How to Report Sexual Assault to Law Enforcement
It can happen at any time. You could be walking home from work. Or enjoying yourself at a party when danger strikes.
Perhaps the perpetrator breaks into your home. Or the attack occurs at the hands of your babysitter.
Whatever the situation a sexual assault is not your fault. But there are steps you can take after an assault; since the law is on your side.
Below you will find tips on how to report sexual assault.
Here’s How to Report Sexual Assault
No one knows when a sexual assault will occur. But it’s important to remember this helpful information about reporting the incident. By taking action afterward, the chances of catching the perpetrator increase. Plus collecting evidence strengthens your case.
Call for Help
When you’ve been sexually assaulted please call the police. By contacting 911 you’re starting the process of healing.
When speaking with police dispatch be sure to give the address or surroundings.
Try to give a physical description of the attacker, if you can. Try to remember the perpetrator’s clothes and significant smells. Tell them if the perpetrator left on foot or by a car. Or did the perp have any weapons?
Let them know if you have injuries so they can send an ambulance.
Seek Medical Attention
Receiving treatment for injuries of a sexual assault is crucial. Throughout a sexual assault forensic examination or “rape kit”, the evidence collection occurs. Sexually transmitted disease screenings get performed during your medical visit.
Medication to prevent STD’s and pregnancy is available if administered after the assault. But the availability of the medication depends on your state.
How Long Do You Have to File a Police Report?
With any crime, time is of the essence. Evidence deteriorates, witnesses are unavailable, or time runs out. Every state implements laws that restrict the time on taking legal action for a committed crime. But there may not be a time limit for reporting the crime. Check with your state for more information.
Statute of Limitations Varies
The statute of limitations is the period in which a person can start legal actions. Once a statute of limitations expires the case can’t be prosecuted.
To increase the likelihood of your case getting prosecuted, report the charges as soon as possible.
Child Victim Cases
Child victim cases differ from adult cases. When the victim is a child, there may be no statute of limitations. Or the statute of limitations may not start until the victim turns 18 years old or the crime gets reported.
Deterioration of Evidence
When evidence gets collected from the victim, it gets sealed and preserved. Yet, how well the DNA sample gets preserved, impacts how long it lasts. If a sample endures exposure to the sun, heat, or water, it degrades faster according to Livescience.com.
Thus making it inadmissible in a case. So seeking justice for the crime should start right away.
Should You Press Charges?
Deciding to press charges against a perpetrator isn’t easy. A victim should weigh the pros and cons of pursuing legal action.
Before a person decides to press charges, it’s good to know the statistics.
According to Rainn.org, “Out of every 1000 instances of rape, only 13 cases get referred to a prosecutor, and only 7 cases will lead to a felony conviction.”
Does this mean a person shouldn’t seek justice for their assault? Of course not. However, a victim must go into the process with this information.
A victim should consider the outcome if the state presses charges.
The State Isn’t Moving Forward with the Charges
There is no guarantee a guilty verdict will occur if a case gets prosecuted. Sometimes there’s difficulty proving a case, because of minimal evidence, an unidentifiable perpetrator or other issues. For these reasons, the state can decide to not press charges.
The State Is Moving Forward with the Charges
If the state believes there is enough evidence to pursue a conviction, they can press charges. But the victim must understand what awaits her or him.
Sexual assault cases can get resolved through a plea bargain or go to trial.
A plea bargain occurs when the prosecutor and the perpetrator’s lawyer agree the perpetrator will plead guilty to the charges. In exchange for the guilty plea, there’s often a lighter sentence. By agreeing to a plea bargain, deal the victim doesn’t need to testify.
If the case goes to trial, prepare to testify. Your attorney will help you prep for sitting on the witness stand. But understand you will discuss details of the assault which can make you feel uncomfortable.
Consider getting therapy to cope and heal from your traumatic experience. Having a strong support system in place is crucial while dealing with the aftermath of a crime.
For information on victim protection laws for your state, please visit the Office for Victims of Crime website.
Speak with Legal Counsel
Victims should consult with the prosecutor. The prosecutor knows the steps of a criminal defense case. He or she will explain the laws, discuss the evidence, and answer any further questions the victim asks.
If you or someone you know gets accused of a sexual assault, speaking with an experienced criminal defense attorney is key. A criminal defense lawyer will use their expertise to fight for you.
Are You Ready?
Learning the steps of how to report sexual assault is important. Whether you or a loved one has been assaulted, knowing how to help the victim shows support.
If you need legal representation, please use our free directory to search for an attorney in your area.