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 may spread
rumors. If you had injuries and sought medical care, others may know, too. Losing control of the disclosure process can be very painful. Many survivors find
themselves telling everyone because, 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. Some resources are confidential yet governed by mandatory reporting laws, which may require specific situations to be reported, such as a minor experiencing a sexual assault. If you have concerns, ask before disclosing personally-identifying Information. Whichever agency you choose to contact can help explain your options and rights.
The decision to report the assault to law enforcement is solely up to you. You are not required to speak to law enforcement even if evidence is collected during a forensic medical exam. 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 what’s right for you. 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 that are the result of a crime.
Many survivors see reporting as a good way to get some control back. It's important to remember that the process can sometimes be frustrating. Although the process may take months or even years, it can help provide closure or justice. If you choose to report the crime, it is very important to report a sexual assault to the police as soon as possible. Evidence may be lost or damaged with time, so please consider ways to preserve evidence, such as having a sexual assault medical-forensic examination or turning items of digital and physical evidence over to law enforcement. Reporting a crime to law enforcement is a choice. It is the role of law enforcement to offer protection as well as investigate reported crimes. The hospital staff or a victim advocate can contact the police for you, or you may contact them yourself. Reporting is the only way law enforcement will know that a crime has occurred and hopefully protect you and others from future harm.
Police First Response
The responding officer will ask 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 if needed 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 the information provided is to aid in an investigation, they need as much detail as possible. You will be asked to sign a victim/witness 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 will be assigned a number, which is something you should
keep to have available when needed. Additionally, you may request a copy of the police report for your own files. If you see any errors or 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 details 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.
Not all reports of sexual assault will have a crime scene, but there may
be other things to investigate for further evidence. 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 questions will help guide the investigation to ensure evidence collection
and preparation for future interviews with witnesses and the perpetrator. 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, cooperating with law
enforcement officers, detectives, and prosecutors may benefit you and your