The majority of sexual violence survivors do not report their assault to the police. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), only 230 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults result in a police report. Additionally, 13% of survivors did not report the crime out of the belief that the police would not do anything to help.
It is common for sexual assault survivors to question whether they should report a crime to the police. Not every law enforcement officer may be empathetic to survivors’ needs, and you may not want to repeat the story of the assault to multiple investigators. You do have options to seek medical attention and report the assault on a later date.
Reporting Sexual Assault to the Police
When you report a sexual assault to the police, a law enforcement officer will meet you at a specified location. This could be your home, the scene of the assault, or the hospital. He or she will ask you questions about the assault and how it occurred.
It is important to be as detailed as possible when providing this information, you may not remember all the details at this stage. You have the right to say “I don’t remember” or “I’m not sure” when answering an officer’s questions. You also have the right to have a trusted friend or advocate present during the interview, which may take a few hours to complete.
After this interview, an investigator will take over your case and gather evidence, which may involve more interviews. Once the investigator builds the case, he or she will send it to the prosecutor, who will decide whether to bring charges against the perpetrator.
Forensic Medical Examinations and Police Reports
Immediately after a sexual assault, you have the option to attend a forensic sexual assault medical examination. During this procedure, a trained forensic nurse will treat immediate injuries, ask you questions about the assault, and collect various DNA samples. Like a police interview, you have the right to have a trusted friend or advocate with you at the exam.
The results of the forensic medical exam can provide valuable evidence for a future case against the perpetrator. However, you do not need to file a police report to receive a medical exam. You have the right to ask the forensic examiner to store the exam kit until you feel comfortable enough to report.
Civil versus Criminal Processes After Sexual Assault
The purpose of the criminal justice system is to punish the perpetrator for his or her actions. Criminal penalties may include prison time, fines, and restitution for the financial losses you suffered due to the assault, depending on the state where you live. However, filing criminal charges is not your only option for justice after a sexual assault.
You can also pursue a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator. Since civil lawsuits and criminal proceedings follow different processes, you have the right to pursue both courses of action for the same act of violence. While the purpose of a criminal case is to be punitive, civil lawsuits focus on helping you recover the losses you suffered due to the crime.
In a civil lawsuit, you can recover compensation for your financial losses as a result of the assault, such as medical expenses or lost wages. However, you can also recover non-economic damages for the physical and psychological pain and suffering you endured due to the assault.
To learn more about your legal options, contact a sexual assault attorney as soon as possible. Your sexual assault lawyer can connect you with the resources you need and help you plan your next steps.