The aftermath of a sexual assault can be disorienting and scary. You may not know what steps you need to take to seek help and maybe in severe emotional and physical pain. While it can be difficult to seek help after a sexual assault, it is important to know what your options are for recovery. Reporting a sexual assault involves undergoing several legal processes to hold the perpetrator accountable.
What Is Sexual Assault?
Before you decide to report a sexual assault to local law enforcement, you may wonder whether or not your case constitutes sexual assault. Many different types of unwanted sexual contact can be a form of sexual assault, including rape, unwanted touching, sexual contact by threat, force, or manipulation, coercion, or sexual activity while you are unconscious. However, all acts of sexual assault have one factor in common: a lack of consent.
All parties involved in sexual activity must give their free and informed consent with an enthusiastic yes, permission, or agreement. Different states have different laws when it comes to consent, but generally, you cannot give consent under the following situations.
- If you are a minor under the age of consent in your state
- If you have an intellectual disability
- If you are unconscious or asleep
- If you are experiencing a blackout after using alcohol or drugs
- If you are only giving consent after the perpetrator threatens, forces, coerces or manipulates you to do so
How to Report a Sexual Assault
Many survivors feel fear and apprehension when they decide to report their assaults, but it is important to do so in order to pursue civil action and criminal prosecution against the perpetrator. You have multiple options for reporting an act of sexual assault.
- If you are in immediate danger or you need medical attention immediately following the assault, get to a safe place and call 911. Law enforcement and emergency services will come to your location to provide support, and you can report the assault at this time.
- If the sexual assault occurred in the past, you can report the incident by calling the non-emergency line for your local police department. You can also go to the station to report the assault in-person.
- You may also report an incident of sexual assault at a medical center that provides treatment to survivors. While at this medical center, you may receive treatment for your injuries or undergo a forensic medical exam to preserve evidence for your case. You do not have to report the assault to police in order to receive a forensic medical exam – in fact, you can receive an exam soon after your assault and ask the hospital to store it for when you do decide to file a report.
Is There a Statute of Limitations on Reporting a Sexual Assault?
It may take you some time after an assault to decide to file a report. However, it is important to pay attention to the stature of limitation on reporting a sexual assault in your state. The statute of limitations dictates the length of time you have to report your assault. If you do not report within this timeframe, law enforcement may refuse to hear your case.
Different states have different statutes of limitations for sexual assault. For example, California does not have a statute of limitations for most sexual offenses under state law, but you must bring a case against the perpetrator within six years of a rape occurring.
On the other hand, Florida has statutes of limitations for most of its sex crimes, depending on the severity of the incident. There is no statute of limitations for capital felony sexual battery, but you have four years to report a first-degree felony sexual battery.
Reporting a sexual assault is a clear path to seeking justice against the perpetrator – through criminal prosecution, collecting financial compensation in civil court, or both. However, navigating the judicial system alone can be difficult without professional support. Contact a rideshare sexual assault lawyer as soon as possible to help you navigate through the reporting procedures and legal processes following the assault.