About Abuse

Sexual Assault / Rape

Updated: 
February 17, 2017

I am not ready to report the assault now but I may be ready in the future. What do I need to know?

If you were sexually assaulted recently, you may feel like you are not ready to pursue any of the options for filing a complaint that are explained in What are my options for filing a complaint?. If, however, you think that at some point in the future you may change your mind, there are steps you can take now to help with any future investigation or lawsuit. Here are some actions that you might want to consider taking to help establish a timeline of when the sexual assault took place.

  • Go to the hospital immediately after the assault to get a sexual assault forensic exam (a “rape kit”). Getting a rape kit done does not require you to press criminal charges (although some state laws may require health professionals to report incidents of violent crime to the police or health department). Organizations like RAINN describe the process of completing a sexual assault forensic exam. After completing a rape kit at the hospital or doctor’s office, make sure you get information from the sexual assault forensic examiner, nurse or doctor about how to follow up to get information about the status of your rape kit. Ask how you can find your rape kit if you change your mind and decide to press criminal charges. Ask them how long you have before your rape kit will be destroyed – some states keep rape kits for only six months, for example. If you would like the rape kit to be kept for longer than the average period, you can ask how to file an extension for your rape kit to be preserved.
  • Consider filing a “blind report” with the police. In some states, you can file a “blind report” with the police department, which is an anonymous complaint in which the police record your account of what happened but do not pursue an investigation. If you ever change your mind and decide you do want to press criminal charges, the “blind report” can be made into an official report and be investigated (assuming that the statute of limitations has not expired). The benefit of a blind report is that you will have immediately reported everything while it is fresh in your memory and there is less risk of leaving out important details than if you were to report it after significant time has passed since the sexual assault. RAINN has a list of tips and advice for reporting and communicating with law enforcement. Note: If you are a university student, you may be able to report the sexual assault to your school’s Title IX coordinator or the administration but ask for no investigation or action to be taken. You should check with your university to find out what your options are.
  • Write out a detailed account of what happened and keep it in a safe place. If your state does not allow the filing of a “blind report” with the police, or if you choose not to get the police involved, write out a detailed account of what you remember happening and save it somewhere safe. Include as much information as you can, including any witnesses who may have been present before, during, or after the assault, the time that the assault took place, what the perpetrator looked like, wore, said, etc., what specific acts the perpetrator did or forced you to do, and anything else you think might be important.
  • Save anything associated with the assault without washing it. Save any clothes that you were wearing, any clothing that the perpetrator may have left at the scene, any towels or sheets that were used during the assault, any cans, bottles or cups that the perpetrator discarded, any discarded condoms, or anything else you think could be used as evidence in a future case. You can put each item in a sealed paper bag and keep them in a closet. Remember not to wash anything that may have bodily fluids or other DNA evidence on it.1

1 Some of this information was adopted from the RAINN website.