Reporting to Law Enforcement (victim centered reporting)

Promote a victim-centered reporting process:

Some approaches for communities to consider:
  • Explore the myriad reasons why victims are reluctant to report and how the actions or attitudes of agencies may help perpetuate these fears. Help agencies consider how to address reluctance and
    fears (e.g., immigrant victims who fear deportation and immigration enforcement may benefit from immediate access to legal services or information about their rights as potential U-Visa holders).
    Information regarding U-Visas should be universally provided to all victims. The resource, if not appropriate for the victim being seen, may be passed along to others through word of mouth.1

  • Evaluate local trends regarding reporting and victims’ involvement in the criminal justice system. Based on feedback, develop and implement a plan to improve multidisciplinary response to sexual

  • Improve and increase professional training for first responders (e.g., training for law enforcement investigators on effective interviewing techniques for sexual assault victims, training for health care overcoming a consent defense, and training for first responders on effective use of interpreters when responding to sexual assault cases).

  • Encourage reporting of criminal justice statistics that accurately reflect the full range of sexual assaults that are reported in a jurisdiction.

  • Initiate community education, outreach, and services targeting groups that may be reluctant to seek assistance after an assault.

  • Expand community collaboration to include immigrant victim advocates who can work with the local coordinating council and SART/SARRT to inform immigrant victims of their rights as soon as possible post-assault.

  • Offer viable options for reimbursement of exam costs for which victims are responsible, such as costs that are purely medical in nature.2

  • Ensure that victims who opt not to participate in the criminal justice process have access to the same comprehensive medical forensic examination as those who do.

  • Encourage the development of a coordinating council and/or SART/SARRT to facilitate a more coordinated, victim-centered, comprehensive community response to sexual violence.

  • Support the formation of specialized examiner programs, investigative and prosecution units, and sexual assault victim advocacy programs to handle these cases. Specialization can potentially increase the knowledge base and commitment of those responding to sexual assault victims, increase adherence to jurisdictional protocols for immediate response to sexual assault, encourage a victim-centered response, and positively advertise services offered.

  • Develop jurisdiction-wide public information initiatives on mandatory reporting—mandatory reporters need to know applicable statutes regarding reporting sexual assault cases that involve older
    vulnerable adults, persons with disabilities, and minors. A toll-free hotline number exclusively dedicated to abuse reports may also help simplify reporting and ensure a written report of each case and referrals to appropriate agencies. Such a hotline could be operated at a state, tribal, regional, or local level. To encourage both reporting and follow-through, protective agencies that investigate these cases should work collaboratively with local law enforcement agencies to ensure that each case is dealt with in the best possible manner and that further harm does not occur.3

  • In institutional settings such as prisons, jails, immigrant detention centers, nursing homes and
    assisted living programs, inpatient treatment centers, and group homes, ensure that victims can
    report assaults to outside agencies and are offered protection from retaliation for reporting.

  • In each case, strive to create an environment in which victims are supported and respected
    throughout the criminal justice process and beyond.4

  • After steps have been taken to identify and remove barriers to reporting sexual assaults, educate the
    public about the potential benefits of reporting, how to go about reporting, what happens once a
    report is filed, and jurisdictional legal advocacy services available (if any) for sexual assault victims. Build upon already existing public awareness efforts of local advocacy programs.

     Table of Contents Payment for the Examination Under VAWA


    1Legal Momentum has extensive resources available regarding U-Visas. See women-program/u-visa.html. Additionally, immigrant women are entitled to emergency medical and post-assault healthcare. For a state- by-state breakdown of the benefits afforded, see

    2It would be ideal if victims did not have to cover any costs for the exam and related medical care. However, jurisdictions and exam facilities vary in the costs that victims are required to cover. In some jurisdictions, victims are responsible for the costs of treatment for injuries and possible pregnancy, STIs, and HIV infection. Some exam facilities are flexible—they may allow victims to pay as they are financially able or may be willing to waive some or all charges.

    3Bullet drawn from A. Vachss, Redefining Rape Response: When the Victim is Elderly or Has a Disability , 2004, pp. 6 and 18.

    4Bullet adapted from the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General’s Standards for Providing Services to Survivors of Sexual Assault, 1998, pp. 6 and 18