Sexual assault is a violent crime problem in our society and particularly on college campuses. As police, our primary goal in these cases is to ensure the health and safety of the victim (also referred to as sexual assault survivor) as well as the safety of the community and public at large.
When deciding whether or not to report a sexual assault to the police, it is important to know what will be involved in the process, so you can make an informed decision.
Remember, the role of the police is to be impartial investigators. When a sexual assault is reported to the police, officers are responsible for gathering, evaluating, and processing information and/or evidence. Part of being an impartial investigator is that the police officer may refer to you as the victim, as this is the term used to refer to anyone who has had a crime committed against them.
To help the police gather evidence, DO NOT:
•shower or bathe;
•change or throw away your clothes or any bedding;
•wash your hands or comb your hair;
•take any drugs or alcohol
•disturb the area of the occurrence
The sooner you call the police, the easier it is for them to collect the evidence needed for the case.
For the preservation of evidence, it is best if you do not disturb the area of the occurrence, change your clothes or wash before reporting to the police. However, you can report the occurrence at any time.
What are my options?
If you are a victim of a Sexual Assault we hope you will report it to NPD by calling 911. An officer will come to you to document basic information and answer any questions you may have. If the assault happened within 12 days of making a report, you will be offered a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) in order to gather evidence as well as assuring your medical and emotional wellbeing.
If you are unable to make a police report following the assault, we encourage you to talk to someone you trust and know that there are also many professional organizations who can assist victims. There are many resources you can access, including Providing Access to Help (PATH Crisis Center), Abuse & Incest National Network (RAAIN), and National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC.)
•PATH/Stepping Stones (309) 827-4005/ After hours 211 or (888)865-9903
•NSVRC (877) 739-3895 Toll Free
•RAAIN (800) 656-HOPE
What happens if I make a police report?
When you call you will reach a civilian dispatcher, who will send uniform police officers to make sure you are safe. When the police officers arrive, they may offer to take you to the hospital to receive medical attention and have hospital staff assist in collecting any evidence of the sexual assault.
The police officer will start a police report, which includes personal information from you and information about the occurrence. The officer may ask you several things, including the name, address, and physical description of the suspect if you know the person. You will be asked to provide a statement about what happened. This information is critical to the investigation and will all be forwarded to trained detectives.
A detective will call you within a couple days of receiving the report. The detective will try and setup a time with you to complete a recorded interview. In the interview you will be asked to describe everything you remember about the assault, and you will be asked to be very detailed and specific, even about parts of the sexual assault that make you uncomfortable. Being as honest and detailed as possible will help the detective in the investigation of your case.
After the interview, the detective will continue with her/his investigation, including contacting the suspect. Some will let you know when they have contacted the suspect, while others will not. If knowing when the suspect will be contacted is important to you, be sure to ask the detective to contact you after he/she has contacted the suspect.
You are in control of your investigation and it will be conducted at whatever pace you are comfortable with.
We ask that you make a report even if you haven’t decided if you want to participate with the investigation. The decision to move forward with the investigation is yours and you may stop the process at any time.
Direction of your Investigation:
The direction of the case depends on numerous factors. The police officer’s role is to collect the evidence and determine if there is reasonable probable cause to pursue charges. The police officer may request the State’s Attorney’s office review the case to provide a legal opinion. The prosecutor will provide an opinion about the likelihood the charges can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a higher standard than probable cause, which is the legal threshold for an arrest. Working together with the States Attorney’s Office there may be instances where probable cause for an arrest exists but there is not sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
After the investigation is completed the police will let you know if charges can be pursued. You will be asked if you wish to proceed with the court process. The decision is up to you.
If you decide you do not want to go through the court and legal process, you can still file a report with the police and a record of the sexual assault will remain on file in case you wish to pursue it at a later date.
If criminal charges are not filed against the suspect/perpetrator, it does not mean they do not believe you. Officers often encounter a number of reasons the case can’t be pursued criminally, like not having enough physical evidence to prove the charges in court. The criteria for criminal prosecutions is quite stringent and sometimes, despite a full and truthful disclosure by victims, the required evidence may not meet the standard set forth by the courts and your complaint may not result in charges.
If charges are filed, the case continues on to the State’s Attorney’s office, and then to court.
In the end, the decision about whether or not to report the sexual assault to the police is up to you. The legal process can take up to two years from the initial report to the police to the court date. You will be the one going through the process, and therefore your well-being and comfort with the process are vital.
In all of these scenarios, the police use an extensive referral network and will provide a referral whenever possible to assist you during and after the investigation. One of the possible referrals is Stepping Stones who will most likely contact you. You can choose whether or not you would like to work with Stepping Stones.