City of Devils Lake - Devils Lake North Dakota
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Sexual Assault

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assaults are the most personal of all crimes. Sexual assaults are also believed to be a severely under-reported crime. Victims of sexual assault often struggle with the decision to report their assault to law enforcement authorities.

There are many names used to describe these kinds of cases, but most refer to it as rape. As its most serious level, the State of North Dakota calls it gross sexual imposition. A sexual assault involves sexual activity or contact compelled by force or threats of harm, perpetrated by the administration of alcohol or drugs without the victim's knowledge, perpetrated on a victim who is unaware of the act, or perpetrated against a vulnerable or underage victim. For specific and detailed wording of the laws refer to the North Dakota Century Code, Chapter 12.1-20.

The age of consent in the State of North Dakota is 18. This means any sexual activity or contact with a person under the age of 18 is a crime. This includes sexual activity or contact between two minors.

Most victims of sexual assaults are able to identify their assailant or are able to provide enough information about the assailant for law enforcement to identify that person. Very few sexual assaults are stranger attacks.

Persons under the influence of alcohol or drugs may be viewed as easy targets. Also, chemical impairment may adversely affect your ability to resist an assailant. There are a number of studies related to the alcohol factor. Those studies indicate that as many as 50-70% of victims were under the influence at the time of the attack. Most sexual assaults take place out of view of others, most commonly in the home or vehicle of the victim or attacker.

What do I do if I've been sexually assaulted?

As soon as possible. report the assault to law enforcement in the jurisdiction where the assault happened. The Devils Lake Police Department can be contacted by calling 701-662-0700. Prompt reporting allows for a timely investigation and can make a difference in the success of the case. Not reporting impacts a victim's ability to get justice and that, in turn, can impact the healing process. In addition, assailants who are not held accountable for their actions can be a continued threat to public safety.

These are important steps to take right away after an assault:

  • Get away from the attacker to a safe place as fast as you can. Then call 911 or the police.

  • Seek the support of a friend or family member you trust. You also can call a crisis center or a hotline to talk with a counselor. To contact a facility in North Dakota. For help locally contact Safe Alternatives by calling 662-7378 or (toll free) at 888-662-7378. Feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and shock are normal. It is important to get counseling from a trusted professional.
  • Avoid cleaning yourself in any way that may result in loss of physical evidence. Physical evidence can be very important in a sexual assault case. Victims are encouraged to avoid eating, drinking, brushing their teeth, urinating, showering or bathing until a medical exam and evidence collection can be done, if the victim is willing to participate in that exam. Do not change clothes. Do not touch or change anything at the scene of the assault.

  • Participation in the medical-legal examination is strongly encouraged. This is a critical step in the collection of physical evidence in most assaults. What is included in the exam depends on the circumstances involved in the assault. This exam is done by trained medical staff and can be done at any local hospital emergency room.

  • If you believe you were drugged, law enforcement will want to obtain a urine sample as soon as possible to prove the presence of drug and to identify what drug was used. Unfortunately, many date rape drugs metabolize quickly. This means that after several hours, if may not be detected in a sample. As a result, it is important to get that sample very soon after the assault. It is acceptable to go directly to a hospital, even before notifying law enforcement.

How can I lower my risk of sexual assault?

There are things you can do to reduce your chances of being sexually assaulted. Follow these tips from the National Crime Prevention Council:

  • Avoid people who use anger as a means of control. Most rape victims know their attacker.

  • If you are being followed, drive to a police or fire station or walk to a well-populated area.

  • Always walk with friends in busy, well-lighted areas and avoid known trouble spots.

  • Protect yourself from date rape drugs. NEVER leave a drink unattended.

  • Be cautious about accepting rides from people or accepting invitations to someone's home. Stay where there are other people.

  • If you attend a party and end up drinking too much or not feeling well, do not go into a back room to sleep it off, have a friend take you home.
    Sex Crimes
  • Be aware of your surroundings - who's out there and what's going on.

  • Clearly communicate your wishes about sexual contact. say NO/STOP!

  • Carry mace or pepper spray. Think about how you could use items you normally carry as a weapon to defend yourself if necessary (i.e. - purse, keys, umbrella, etc.)

  • Walk with confidence. The more confident you look, the stronger you appear.

  • Know your limits when it comes to using alcohol - AVOID overconsumption. Friends should look out for one another.

  • Be assertive - don't let anyone violate your space.

  • Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in your surroundings, leave.

  • Don't prop open self-locking doors.

  • Lock your door and your windows, even if you leave for just a few minutes.

  • Watch your keys. Don't lend them. Don't leave them. Don't lose them. And don't put your name and address on the key ring.

  • Watch out for unwanted visitors. Know who's on the other side of the door before you open it.

  • Be wary of isolated spots, like underground garages, offices after business hours, and apartment laundry rooms.

  • Avoid walking or jogging alone, especially at night. Vary your route. Stay in well-traveled, well-lit areas.

  • Have your key out and ready to use before you reach the door - home, car, or work. Check the front and rear seats and floor before getting in your car.

  • Park in well-lit areas and lock the car, even if you'll only be gone a few minutes.

  • Drive on well-traveled streets, with doors and windows locked.

  • Never hitchhike or pick up a hitchhiker.

  • Keep your car in good shape with plenty of gas in the tank.

  • In case of car trouble, call for help on your cellular phone. If you don't have a phone, put the hood up, lock the doors, and put a banner in the rear mirror that says, "Help. Call police."

  • If a stranger stops to ask you a question and you choose to respond, keep your distance.

How can I help someone who has been sexually assaulted?

You can help someone who is abused or who has been assaulted by listening and offering comfort. Go with her or him to the police, the hospital, or to counseling. Reinforce the message that she or he is not at fault and that it is natural to feel angry and ashamed.

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