What if I was abused years ago?
Even if you were abuse many years ago, some of your options are still open for consideration. While you can still report the abuse at any time, your legal options may be limited depending on state laws like statutes of limitations. A statute of limitations is the time allotted for victims to pursue legal action against the perpetrators. For a more in depth understanding click here. Each state has a different time period designated for the limitation (and the time limits also vary within most states depending whether or not criminal charges or a civil lawsuit is brought). Click here to view each states’ law.
If the civil and criminal SOLs have run then the other option is to report to law enforcement. When reporting to law enforcement, it is important to know that not all law enforcement agencies will will take the report, but such a report might prove useful in the future.
Because statutes of limitations can be very technical in nature, we recommend consulting a lawyer in your state or jurisdiction to learn more.
Can I file a police report after a Criminal or Civil Statute of limitations has Expired?
You can still file a police report after your window has closed. This is especially important if the perpetrator still works around children or other potential victims that they could be preying on. Even though the perpetrator may not able to be charged with the crime committed against you, it’s good to have on file in case another survivor comes forward with a similar story. In some states, your story could be used as evidence against the perpetrator in another case. Filing a police report may also allow you to use the crime victims’ fund for services such as counseling. For more about this click here, and to find out about your states’ fund click here. Learn more about filing a police report here.
can I still file a police report after the perpetrator has been charged with another crime?
Yes. The fact that the person who assaulted you is facing criminal charges on other matters is no reason for you not to report your assault if that is what you want to do. Your additional report could be helpful because the defendant could face additional charges, it could help establish a MO (modus operandi), or provide physical or other corroborating evidence in the pending criminal case. In most jurisdictions, this may also allow you the opportunity to give a victim impact statement if the perpetrator is already facing other criminal charges. Learn more about filing a police report here.
What if I can’t remember everything that Happened?
It is ok to not remember. If you cannot remember something, it is ok to say “I don’t remember” or “I don’t know” when talking to friends, family, or throughout the reporting process. Memories of traumatic events are laid down differently to everyday memories. Usually we encode what we see, hear, smell, taste and physically sense, as well as how that all fits together and what it means to us – and together, those different types of information enable us to recall events as a coherent story. But during traumatic events our bodies are flooded with stress and hormones. These encourage the brain to focus on the here and now, at the expense of the full memory (1).
What if the person I told isn’t supportive?
We are sorry this happened to you, but know you are not alone. Realize that although that person may not be supportive, there are people out there willing and able to support you in even better ways. For more advice and thoughts from a survivor who has experienced something similar, click here.
What if I was Under the influence and underage?
It’s important to remember that sexual assault is a crime—no matter the circumstances. You did nothing wrong. There is a false assumption that exists that when alcohol or another substance is involved in assault, it lessens the crime—as if the perpetrator is somehow less responsible for their actions under the influence and the survivor is more responsible if they were under the influence. This is wrong. Nothing you did caused this to happen.
In many states, and in institutions like universities, amnesty laws and rules have been put in place. Amnesty laws and rules (also sometimes known as ‘Good Samaritan’ provisions or laws) grant immunity from consequences of drug, alcohol, and other minor student conduct infractions that could discourage reporting of sexual misconduct (2).
We recommend consulting a lawyer in your state or jurisdiction to learn more.