Filing a Police Report
Filing a police report will document the incident and take the first step towards filing criminal charges.
The process will vary depending on your circumstances and the jurisdiction, however, these two documents from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) will help you know what to expect:
When you contact the police:
- When you call, you will reach a dispatcher, who will send a patrol officer to meet you at a location that you choose and take the report. You have the right to have a support person with you during the conversation. Click here to find an advocate in your area.
- If the assault took place within the last 120-hours, the officer may offer to take you to a health facility to receive medical attention. You may always request police transport to the hospital. You may also meet the police at the health facility.
- Similarly, the perpetrator’s body carries evidence and can potentially confirm aspects of the your account (e.g. identifying marks, injuries). If you know the perpetrator, tell the police to obtain consent or court order for a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam on the suspect.
- Ask whether your local law enforcement office has a specialized investigator for sexual assault. If so, the first patrol officer should conduct a preliminary interview gathering just enough information to determine whether the elements of a crime have been met and by whom. The in-depth interview should be left to the investigator in order to decrease account repetition. This is in the IACP Guidelines.
- The Interview: The police officer will ask you questions about the incident and gather information about any witnesses and the perpetrator. The officer may ask for the name, address, and physical description of the perpetrator, if you know the person.
- An effective criminal investigation will concentrate on gathering as much information as possible about the perpetrator.
- Due to the nature of trauma, it is typical to not remember all of the details of the sexual assault. If you don’t remember a detail or the memory is unclear, say so. That will make it easier to fill in or change details as you remember them.
From the IACP Guidelines:
The prosecuting attorney assigned to your case will review the information and determine whether there is enough evidence to officially charge the perpetrator.
Although you will not be able to control whether your case is prosecuted, most prosecutors will not go forward without your consent. Once you report an assault to the police, you are a witness in the state’s case against the perpetrator. Rarely, however, will a sexual assault victim be forced to participate as a witness in criminal proceedings against their will.
In rare cases when the prosecutor does not think there is strong evidence, the criminal case will not go forward. This does not mean that the assault did not occur. You may still press charges in civil court.
You can press charges against the perpetrator in civil court, in addition to or in lieu of a criminal case. Filing a civil law suit involves contacting a private attorney who will represent you in bringing charges against the individual who assaulted you.