Taking care of yourself is the first step in the healing process after an assault. You have important decisions to make even if the first decision may be that you are not ready to make them right now. Some of the things to think about are:
Who to Tell
You have the right to have control over your story. Sorting through who to tell about a sexual assault is an important step in the healing process. Many survivors do not tell anyone. It can be very scary to risk letting strong feelings out and to wait for another person’s reaction. The perpetrator may tell others their side of the story or someone else may spread rumors. If you had injuries that made it necessary for you to seek medical care, others may know too. Losing control of the disclosure process can be very painful. Many survivors find themselves telling everyone, because at least that way the truth is being spread instead of rumors. Many survivors also hope that if they tell enough people, someone will help them. Think about who has been supportive or fair to you in the past. Maybe there is a person you trust, a friend or a loved one that you can confide in. You can call the Utah Toll-Free 24-Hour Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis and Information Line at 1.888.421.1100 and speak to a local rape crisis center advocate confidentially. Many of the resources listed on this website are confidential yet governed by mandatory reporting laws. If you have concerns, ask before disclosing personally-identifying information.
The decision to report the assault to law enforcement is solely up to you. Deciding whether or not to report a sexual assault is very difficult for most survivors. Reporting may simply not be possible for you right now. Only you know. Before you disclose that you have been raped or sexually assaulted to a medical practitioner, be aware that all medical professionals (including SANE) are required to report to law enforcement when they treat injuries caused by weapons. Many survivors see reporting as a good way to get some control back. On the other hand, the process can be both slow and unsatisfying. If you choose to report the crime, it is very important to report a sexual assault to the police as soon as possible. In many cases, the ability to catch and prosecute the offender depends on it. The hospital staff or a victim advocate can contact the police for you, or you may contact them yourself. Reporting is the only way that law enforcement will know that the rapist is dangerous and hopefully protect you and others from them. However, you are entitled to decide what is best or possible for you right now.
Police First Response
The responding officer will ask you detailed questions about what occurred, where, when and how. Many of the questions may feel invasive or difficult to answer. It will be helpful to have a victim advocate sit with you to provide support and to intervene in the event that the officer makes inappropriate comments or asks biased questions. Well-trained officers understand how difficult it is to answer these questions, but if they are to aid in an investigation, they need as much detail as possible. You must sign this statement (a declaration of the facts in your own words about what happened to you), including a description of the offender and where the attack took place. Your case is assigned a number, which is something you may want to know. You may request a copy of the police report for your own files. If you see any errors, or you remember any further information that will aid the police, you should inform the victim advocate and/or police. It is not unusual to remember more detail as time passes.
The officer must also protect the crime scene, determine the type and circumstances of the crime committed, as well as identify potential suspects and witnesses. After a preliminary survey of the crime scene, the responding officer will call in an investigator. In some cases of acquaintance assault there will be no “crime scene” per se, but there still should be an investigation. Upon their arrival, the investigator takes charge of the crime scene and is briefed about the incident by the responding officer. The investigator will then interview the victim and other witnesses, asking very specific questions about the crime. The investigator will then collect evidence, and document the crime scene. Consider not taking a shower, washing or throwing away any items related to the assault. You may consider telling the police about these items, including clothing or linens, because they may need to collect them as evidence. After the investigator conducts interviews and gathers evidence they will then write up a report. The police may need to contact you during their investigation. Your help is very important to the investigation. Someone from the prosecutor’s office (a prosecutor or an investigator) may contact you. You may also be contacted by a law enforcement victim advocate who will work to assist you through the legal process. Even though it may sometimes be challenging, cooperation with law enforcement officers, detectives, and prosecutors may benefit you and your case.
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