How Should I Report Sexual Assault Or Child Sexual Abuse?

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Reporting Child Sex Assault to Police

Below are the steps to take to report child and adult sex abuse:

  • If you are at risk of immediate harm, dial 911 immediately
  • If you are not in imminent danger, contact your local police station to file a report
  • Go to the hospital and report the abuse during a physical examination
  • While difficult, do not wash or shower so evidence can be preserved by doctors
  • Get support from organizations like the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE.

You may also be eligible to pursue a civil lawsuit for financial compensation. For a free case evaluation, work with an experienced sex abuse lawyer to discuss your situation. Sex abuse isn't just a woman's issue, men are also victims of sexual abuse. Learn more from our attorneys for male victims of sexual assault.

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The trauma of a sexual assault extends far beyond the act itself. In the hours and days following an attack, many victims struggle with the decision of reporting the crime. If you're in this position, it's a decision only you can make, but you don't have to make it alone.

Some victims are afraid to open new wounds and would prefer to move past the incident. Others feel compelled to see their attacker punished and gain a sense of justice being served. What you do is up to you, but just know that you are not alone. Our experienced attorneys are here to help you through this extremely difficult time. We believe you, and we think your voice matters.

What You Need To Know About Filing A Sexual Assault Report

If you're having trouble making a decision, learning about what to expect can help. While it's understandable if you don't want to go through the stress of a criminal investigation or lawsuit, reporting these crimes can help get dangerous predators off the streets. Approximately 37% of convicted sex offenders strike again, but offenders who get away with their crimes are also likely to abuse or assault another victim. Reporting the crime can also be empowering for survivors, a step on the road to justice.

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If an organization (such as a church, sports league, university, etc.) attempted to cover up your sexual assault or abuse, they also may be held accountable. A victims rights lawyer can help you file a lawsuit which can provide you and your family with the compensation you need, and also demand that the organization does more to prevent these crimes.

How Do I Report Sexual Assault Or Rape?

There are a few options for reporting a sexual assault. Choose whichever you feel the most comfortable with:

  • Call 911 - If you're still in danger, call 911 for help and an emergency responder will come to you.
  • Contact the police directly - If the assault is over and you're now safe, get in touch with your local police department. You can either call the station directly or visit them in person. They should have officers who specialize in these cases and will be prepared to help you with compassion.
  • Report during medical treatment - If you plan on reporting your assault, it would be wise to visit a healthcare professional and receive a rape kit. This is a forensic exam which can help uncover medical evidence of the crime. This will be useful in both criminal and civil trials. If you plan to go this route, as difficult as it may be, do not shower or clean yourself after the incident. Doing so could destroy forensic evidence like DNA. You may tell your healthcare provider that you want to report the crime.

To find a reliable local health center which specializes in survivor care, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.

Common Concerns For Rape Survivors

There are many reasons why victims may be hesitant to file a report:

  • The attacker is a family member, friend, or significant other - In about 2/3 of sexual assaults, the victim knows the person who attacked them. This can make filing a report especially worrying. You may be concerned that your family or social circle won't believe you, but it's important to know that the legal system is on your side. Remember that anyone is capable of sexual assault, regardless of their relationship to you. Even if you were assaulted by your partner, it's still rape if you did not give consent.
  • What if there's no evidence? - Evidence of rape and sexual assault is not usually visible to the naked eye. You don't need to have physical external injuries to prove what happened to you. A medical examination can uncover internal injuries and DNA evidence from your attacker. Also, victim testimony is the cornerstone of any sexual assault case.
  • What if no one believes me? - Historically, there has been a serious problem with both social circles and law enforcement not taking allegations of sexual assault seriously. However, this has begun to change. Many police departments now have officials who specialize in helping survivors. And while it may be difficult to deal with skeptical family and friends, their opinions are irrelevant in court, where only the truth of what happened to you matters.

It's normal to be overwhelmed by anxiety when contemplating a report for sexual assault. It may be helpful to speak with a close friend or family member about your concerns. Additionally, there are plenty of victims' advocate's groups available who can help you through the process, such as RAINN. You do not have to go this alone. If you need someone to join you on this journey, to provide a helping hand and compassionate ear, you can always reach out to our experienced sexual assault attorneys for guidance. We believe you.

What Should I Do If I Suspect A Child Is Being Sexually Abused?

If you have reason to believe that a child is being sexually abused, it's your responsibility as an adult to report it. You don't need hard evidence to make this claim - reasonable suspicion is enough to file a report. Examples of reasonable suspicion include:

  • You've witnessed a pattern of inappropriate touching
  • You tried to stop inappropriate touching, but the offender didn't listen
  • A child talked to you about being abused
  • You've noticed physical or behavioral warning signs of abuse

In some states, you may be legally required to report suspected abuse. States have varying interpretations of mandatory reporting laws. In some states, any adult who works with children is considered a mandatory reporter. In other states, all adults are considered mandatory reporters.

Critical Information

Regardless of the laws in your states, you should not hesitate to say something if you suspect a child is being sexually abused. File a report with either child protective services or the police and include the following information:

  • Name of alleged victim
  • Age of alleged victim
  • The child's address
  • Contact info for the child's parents or guardians
  • Types of abuse you suspect are occurring
  • Why you're filing the report
  • Other children living in the home
  • Name of the alleged offender, if available
  • Whether the child is in immediate danger
  • Your name, phone number, and address

If it's your own child being abused, the same principles apply. You may also wish to meet with a victims' rights lawyer who can help you take legal action against parties which allowed the abuse to happen or attempted to cover up evidence.

Can Adults Report Sexual Abuse From When They Were Children?

Yes, but there may be a time limit for pressing charges, depending on your state. Many states have no statute of limitations for these cases, but others may require you to file a report within a set number of years after you've turned 18 years old. Beyond the statutory hurdles, the emotional barriers to reporting can seem overwhelming. We believe that you have the power inside yourself to step forward and speak your truth.

In these cases, lawsuits may be more effective than criminal investigations simply because the burden of proof is lower. Since so much time has passed, it may be difficult to provide physical evidence. However, testimony may still be enough to warrant a successful verdict, especially if there were multiple victims. If you're in this situation, it may be helpful to discuss your options with a child sexual abuse victims' lawyer.

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