the hospital, put the clothing that was worn at the time of the assault in a paper bag (not plastic) and bring them to the hospital. A SANE nurse will collect the clothing as part of the sexual assault examination.
- Save all digital evidence such as text messages, photos, videos, phone messages, and other social media communications. This may be important evidence that can be used in either a criminal prosecution or an internal conduct process.
Medical Attention and Evidence Collection
MCPD encourages victims/survivors of sexual assault to seek medical attention, and will assist them with doing so by transporting them to the hospital in an unmarked police vehicle. Victims/survivors are encouraged to have a support person of their choosing accompany them to the hospital.
Medical attention is important for the following reasons:
- Evaluation and treatment of trauma
- Treatment of possible exposure to infection or pregnancy
- Properly gather forensic evidence
- Many hospitals, including Lawrence General Hospital, employ trained sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) who will work directly with and support victims/survivors at the hospital. They are trained to collect forensic evidence, check for injuries, and provide preventative treatment for pregnancy and exposure to sexually transmitted infections.
- There is a limited window of time in which forensic evidence can be collected and preserved. Massachusetts Guidelines state that a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit can be completed on an adult survivor up to 120 hours (five days) after the assault. This is why it is important to obtain medical attention as soon as possible.
- Having a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit completed does not mean that a survivor has to commit to a criminal investigation and/or a college conduct investigation, but it does ensure that any potential evidence will be collected.
- Any victim/survivor of sexual assault who has a sexual assault forensic evidence and/or exam collected at a Massachusetts emergency room is eligible for compensation to cover some expenses from the emergency room visit. For payment by Massachusetts Victim Compensation, the sexual assault exam forensic collection kit must be opened. The victim’s name, address, and birthdate are sent to the Attorney General’s office and kept confidential. More detailed information can be found here:
Victims/survivors may delay in reporting a sexual assault to police and/or other mandated reporters.
This is not uncommon and can be due to a variety of factors. Passage of time does not mean that an assault can’t be reported. MCPD officers are prepared to take reports of sexual assault no matter how much time has passed since the event.
Please call the Merrimack College Police Department if you would like more information about reporting a sexual assault (978-837-5555).