It is very normal to question whether or not to contact law enforcement to report a sexual assault. It requires sharing vulnerable, intimate details with strangers. Sexual assault takes an enormous physical and emotional toll on survivors. No survivor is obligated to report their assault, and survivors can choose to report their assault at a later date and time. However, reporting your assault (and doing so close in time to when the assault happened) may help your case in either criminal or civil court, because it helps to preserve evidence. Survivors who do report will be given the option to have a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (often called “rape kits” or “SANE exams”) to preserve DNA samples, hair, saliva, clothes worn, and other evidence that could help to support a case against an attacker. The nurse performing the exam will also interview the survivor, and may take pictures if the survivor agrees. You can have a rape kit completed before reporting, to protect this physical evidence while deciding whether to report.
Whether you choose to report an assault or not, it is important to talk to someone who can support you in an impossibly difficult time. If you do not feel comfortable talking to friends or family, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE for anonymous support, operated by RAINN. Some survivors choose to move forward with reporting as a means of closure, to help begin the process of healing. Others choose to report because they want to bring their attacker to justice. Others choose not to come forward right away, but then later feel ready to step forward. To report a sexual assault, you can call 911, visit the emergency room, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE) to be connected to a local rape crisis center, or speak to a law firm like ours that understands the process and can help you navigate it.