Community Programs

Sexual Assault Support Services

Need help?

Call 908-526-7444

A confidential, 24-hour hotline.

It’s not your fault

Know that what happened was not your fault and that you don’t have to go through this alone.

Steps You Can Take

After a Sexual Assault

  • If you are in immediate danger or seriously injured, call 911.
  • Call the Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) Hotline at 908-526-7444. You will speak with a trained Sexual Assault Advocate. Everything you say is confidential. The Advocate will help you consider all your options including your safety, medical needs, and legal rights/options.

We can help you

The Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) program is a FREE service available to anyone who has been impacted by sexual assault, incest or any type of sexual violence. SASS is the primary agency for sexual assault support in Somerset County, N.J. The program was established in 1988, and has found its home at Zufall Health Center in Somerville.

  • We can be reached at 908-526-7444
  • We are located at 71 Fourth Street, Somerville, NJ
  • We are less than 1 mile from the Somerville train station
  • For services in other New Jersey locations, visit http://njcasa.org/find-help/
  • For services outside New Jersey, call 1-800-656-4673 or visit https://centers.rainn.org/

Support Services

  • A confidential, 24-hour hotline: Call 908-526-7444 for crisis counseling, support, information, and referrals.
  • Survivor accompaniment: To the police station, hospital, or court via SART.
  • Counseling: Trained licensed clinicians provide free individual, and family crisis and short term counseling with survivors (age 13 and up) and their loved ones. These services are available to anyone who has been a victim of sexual violence, no matter when the trauma occurred. We work with people of different gender identifications, cultures, ethnicities, and abilities. Bilingual Spanish-speaking services available.

READ MORE

People seek counseling for many reasons:

  • Feelings of anger, confusion, fear, sadness
  • Disruptive thoughts of the trauma that don’t go away
  • Avoiding things and situations that are trauma reminders (and sometimes more)
  • Problems at work or school
  • Growing concerns about a child’s challenging behaviors
  • Relationship conflicts
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Sleep disturbance and other health problems

If you identify with any of these problems, the good news is that you are not alone, and the staff at SASS can help. Contact us at 908-526-7444

Prevention and Outreach Services

Sexual Violence Prevention and Education

Zufall offers two educational components for schools and community groups in Somerset County:

  • A sexual violence prevention program for Somerset County youth to change attitudes and behaviors that contribute to occurrences of sexual violence. The program provides a series of sessions about healthy relationships, bystander intervention, and recognizing toxic media messages through media literacy programs (such as Media Literacy, Safe Dates).
  • Single-session workshops for community and faith-based organizations, school personnel, and health care and other professionals on sexual violence, mandatory reporting, the nature of consent, healthy relationships, “In Their Shoes”, risk factors, N.J. Sexual Assault laws, and related topics. To find out more, contact Christie Howley at 908-526-2335 ext. 132 or chowley@zufallhealth.org.

READ MORE (Workshop Summaries)

  • Healthy Relationships: Identifies red flags of an unhealthy relationship, while discussing values, physical intimacy, and dynamics present in healthy versus unhealthy relationships.
  • Consent: Introduces N.J. laws on minors’ rights and consent. Includes sexual assault prevention and information on local resources & the county support center.
  • “In Her Shoes”: An interactive program focusing on partner violence and sexual assault. For 11th and 12th grade and adult audiences only.
  • Outreach: Facilitating community-wide education on the programs offered by Zufall Health and Sexual Assault Support Services to individuals, organizations and schools throughout Somerset County. For more information please contact Arianna Cohen at 908-526-2335 ext. 129 or acohen@zufallhealth.org

Somerset County Violence Prevention Coalition

The Somerset County Violence Prevention Coalition is comprised of community members, including members of school systems and local human services agencies whose goal is reducing sexual violence through education and prevention.

The Coalition’s belief is that by focusing on issues that address the county’s social, cultural, behavioral, and environmental needs, it can provide a comprehensive approach to the prevention of violence.

Interested in participating in our Coalition? Contact Christie Howley at 908-526-2335 ext. 132 or chowley@zufallhealth.org

What is SART? (Sexual Assault Response Team)

Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) is a team approach to providing compassionate, comprehensive medical care, emotional support, information, assistance, evidence collection, and investigation of any recent incidents of sexual assault.

A victim may choose to activate any or all of the following SART members:

  • Confidential Sexual Violence Advocate (CSVA): a specially trained individual whose purpose is to provide emotional support and information about medical, legal, and therapeutic options
  • Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE): a nurse who is specially trained to obtain forensic evidenc
  • Law Enforcement (LE): police/prosecutors whose purpose is to obtain statements, evidence, and to investigate

Victims can activate SART if:

  • They are at least 13 years of age
  • Their assault occurred within the last 5 days
  • They consent to the SART activation

SART can be activated by calling the hotline (908-526-7444), 911, a local police department, or Robert Wood Johnson Somerset’s Emergency Department (908-685-2920).

What is Sexual Assault?

  • Any sexual contact or behavior that occurs without clear and explicit consent.
  • A crime of power and control.

Consent

Consent is a clear and voluntary agreement from each participant at every stage of a sexual encounter. The absence of “no” should not be understood to mean there is consent.

READ MORE

  • Consent does not need to be verbal. However, verbal communication prior to engaging in sex does help to clarify consent. It is important to be clear when talking about both partners’ sexual desires, needs, and boundaries.
  • A prior relationship does not indicate consent to future activity.
  • Someone cannot give consent if the following are present:
    • Physical force or coercion (threats, guilt)
    • Use or threat of weapons
    • Physical helplessness or incapacity
    • Intellectual or mental incapacity
    • Supervisory or disciplinary power over victim
    • The actor stands in loco parentis
    • The victim is not of legal age to consent

Age of Consent in New Jersey

The New Jersey Age of Consent is 16 years old. This states that any person, at least 16 years of age, may legally engage in sexual activity with another person at least 16 years of age.  The exceptions, are if one partner is in a supervisory position over the other, or if the two are family members.

Individuals aged 13-15 may legally engage in sexual activity with a partner who is no more than 3 years older.  (ex: a 13 year old may legally engage with a partner who is no more than 16 years old).  Sexual activity with a minor between the ages of 13-15, with a partner who is more than 3 years older than the minor is statutory rape.

Individuals aged 12 and under are not legally able to consent to sexual activity in the state of NJ, and any knowledge of sexual activity involving a minor aged 12 or under must be reported to DCP&P.

 

READ MORE

New Jersey statutory rape law is violated when a person has consensual sexual intercourse with an underage individual. A close-in-age exemption exists allowing minors between ages 13 and 15 to engage in sexual congress with a partner who is up to 4 years older. The age of consent is raised to 18 if the older partner is a parent, guardian, sibling, a relative closer than a 4th cousin, or an individual with some authority over the younger party (for example, a teacher or the victim’s boss).

For more information about laws and punishment, go to https://www.ageofconsent.net/states/new-jersey

Minors 12 and under are not legally old enough to consent to participation in any  sexual activity. Any resident of NJ with knowledge of sexual activity involving a minor aged 12 and under is mandated to report this to Department of Child Protection and Permanency.

Mandatory Reporting

By law (N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.10), and Department of Education regulations (N.J.A.C. 6:29-9), any person having a reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected in any environment (e.g. home, school, institution, foster home, etc.) is required to immediately notify the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) by calling the Child Abuse Hotline 1-877-NJ ABUSE. Reporting through a secondary source creates unnecessary delays in reporting, possibly resulting in further harm to the child, and does not satisfy the statutory requirement to report directly to DCP&P. In addition, the DCP&P screener may need information known only to the person who suspected the abuse.

Resources

SOMERSET COUNTY, NEW JERSEY

1-866-685-1122 Safe and Sound of Somerset (Domestic Violence)

908-725-2800 Richard Hall Community Mental Health Center

908-526-4100 PESS Psychiatric Emergency Screening Services

STATEWIDE AND NATIONAL

Possible Reactions to an Assault

Whether you have been the victim of a sexual assault, or you love someone who has been, it is typically very difficult to process. There is no “right” reaction to dealing with the aftermath of an act of sexual violence.

READ MORE

Some of the emotions you may experience include:

  • DisbeliefWhen you first experience or hear about the assault you might be surprised or shocked, and you might have trouble believing the assault happened. After a traumatic experience, it’s common for survivors and those around them to experience denial. It’s important for significant others to focus on believing survivors and acknowledging their story.
  • AngerYou might feel anger for a number of reasons: towards yourself for not being able to protect yourself or the survivor; towards the survivor for telling you about something that is hard to hear, or because he or she waited a period of time before telling you; or towards the perpetrator for carrying out the assault and hurting you or the survivor. It can be difficult to keep anger from affecting the way you communicate. Allow yourself to acknowledge this emotion and find another outlet to express it.
  • SadnessIt’s normal to feel sad, hopeless, worried, or powerless. You might feel sad for yourself, or for the survivor, or mourn how this has changed his or her life. If you know the perpetrator, you might feel sad for how this has changed your life as well. Self-care strategies and coping skills can help you move through these feelings.
  • Guilt. You may feel guilty that you could not prevent the assault from happening. You may feel guilty if it happened to others that you love. You may feel guilty if the survivor didn’t feel comfortable telling you about the assault right way. A loved one may feel guilty that something so terrible happened to someone else and not to you. It can be helpful to re-focus your energy on making the survivor feel supported as he or she moves forward. For the survivor, it may be helpful to understand that under no circumstance was it your fault.
  • Anxiety. Both survivor and significant other might feel anxious about responding, or handling it the “right” way. A significant other may be worried about how this event will impact a relationship with the survivor. Survivors should be reassured that the assault was not their fault and that you believe them. These can be the most powerful and helpful words for survivors to hear.
  • Confusion. You might feel confused by what you’re hearing. You might not understand how it could happen or why it has happened. Sadly, sexual assaults are more common than we’d like to think. Although you may be struggling with feelings of confusion, especially if you know the perpetrator, you should try to always believe the survivor. Survivors are never to blame for the assault.

How Can I Help a Loved One?

It takes courage for survivors to share his or her story, and it is important for the people in their lives to believe and support them.

READ MORE

  • Remind the survivor that he or she is not alone.
  • Allow the survivor control over when, and with whom they share their story. Though it may be difficult, it is important to refrain from forcing the survivor to make any decisions he or she do not feel ready to make.
  • Allow the survivor the freedom to discuss it when he or she feels comfortable, and avoid talking about it constantly unless the survivor wishes.
  • Don’t make it about you. Unfortunately, some significant others may have a similar story. Sharing that story when the survivor is sharing may make her or him feel invalidated, as though the time was no longer about the survivor.
  • Be patient. Understand that there is no timeline for survivors to “bounce back” from an assault, and that each person handles trauma differently. Education is key to understanding how to best support your loved one.
  • Vicarious trauma is still trauma. Reach out for your own individual counseling from a trained professional to best understand how to help you heal.

The Cast Of GIRLS Has A Powerful Message About Sexual Assault

Lady Gaga “Til It Happens to You”

Self Care

Good self-care enables you to better care for others, especially if you or someone in your life has survived sexual violence. The principles of self-care for friends and family are similar to the self-care concepts for survivors.

READ MORE

  • Maintain your lifestyle. It can be difficult to stay emotionally strong if you are mostly focusing on the sexual assault. Maintaining your lifestyle and continuing to do what you enjoy is important for your emotional wellness. If you enjoy painting, cooking, exercising, spending time with friends, or other activities, keep them up. It may seem challenging to make time to do these activities, but they can be helpful self-care strategies in the long-run.
  • Reach out and talk about it. It’s normal to have a difficult time processing a sexual assault. It can continue to be difficult as time goes on, and others seem to forget and get back to their usual routine. You can call our 24-hour hotline at 908-526-7444 to talk with someone who understands what you’re going through. You can also consider talking to someone who is professionally trained to help you deal with these thoughts and feelings, like a mental health professional. To get in touch with a counselor, call our hotline and let them know you may be interested in counseling.
  • Make plans. Sometimes talking about what happened can help you cope with your feelings, and other times it can make you feel more stuck. Make plans that give you a break from talking or thinking about the assault. It could mean starting a new hobby or revisiting one you already enjoy. You could go to dinner with a group of friends who understand this isn’t the time to discuss what happened. Maybe you prefer a solo activity like going on long walks or reading a light-hearted book. Let this be a time where you can take your mind off the assault.
  • Take time to relax. Relaxation looks different for everyone. You might consider meditation or deep breathing exercises. Maybe journaling helps you sort through your thoughts and find peace. Whatever you choose, build time into your day for these moments of relaxation so that you don’t skip out.

Healthy/Unhealthy Relationships

Healthy relationships are mutually supportive and beneficial to the individuals that are a part of them. A healthy relationship should promote self-respect, independence, shared feelings of trust and generally provide more happiness than stress or conflict.

READ MORE

Some signs and indicators of a healthy relationship include:

  • Mutual respect
  • Open and direct communication, without fear of manipulation
  • Emotional intimacy
  • Feeling supported and supporting of the other
  • Feelings of security and comfort
  • Equal power
  • Being able to have your own life apart from each other
  • Resolving conflict respectfully
  • Sharing many basic values
  • A significant degree of trust and honesty
  • Commitment to a healthy relationship

Knowing the components of a health relationship can highlight the red flags in an unhealthy or abusive and coercive behaviors used to maintain power and control over a former or current intimate partner. Abuse can be emotional, psychological, financial, sexual, or physical and can include threats, isolation, and intimidation. Abuse tends to escalate over time. Some signs and indicators of an unhealthy relationship include:

  • Abusive behavior in a previous relationship
  • Threat of violence or abuse (to self, victim, or others)
  • Using force during an argument
  • Forcing, pressuring or withholding sex
  • Breaking objects
  • Jealousy
  • Controlling behavior
  • Isolation
  • Physical abuse – hitting, punching, kicking, slapping, grabbing
  • Stalking or tracking
  • “Playful” use of force
  • Jekyll-and-Hyde personality

I Want To Help

Trained volunteer advocates provide support to survivors of sexual assault on our 24-hour sexual assault crisis hotline and/or provide support and accompaniment at the hospital or police department. No experience is necessary. We provide a 40-hour training which must be completed before becoming an active advocate.

If interested in becoming an advocate, please contact Christie Howley at chowley@zufallhealth.org or 908-526-2335, ext. 132.

Becoming an advocate

While there are no specific skills needed to become an advocate, there are several prerequisites. All advocates must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Have access to transportation
  • Live in Somerset County or immediate surrounding area
  • Complete an application
  • Participate in an interview
  • Submit to a criminal background check
  • Complete the 40-hour training in its entirety

Duties

Volunteers field calls through our 24-hour hotline for support, information, and referrals.Volunteers are also trained to meet the emotional needs of the caller through crisis intervention. Volunteers accompany survivors and their loved ones in person at Robert Wood Johnson Somerset Medical Center and/or local police departments.

Training

Volunteers must complete a 40-hour training prior to actively taking shifts and fielding calls and requests for accompaniments with survivors. The training is held over the course of approximately 10 weeks.  Sessions are held in the evenings during the week, with one Saturday daytime session. All training sessions are held in Somerville, NJ. Trainings are typically held twice annually.

Commitment of Time

Once training has been completed, volunteers are asked to commit themselves to at least one year of service, which includes taking one shift per month.  Each shift will be in the form of a primary weeknight, primary weekend, or backup shift.

Our volunteer advocates say...

“I am so fortunate to be part of this very important and necessary team.  Everyone is dedicated to making the client feel supported at the time of great need. “

“It is truly a privilege to be able to help someone who is in distress.”

“While heart-breaking at times, I am always grateful to be able to help a victim in need.”

“I’m so grateful to be able to give back to others in some way.”