If you’ve been sexually assaulted
Sexual violence and abuse can take many forms: a rape by a stranger or by someone you know, including someone you are in a relationship with, ongoing abuse during childhood, or sexual harassment at work or school are all forms of sexual violence. The National Centers for Disease Control defines sexual violence as any sexual act committed against someone without that person’s freely given consent.
Experiencing sexual violence is traumatic. The impact of trauma is intense and can be overwhelming. Trauma impacts the ways we view the world and our place in the world. Trauma can cause physical, mental and emotional wounds that may seem impossible to overcome.
If you are experiencing trauma related to sexual assault, you do not have to struggle alone. EBCC can provide support on the phone, individual counseling services, assistance during the criminal justice process, and make referrals for other services.
Important considerations following an assault:
Safety and Healing
Whether the assault is recent or happened many years ago, you may need help dealing with the trauma. The Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center can provide support and safety planning advice on the phone or in-person. Individual counseling appointments are offered free of charge. To talk with a crisis advocate or to schedule a counseling appointment call 738-1700 Monday-Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM.
For telephone support evenings and weekends, call the Victims of Crime Helpline at 1-800-494-8100.
There are several reasons to seek medical treatment following a sexual assault.
- Identification and treatment of injuries
- Pregnancy concerns
- Treatment for exposure to sexually transmitted diseases
- Collection of evidence that may be helpful in criminal prosecution
A forensic medical examination (evidence collection) can be performed at any hospital emergency room in Rhode Island if treatment is sought within 72-96 hours of the assault. You do not need to agree to make a police report in order to have the examination. Evidence collected will be stored at the RI Department of Health in case you decide to make a police report at a later date. The evidence collection examination is free of charge (although there may be other fees related to the emergency room visit).
Not sure whether to have a medical examination? Need to know where to go? Would you like an advocate to meet you at the hospital? Call the Victims of Crime Helpline: 1-800-494-8100
Making a police report
When to report: If you would like to bring criminal charges against the person who sexually assaulted you, it is best to make a police report as soon as possible following the assault so that a crime scene can be identified and evidence collected. However, Rhode Island laws do allow for delayed reports.
Where to report: Crimes must be reported to the police in the city/town where the crime occurred. If you are not sure which city/town you were in at the time of the assault, or if there were multiple assaults in different locations, reporting to the RI State Police is an option.
What to expect if you report:
- You should be prepared to talk about the assault in detail. You may think that some questions police ask are intrusive, or you may wonder if the police are asking certain questions because they doubt what you are telling them. However, police must ask many questions to identify the specific laws that have been broken, to identify a suspect and to build a case.
- You may have to talk to more than one Law Enforcement Officer. Each police department has its own process for investigating serious crimes. In smaller departments, the first officer you speak with may be involved throughout the investigation. In larger departments, a report may be taken by one officer and then referred to detectives or a senior officer for further investigation. You may be asked to meet with investigating officers more than once.
- Do not expect police to make an immediate arrest. Sexual assault cases are complicated to investigate and police may need time to conduct a thorough investigation. You do have a right to information about the progress of a case. An advocate can help you in your communications with police. If you have concerns about your safety during the investigation, discuss those concerns with the investigating officer and/or an advocate. You may also be able to obtain a restraining order against the offender, even though no arrest has been made. If the investigation is ongoing, it is strongly recommended that you discuss the possibility of a restraining order with the investigating officer before filing. For more information on restraining orders [link]
- If an arrest is made, you will be required to testify in court. Your testimony may be required at several different hearings that may range over a period of one or more years. If you have questions or concerns about what may happen after an arrest is made you can contact an advocate for information.
Who can help?
Help is available throughout the criminal justice process.
- Law Enforcement Advocates are available at many police departments in RI. These advocates are employed by the local Domestic Violence Agency and/or Day One and have an office at the police department.
- Victims of Crime Helpline (1-800-494-8100) 24-hour hotline for information and support; can arrange for an advocate to meet a victim of sexual assault at the police department.
- Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center (401-738-1700). Advocates can provide information, support and referrals. Advocates at the EBCC Court Office (401-822-6680) can provide information about restraining orders and the filing process.
Remember: Help is available. Contact the Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center at 401-738-1700 for more information and confidential support.