How To Report A Sexual Assault

How To Report A Sexual Assault

You are not alone and you have every right to seek justice for your attack

How To Report A Sexual Assault

Campus sexual assault is a rising issue in the United States, with more and more incidents being reported (and many more unreported) on college campuses nationwide every day.

23.1% of undergraduate women and 5.4% of undergraduate men experience sexual assault in some capacity.

While the issue is actively being addressed all over the country, due to the vast variety of cases, you should know for yourself how to respond if something were to happen to you. If you are a victim of sexual violence in any form, you should be aware of the following ten points whether or not you plan on reporting your attack:

1. Preserve any useful evidence you can

Do everything in your power to avoid damaging any evidence that may be pertinent to your case. Don't change your clothes and wait to use the restroom if you can. Refrain from showering or fixing your hair as well. While you'll naturally want to eliminate the physical reminders of what took place, it's important that you keep as much of the original evidence intact as possible.

A rape kit is most effective at picking up evidence within 72 hours of the incident, but you can still request a forensic exam at your local hospital or medical center after this window has passed and still yield DNA and other tell-tale signs of forced contact.

In an effort to preserve your clothes, jewelry, and other items, place all of the belongings that were on your person during the attack in a paper bag.

NOTE: The Violence Against Women Act prohibits any of the 50 states from charging you for sexual assault medical forensic exams. In other words, it will not cost you a single penny to get examined by a healthcare professional.

2. You must notify emergency responders and/or law enforcement ASAP

If you are still in immediate danger, ensure that you are safe before you try to call 911 for assistance. Some college campuses are equipped with emergency beacons that can connect you to help at the press of a button. Following the attack, however, you should stop by the nearest police station yourself to file a report on your behalf. The sooner after the incident you go, the better.

Keep in mind that undergoing a traumatic event can distort or even destroy your memories of the encounter. And that's okay. Law enforcement personnel are trained to recognize signs of trauma and will be accommodating to you after your assault. Don't doubt your own credibility just because some of the specifics aren't clear. Your voice deserves to be heard regardless of those small details you can't bring yourself to remember.

3. Know your drug/alcohol use DOES NOT make the attack your fault

You might be hesitant to report your sexual assault to law enforcement because that would mean you'd have to admit that you were using drugs or alcohol in that same timeframe. But the fact that you were intoxicated in any capacity before or during the assault does not take away from the believability of your words. Just because you were tipsy or even passed out doesn't mean that the perpetrator had the go-ahead to violate you. You were impaired and therefore could not legally consent to the sexual act that followed. The rapist or assailant is the one who is accountable for the illegal act that took place, not you.

Many campus authorities (if not all of them) grant their students amnesty in terms of unlawful substance use if they were victims of sexual assault. You will NOT be charged for your personal consumption of drugs or alcohol. Don't let your intoxication discourage you from filing a report about the incident; your safety and recovery from this tragedy is far more important than getting booked for a slight policy violation.

4. Be prepared to tell as much of the story as you can remember

You will likely be interviewed by police several times so that they can confirm details you mention every time you tell the story. Their questions may be repetitive and uncomfortable, so you have every right to ask for a break whenever you need one. The interviewing process could take several hours depending on how busy the station is. Take your time and pace yourself to go only as fast as you can handle. The officers are listening to you and they believe you; they are only asking you to repeat yourself to streamline your account of what happened.

You can expect to be asked for a general timeline of the events, where you were when the assault took place, and any physical attributes you can recall that could help identify the perpetrator. You also have the right at any time to stop your report and withdraw it. The officers have no choice but to comply with your request, so don't hesitate to stop and discontinue your report if you feel that's what's best for you.

5. Campus police and local police WILL handle your case differently

Reporting your sexual assault to your university police is NOT the same as reporting it to local law enforcement. Colleges are not bound by the procedures of the criminal justice system. Instead, they are required by Title IX to address sexual misconduct and adjudicate based on the evidence and victim/witness testimonies they are presented.

The best your school can do is hold a disciplinary hearing with administrators who will judge your case and determine the next course of action. These individuals campus may not have much experience in sex crimes and therefore might not give you the closure you want. Also, while the burden of proof (what you need to prove that the alleged assailant is responsible) is much lower when dealing with campus incidents, your college will only be able to expel the offender at most.

Your university might not contact the police about the case, either, so if you are seeking help from the criminal justice system, be sure to reach out to them separately.

6. Reporting to local police can make your case a lot more publicized

When you go to the police with a sexual assault case, depending on the specifics, the proceedings could be very public. News sources might not publish your name, but they will cover the story of your assault to make people aware of the danger that may still linger in their community. In the event that the case goes to trial, however, you will likely cross paths with journalists, photographers, and other people trying to get their hands on whatever information they can.

The emotional and mental strain you are undergoing as a victim of sexual assault will only worsen if you decide to go public with your story. Family members, friends, school faculty, and even complete strangers may approach you about the matter even when you aren't in the courtroom setting. Keep in mind that the whole ordeal will be exhausting and time-consuming, but also know that you are strong enough to persevere in spite of it all.

7. Sexual assault of ANY KIND is a serious crime

Your attack doesn't have to involve unwanted penetration or even intercourse to be considered sexual assault. Sexual violence exists in a multitude of forms, ranging from (but not limited to) rape to stalking to verbal harassment. Whether or not you personally know the attacker is irrelevant; domestic abuse is treated just as drastically as an unprovoked attack by a stranger. And regardless of what exactly happened to you, if the interaction was undesired and nonconsensual, you are entitled to assistance from the law to see your assailant brought to justice.

8. Intimate partner violence (IPV) IS subject to prosecution

Just because you are in a romantic or sexual relationship with your assailant doesn't make their actions excusable in any way. Unless they had clear, consistent consent throughout the entire encounter, it doesn't matter who they are to you— they're still guilty of a serious crime. Your partner is subjected to the same laws that would persecute a stranger who abused you in that way. Plain and simple, if you did not consent to your partner's actions and they proceeded to touch you anyway, they violated you and need to be brought to justice.

9. Even without external injuries, you still can get a rape kit

A nurse's conducting of a sexual assault forensic exam— more commonly known as a rape kit— doesn't require you to have sustained outer injuries. The nurse is likely trained specifically in responding to incidents of sexual assault and will administer the exam with care and gentleness. Even if you did change your clothes and tidy up, you are still entitled to a thorough examination to check for internal signs of forced contact and any DNA or other materials that the assailant could have left on you.

If you suspect you have been drugged, you can request a test to see if you were given any of the traditional date-rape drugs or other substances.

10. You can seek an order of protection or restraining order against your assailant

In the event that you know your attacker or may be in close proximity of them, you have the right to obtain a protective or restraining order against them to prevent further unwanted contact. Ask local law enforcement officers or your attorney for more information on how to file one of these orders for your safety.

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, visit the following websites for additional guidance on how to begin your healing process:

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network)

RAINN's National Sexual Assault Online Hotline (or call at 800.656.4673)

United States Department of Justice

Office of Women's Health: Relationships and Safety

National Domestic Violence Hotline

End Rape On Campus

Report this Content

119 People Reveal How The Pandemic Has Affected Their Love Lives, And Honestly... Relatable

"I haven't been able to get out of the 'talking phase' with anyone."

The reality is, there's no part of life the pandemic hasn't affected. Whether it's your work life, your home life, your social life, or your love life, coronavirus (COVID-19) is wreaking havoc on just about everything — not to mention people's health.

When it comes to romance, in particular, people are all handling things differently and there's no "right way" of making it through, regardless of your relationship status (single, taken, married, divorced, you name it). So, some of Swoon's creators sought out to hear from various individuals on how exactly their love lives have been affected since quarantine began.

Keep Reading... Show less

-Having struggled with acne prone skin for years, I was cautious to try a new serum on top of the other products I've come to trust.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Your Social Activism May Actually Benefit From A Cleansing Social Media Detox

In the craziest year of our lives, sometimes there's value in taking a break.

We are living through, unequivocally, one of the most dangerous, unstable, chaotic periods of any of our lives. From COVID-19 to crises of police brutality to the mass exploitation of the poor by mega-corporations, the world outside seems to be looking more dystopic every day. What can be done about it? For many, activism involves heavily posting on social media to keep others aware. However, this comes with a net negative cost — increased levels of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness about the state of the world. Why might this be? After all, in past eras activists have endured comparable and greater levels of abuse and relentless torment from oppressors. Why, now, are people getting so easily burnt out?

Keep Reading... Show less

5 Things You Need To Know Before You Watch 'Arrested Development' On Netflix

"Her?" Yes, she's an amazing show! (You'll get this joke after you watch the show).


"Arrested Development" is an award-winning sitcom that aired for three seasons on Fox beginning in 2003, and then was picked up by Netflix for a fourth season in 2013, and then again for a final season in 2018.

However, it seems to remain one of the world's most underrated and under-appreciated shows of all time. Although this article alone won't be enough to skyrocket the show to Netflix's top 10, I hope that it will open people's eyes to the value and quality of the show.

Keep Reading... Show less

7 Books That Are NOT In The Young Adult Genre That Will Change Your Life

Young Adult isn't the only genre that exists, so here are seven books that any book lover wanting to try something new will love.

One of the most popular genres in literature that everyone has read at least one book from is Young Adult fiction. Now, I personally can say that, in the past, I have been one of those people that only read from the YA section of the bookstore.
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with just reading one genre, it's good sometimes to venture out of your reading comfort zone into the other book genres of the literary world.

In a previous article, I discussed the importance and power of words. The perfect example of this is literature and its impact on the world. Books have always played a crucial part in human lives, from how we are able to expand our knowledge to how we pass our time.

Keep Reading... Show less

I have always felt left out because of how I look and who I am. I have always felt like the elephant in the room, literally. I have always been shamed for my size. For the longest time, I cared so much about what I wear and who I wore certain things in front of. I never wanted to wear shirts that would show a lot of my arm, located above my elbow. I wouldn't wear shorts that didn't go to the tip of my knees, at least. I never wore anything remotely tight, where you could see every curve, roll, or imperfection. I was so insecure about myself, and not many of my friends knew.

Keep Reading... Show less

Reading is a relaxing activity that provides many benefits. Everybody reads books (when they are not watching Netflix, chatting on social media, or making Tik Tok videos) to distract themselves from reality for a while. Many do not realize the positive impact that books have like reducing stress, assisting with sleep, improving cognitively, and strengthening the mind. In honor of National Book Day, there are many great novels that you can read to mark this special holiday. Here are the best ones to check out.

Keep Reading... Show less

Celebrities Stealing Designs From Small Fashion Labels Is NOT A Good Look, And They Need To Pay Up

When larger, more established figures or brands steal from lesser-known independent creators, they are taking opportunities away from these creators while also profiting from someone else's work and claiming it as their own.

Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B recently collaborated on their new single "WAP," with the music video also being released on Friday. Both Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B posted photos of themselves on Instagram to celebrate the premiere of "WAP." An independent designer quickly noticed that the rappers' matching tops were copies of a top she had designed last year.

Keep Reading... Show less

I recently tried out this peach ice cream recipe from Taste of Home, and it was incredible. I had never made ice cream from home before, and this recipe was super easy to follow and it turned out amazing! It was also great that I had most of the necessary ingredients at home already.

Keep Reading... Show less

I spoke to a New York phlebotomist about COVID-19, and WOW, it's not easy. I don't know how she does it.

Keep Reading... Show less

I can not believe it has been ten years since One Direction came into our lives and blessed us all with their good looks and talents. For those uncultured swine who have no clue who or what One Direction is, let me educate you.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments