Terms to Know
The following common terms may be helpful to anyone looking for more general information regarding discrimination, harassment, sexual violence, interpersonal violence or stalking.
Advocate or Companion
Advocates, also known as companions, are persons who are specially trained to provide emotional support to survivors of sexual and interpersonal violence. There are 3 types of advocates in the Chapel Hill area.
- UNC-CH’s advocates are the Gender Violence Services Coordinators, Cassidy Johnson and Holly Lovern. Cassidy and Holly serve survivors of both sexual and interpersonal violence, as well as stalking and harassment.
- Orange County Rape Crisis Center’s (OCRCC) companions serve survivors of sexual violence.
- Compass Center’s advocates serve survivors of domestic (interpersonal) violence.
In general, advocates/companions can help by providing a safe space for you to talk about what happened, sharing information about reporting options, helping you to seeking assistance, and accompanying you to meetings or visits at police stations, UNC-CH, the hospital, or court. Both OCRCC and Compass Center offer 24 hour hotlines that anyone can call at any time. An advocate/companion is not the same as a therapist and cannot provide professional counseling, but an advocate/companion can provide support and assistance.
Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault/Date Rape Drugs
Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault is the use of alcohol or drugs to make someone more vulnerable to sexual assault. The most common date rape drug is alcohol, but many illicit drugs (such as Rohypnol or “roofies,” GHB, Ecstasy and Ketamine) and prescription drugs (such as Ambien and Xanax) are also used. These drugs are often mixed with alcohol to make them difficult to detect. Most are invisible and odorless when dissolved in water. Mixing these drugs with alcohol often exacerbates their effects, making someone appear more intoxicated than they would typically be after drinking a certain amount. Someone who has been given a date rape drug may not be able to resist sexual advances, and may not be aware of the attack until several hours after it occurred due to memory lapses. These drugs metabolize quickly so there may be little physical evidence detectable through a blood or urine sample during evidence collection.
Emergency contraception may prevent pregnancy before it occurs. One form of emergency contraception is called the morning after pill or “Plan B.” Plan B can reduce the risk of pregnancy by 89% if taken with 72 hours, but can be effective up to 120 hours following a sexual encounter. Plan B is FDA approved. For students, it is available on a walk-in, confidential basis at Campus Health Services. It is also available through Planned Parenthood or at a local pharmacy without a prescription.
A Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE), at either UNC Hospitals or Campus Health Services can collect evidence from your body in the event of sexual assault or interpersonal violence. Most people call evidence collection a “rape kit,” but evidence collection can also be used in circumstances of physical assault. Evidence collection can help you understand more about the assault, particularly if you were under the influence of alcohol or other drugs at the time of the assault.
The treatment and evidence collection process by a FNE involves a physical exam, treatment of minor injuries, support for your psychological needs, and physical and photographic evidence collection. If you suspect that you have been drugged, the FNE may run tests for alcohol or drugs. The FNE will also collect samples of clothing fibers, hairs, saliva, semen or bodily fluid, and take photos of injuries as documentation of the assault. RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, has a detailed description of an evidence kit on their website.
In order to preserve evidence that can be used against the offender, try not to eat, urinate, shower, change clothes, or brush your hair. If you do change clothes and plan to bring clothes with you as evidence, place them in a paper bag (not plastic) to preserve the evidence best. Appropriate medical care including the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of sexually transmitted infection and pregnancy can also be provided by staff at these locations.
Importance of Preserving and Collecting Evidence
There is a limited time window in which to collect evidence (generally 72 hours or as soon as possible after the assault). If you know you want to press charges against the person who assaulted you, it is strongly encouraged that you have evidence collected by medical personnel in order to gather and preserve physical evidence following a sexual assault or physical assault. Even if you are not sure whether you want to press charges, an evidence collection kit gives you the option to think about it and to pursue these options at a later time. Choosing to have evidence collected does not mean you are required to press charges or go to court.
**The most important thing to remember about the evidence collection process is that it is entirely up to you, the survivor, how much evidence you want collected.**
Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE)
Forensic nurse examiners (FNEs) are licensed nurses who have specialty training in collecting forensic evidence. FNEs are available at UNC Hospitals as well as Campus Health Services. These providers are specially trained to discuss options regarding medical care and the reporting of incidents, collect evidence with a physical or sexual assault evidence collection kit, prescribe medications for prevention of infections and pregnancy, and coordinate services within Campus Health Services and/or the community and state. FNEs are also called Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE).
HIV prophylaxis medication
When someone may have been exposed to HIV, such as in the case of unprotected anal or vaginal sex, they may take a course of antiretroviral drugs over a four week period, which is thought to reduce the risk of contracting HIV. These drugs should be taken as quickly as possible after the event and must be prescribed by a physician. These drugs may be covered by insurance or by funds such as the Survivor’s Assistance Fund.
Victim or Survivor
You might hear both of these terms used when referring to someone who has experienced sexual violence, interpersonal violence, stalking, or harassment. Some people may use the term victim to demonstrate that they were harmed by someone else who made an intentional choice and that they (the victim) didn’t do anything to cause that harm. Other people may choose to use the word survivor, particularly when someone is healing or feels empowered after the violence. Either is okay to use. If you are using these terms to describe someone in your life, let that person decide which word they want you to use rather than choosing one for them.
Ze, Hir, They, Them
Ze, hir, they, and them are gender neutral pronouns – they are not associated with a specific gender. Using ze or they (rather than he or she) and hir or them (rather than him or her) allows you to reference someone without assuming gender.