Should I Report My Attack to the Police?
We hope you will decide to report your attack to the police. While there's no way to change what happened to you, you can seek justice while helping to stop it from happening to someone else.
Reporting to the police is the key to preventing sexual assault: every time we lock up a rapist, we're preventing him or her from committing another attack. It's the most effective tool that exists to prevent future rapes. In the end, though, whether or not to report is your decision to make.
Am I required to report to police?
No, you are not legally obligated to report. The decision is entirely yours, and everyone will understand if you decided not to pursue prosecution. (You should be aware that the district attorney's office retains the right to pursue prosecution whether or not you participate, though it is uncommon for them to proceed without the cooperation of the victim. There are also times when a third party, such as a doctor or teacher, is required to report to authorities if they suspect sexual abuse of a child, or an elderly or disabled person. Visit our Mandatory Reporting Databases for Children and the Elderly to learn more.
Many victims say that reporting is the last thing they want to do right after being attacked. That's perfectly understandable — reporting can seem invasive, time consuming and difficult.
Still, there are many good reasons to report, and some victims say that reporting helped their recovery and helped them regain a feeling of control.
How do I report the rape to police?
Call 911 (or ask a friend to call) to report your rape to police. Or, visit a hospital emergency room or your own doctor and ask them to call the police for you. If you visit the emergency room and tell the nurse you have been raped, the hospital will generally perform a sexual assault forensic examination. This involves collecting evidence of the attack, such as hairs, fluids and fibers, and preserving the evidence for forensic analysis. In most areas, the local rape crisis center can provide someone to accompany you, if you wish. Call 1.800.656.HOPE to contact the center in your area.
Is there a time limit on reporting to the police?
There's generally no legal barrier to reporting your attack even months afterwards. However, to maximize the chances of an arrest and successful prosecution, it's important that you report as soon as possible after the rape. If you aren't sure what to do, it's better to report now and decide later. That way, the evidence is preserved should you decide to pursue prosecution.
Some states have statutes of limitations that bar prosecutions after a certain number of years. View information on your state.
What if I need time to think about whether I want to pursue prosecution?
Understandably, many people aren't ready to make the decision about prosecution immediately after an attack. It's normal to want time to think about the decision and talk it over with friends and family.
If you think you might want to pursue prosecution, but haven't decided for sure, we recommend that you make the police report right away, while the evidence is still present and your memory is still detailed. The district attorney will decide whether or not to pursue prosecution, however it is unusual for cases to proceed without the cooperation of the victim. And if prosecution is pursued, the chance of success will be much higher if you reported, and had evidence collected, immediately after the attack.
There's one additional consideration: If you are planning to apply for compensation through your state's Victim Compensation Fund, you will generally first have to report your attack to police to be eligible. Contact your local rape crisis center at 1.800.656.HOPE to learn about the rules in your state.
Can I report to police even if I have no physical injuries?
Yes. In fact, most rapes do not result in physical injuries. So, the lack of such injuries should not deter you from reporting.
It's also important to get medical care and to be tested for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, even if you think you aren't injured. And keep in mind that rape can cause injuries, often internal, that aren't visible. Many hospitals have special equipment that can detect such hidden injuries.
The rapist got scared away before finishing the attack. Can I still report it?
Yes. Attempted rape is still a serious crime and should be reported.
I knew the person who raped me and invited him/her in. Can I still report it?
Yes. About 2/3 of victims know their attacker. And the fact that you were voluntarily together, or even invited him/her home with you, does not change anything. Rape is a serious crime, no matter what the circumstances.
Do I have to go through the police interview alone?
In most areas, a trained volunteer from your local rape crisis center can accompany you to the police interview. The volunteer can also answer your questions about the process and explain how it will work. To reach your local crisis center, call 1.800.656.HOPE (4673).
What's the reporting process?
In most cases, the police will come to you and take a statement about what occurred. It helps to write down every detail you can remember, as soon as possible, so you can communicate the details to the police.
In addition to taking a statement, police will collect physical evidence. Also, your nurse or doctor may conduct an exam to collect hair, fluids, fibers and other evidence.
The police interview may take as long as several hours, depending on the circumstances of your case. Some questions will probably feel intrusive, and the officer will probably go over the details of your attack several times. The extensive questioning isn't because the police don't believe you; it is the officer's job to get every detail down precisely, to make the strongest possible case against your rapist.
Most local crisis centers have staff trained to help you through the reporting process. They can answer your questions and, if necessary, advocate on your behalf. To reach your local crisis center, call 1.800.656.HOPE (4673).
Do most rape victims report their attack to police?
Just over half of rape victims don't report the crime. However reporting is up substantially in the last decade.
Our goal is have every rape reported to police, just as every murder is reported and investigated. It's the best way to get rapists off the streets and make sure they can’t find new victims.
Why don't more people report their rape?
The most common reason given by victims (23%) is that the rape is a "personal matter." Another 16% of victims say that they fear reprisal, while about 6% don't report because they believe that the police are biased.
I'm not sure my rape is serious enough to report to police.
The FBI ranks rape as the second-most violent crime, behind only murder. Every rape is a very serious crime that should be prosecuted, even if no physical injuries occur during the assault.
I'm afraid that if I report, I will regret it.
That's certainly possible. It's true that some people have a bad experience and wish they had never reported. But it is also the case that many people who don't report later regret that decision. In the end, this is a personal decision that only you can make.
I'm afraid that my actions will be scrutinized and I'll have to testify about intimate details of my personal life.
Many successful prosecutions end in a plea agreement, without trial, which means that the victim will not have to testify. However if your case does go to trial, you will generally have to testify. Although there are no guarantees, prosecutors have legal tools they can use to protect you in court. One tool is called a rape shield law, which limits what the defense can ask you about your prior sexual history. The prosecutor can also file legal motions to try to protect you from having to disclose personal information
If you are worried about having to testify about intimate matters such as your own sexual history, let the police or prosecutor know about your concerns. They can explain the laws in your state and help you understand what might happen if you do go to trial.
I'm afraid the police won't take it seriously.
There has been great investment in police training in recent years. While there are occasional exceptions, most law enforcement officers are understanding and on your side. Many police departments participate in what are known as SARTs (Sexual Assault Response Teams), which provide a victim-sensitive, coordinated response to sexual assault that incorporates medical personnel, law enforcement and a crisis center representative to organize questioning, reduce repetition and facilitate communication among all the agencies involved.
If you do encounter someone who isn't taking your case seriously, it's important to complain to his/her supervisor. You should also tell your local rape crisis center, which has people trained to advocate on your behalf.
I'm afraid of getting in trouble.
Sometimes victims, particularly youth, are afraid of getting in trouble for doing something they weren't supposed to be doing when the assault took place, such as drinking or sneaking out. While there’s a possibility that you can get in trouble, most authorities (and parents) will be understanding, particularly about minor infractions.
What if I decide not to report?
Reporting is a very personal decision, and you should make the decision that's right for you. While we encourage you to report, if you decide not to, for whatever reason, that's perfectly understandable and there's no reason to feel bad about your decision.