Committed to providing a dedicated, professional legal advocate for students dealing with sexual assault

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At UVA, sexual assault survivors come forward looking for justice. They need an unbiased, single point of contact that can help them navigate the criminal courts, the civil courts, and the University’s Title IX sexual misconduct process.

After a student bravely decides to come forward, SAAF is committed to giving that student a dedicated, professional legal advocate to help them navigate what course of action is right for them.

Getting Help


Medical Attention

Immediately after an assault, call 911 or go to the Emergency Room at The University Medical Center (1215 Lee Street, 434.924.2231). If less than 72 hours have passed, evidence can still be collected in case you someday decide to pursue a criminal case. This will keep your options open. You will not be charged for your visit to the ER. A volunteer from the Sexual Assault Resource Agency (SARA) will be called to accompany you through the process at the ER, if you’d like, or you can call SARA directly on their 24-hour hotline, 434.977.7273, even if you just need a ride to the hospital. You do not need to go the ER alone.

More importantly, even if 72 hours have passed, see a medical professional (like Elson Student Health at 400 Brandon Avenue 434.924.5362) to make sure you are treated for the physical effects of sexual assault.



You just experienced a trauma, so it’s important that you talk to an experienced crisis counselor. These hotlines are confidential and will make sure you get the help you need.

 Sexual Assault Resource Agency (“SARA”): 434.977.7273

 Shelter for Help in Emergency (“SHE”): 434.293.8509

UVA Counseling and Psychological Services (“CAPS”): 434.243.5150 (daytime); 434.972.7004 (evenings and weekends)

Family Violence and Sexual Assault Virginia Hotline: 1.800.838.8238

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1.800.656.HOPE


A Lawyer

You don’t have to use our attorney, but we strongly recommend you talk to a lawyer to help you evaluate all your options. Call us at 434.327.1447 or email [email protected] to set up your free, confidential appointment 

You can always call us


Why Legal Aid?

Our attorney, Palma Pustilnik, has been representing survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in the greater Charlottesville community since 2008. She knows the Commonwealth Attorneys, the victim’s advocates, the judges, and what you can expect in both the criminal and civil courts, should you choose to pursue legal action against your assailant. She is also a proud alumna of The University of Virginia and understands student life at UVA.

Because Legal Aid is not funded by The University of Virginia, you can be sure that our attorney is your advocate, with absolutely no conflict of interest. Our goal is to help you understand your options from a legal perspective and represent you successfully in whatever path you choose.

Know Your Options

Our attorney will talk to you about the different options available when confronting sexual assault. Ask as many questions as you’d like. It’s your lawyer’s job to help you decide what will work best for you, and to help you successfully pursue that avenue. Potential actions include:

  1. Bring a case to the Sexual Misconduct Board at the University
  2. File criminal charges with the Commonwealth Attorney
  3. File civil suit against the assailant
  4. File Title IX complaints against the University

Some students choose not to pursue any of these options. It is our goal to make sure you have all the information you need in order to make the right decision for you


Q: Will my school or my parents find out if I talk to Ms. Pustilnik?
A: No. Our attorney works for you, not your school and not your parents. In fact, she is legally bound to confidentiality.  Your school or your parents will not find out that you spoke with Ms. Pustilnik unless you tell them.

Q: Will my assailant know I spoke to a lawyer?
A: No. Absolutely not.

Q: Do I qualify for Legal Aid? What if my parents make enough money to afford an attorney?
A: Your parent’s income is not considered when determining if you qualify for SAAF services. Neither is your car, funds held in trust for you, or other non-liquid assets. 

Q: What if my assault happened over a year ago?
A: In Virginia, there is no statute of limitations for felony sexual assault charges, like rape (or attempted rape) or aggravated sexual battery (or attempted aggravated sexual battery).  That means there is no time limit regarding when the assailant can be prosecuted for the crime.  There are just a few sexual assault crimes that are misdemeanors and have a one-year statute of limitations.

As for your options within the UVA system, it is important to know that the school’s Sexual Misconduct Board will only pursue an investigation while you and your assailant are both students.

Q: What if my assault occurred off-campus or over the summer?
A: For a criminal case, it does not matter the location or time of year. Likewise for a Sexual Misconduct Board case, any assault between students is relevant regardless of the incident’s location or time of year.

Q: What if my assailant wasn’t as student?
A: You can still seek accommodation from the University, however the Sexual Misconduct Board is only used to adjudicate incidents between students. The criminal courts remain a viable option and SAAF counsel will apply to that situation.

Who We Are

We are a group of University of Virginia alumni who feel it is our obligation to provide professional legal support for survivors of sexual assault at UVA. This fund was started because survivor after survivor told us they wish they’d had a lawyer, that their cases might have turned out differently if they had, and that their assailants benefitted from having legal counsel.

We’ve partnered with Central Virginia Legal Aid Society to provide an experienced attorney – Palma Pustilnik – to meet with survivors and serve as their legal advocate regardless of what route, if any, a survivor chooses to pursue.

Our hope is that this resource will result in more survivors coming forward, and more justice for those who do. But most importantly, we hope that more survivors look back on the experience of seeking justice as empowering and not re-traumatizing.

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