Rhode Island Statewide Task Force to Address
Adult Sexual Assault

FAQ

Resources

DayOne

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What is sexual assault?

Does the sexual assault evidence collection kit cost money?

What is a sexual assault evidence collection exam?

Are evidence collection exams only completed for rapes?

Why would I agree to have an evidence collection exam?

Can I get medication to prevent pregnancy without being examined?

Can I get tested for alcohol or other drugs without doing a sexual assault evidence collection exam?

I am underage and was drinking and/or doing drugs when I was sexually assaulted. Will I be charged?

 I live with the person who sexually assaulted me.  Is there a safe place for me to stay?

If I am an undocumented immigrant and I go to the hospital or report a sexual assault to police, what will happen to me? Will I be deported?

What happens during the evidence collection exam?

Do the police require a sexual assault evidence collection exam? Can I just get examined for medical problems?

I am the victim of sexual assault.  How do I file a police report?

Where will the police talk to me? Will they come to my residence?

If I file a police report, who will I have to talk to? Will it be someone who is trained to handle crimes related to sexual assault?

Are the police required to provide information about my report if requested by the public, including the news media?

Will my parents find out if I file a police report?

I want to report someone, but don’t want to file a report.  Can I do that?

 

I’m not sure I want to file a police report; will it be too late if I decide to file one at a later date?

It’s the other person’s word against mine. How will the police handle this?

I am concerned that no one will believe me. Can I trust that the police will treat my report seriously?

FAQ–

 

 

Disclaimer:

These FAQs are a result of a collaboration between stakeholders from across the State of Rhode Island to address adult sexual assault. These FAQs are written to provide helpful information for adult victims of sexual assault. While some of the questions may be specific to certain populations of adults (i.e., college students), most of the information contained herein is applicable to all adults, including elders. These FAQs are provided for general information only and do not constitute legal advice. For more detailed information, please contact the agencies or institutions listed in the Resource Section of these FAQs.

What is sexual assault?

Under Rhode Island law, sexual assault includes sexual penetration or sexual contact that occurs when one or more of the following is true:

 

• the accused, not being the spouse, knows or has reason to know that the victim is mentally incapacitated, mentally disabled, or physically helpless;

• the accused uses force or coercion;

• the accused, through concealment or by the element of surprise, is able to overcome the victim; or

• the accused engages in the medical treatment or examination of the victim for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or stimulation.

 

For the exact language of the statute see R.I. General Laws Chapter 11-37.

 

It is important to know that sexual assault is not just sexual penetration. Unwanted sexual contact may also constitute sexual assault under the law.

 

Colleges and universities may have their own definition of sexual assault. For more information, you should contact the college or university listed on the Resource Page included with these FAQs.

 

I am the victim of sexual assault.  How do I file a police report?

If the sexual assault just happened, or you are in danger, call 911.  The operator will contact your local police department.  If you want to make a complaint, but you are not in danger, or if the sexual assault occurred in the past, you can call your local or state police.

 

You can also go to the police department or call and have a police officer respond to your location to document the sexual assault. Reports to the police must be made in person.  Additionally, you can contact Day One  and Day One can connect you with the police.  Law Enforcement Advocates and Day One advocacy coordinators are available to support you throughout the process.  If you are receiving treatment at a hospital, the hospital can assist you with contacting the police and also contacting a Day One advocate.

 

If you are a college or university student, you may follow the same process as explained above.  If you report to your campus security department, you should not assume that you have made a “complaint” to the police.  Campus security are not always sworn officers and many do not have the power to charge an individual with having committed a crime.  If you want to file a police report and you have sought the assistance of campus security, ask them to contact the local or state police for you or call yourself. In order to file a complaint, the police will have to speak directly to you.

 

If you are 60 years of age or older, the Division of Elderly Affairs can assist you with filing a police report. The military also offers victims assistance.

 

Please see the Resource Page included with these FAQs for contact information for your local and state police, Day One, colleges and universities, and for the other organizations and agencies referenced above.

 

 

Where will the police talk to me? Will they come to my residence?

The police will come to your residence if you ask them to, but you will likely be required to go to the police station at some point so they can take your statement.  You can bring a support person with you to the police station, including an advocate from Day One.

 

If you are being treated at a hospital, the police will likely take your initial complaint at the hospital and may require a follow-up interview with you at the police station in the future.

 

If you are a college student, the police may come to your campus to take your initial report, and may require a follow-up interview with you at the police station in the future.

 

If you are 60 years of age or older and homebound or have mobility issues, the Division of Elderly Affairs can arrange for police to come to your home to take a statement. The military also offers victims assistance.

 

Please see the Resource Page included with these FAQs for contact information for the organizations and agencies referenced above.

 

 

 

If I file a police report, who will I have to talk to? Will it be someone who is trained to handle crimes related to sexual assault?

The initial report may be taken by a uniformed police officer who may or may not be specifically trained to handle crimes related to sexual assault.  However, the report will then be forwarded to a detective who is trained to handle sexual assault investigations. Most police departments have specially trained officers to handle sexual assault complaints; or, at the very least, most police departments have an experienced detective on duty at all times. Additionally, Day One has trained and experienced advocates who can assist you.

 

Please see the Resource Section of these FAQs for contact information for your local and state police and Day One.

 

Are the police required to provide information about my report if requested by the public, including the news media?

If a report is made to the police and an arrest is made, the information about the individual arrested and the criminal complaint filed with the court will become a matter of public record in accordance with Rhode Island law.  Additionally, unless you are a minor, when you file a complaint, your name will become part of the public record.  Generally, newspapers and media outlets will not publish a sexual assault victim’s name; however, they are not legally prohibited from doing so.  This information will most likely be immediately available.  It is important, however, that this does not deter you from seeking immediate medical treatment and taking other steps to collect evidence so that if you choose to file a police report in the future, the evidence will be available.  Day One advocates are available to support you as you consider all of your options.

 

Please see the Resource Section of these FAQs for contact information for Day One.

Will my parents find out if I file a police report?

Parents are not notified if the person filing the report is over 18 years of age. If your parents were to check court records, or make a request for access to public records to the police department, they may be able to locate your name. It is important to note, however, if one were searching court records for a victim’s name, they would generally have to know the suspect’s name in order to obtain victim information.

I want to report someone, but don’t want to file a report.  Can I do that?

This is a common question asked when a victim of sexual assault would like to learn more about the process before officially documenting the assault.  The answer is yes; you will not be forced or obligated to report if you are not willing to report.  However, under R.I. General Laws, in order to arrest a person for sexual assault, there needs to be a signed complaint from the victim.  Accordingly, if you do not want to sign or go forward with the complaint, the police will most likely not take any action, but they can record the identity of the suspect in their records.

I’m not sure I want to file a police report; will it be too late if I decide to file one at a later date?

The decision to file a criminal complaint is a deeply personal choice. Persons often make this decision based on the circumstances surrounding the incident and the circumstances in their life at the time of the incident. Some persons discover that participating in a proceeding to hold the accused accountable helps them to regain some measure of control lost due to the assault, and to protect themselves and others from future harm. The sooner you report to the police, the better, because it will be easier to preserve evidence, interview witnesses, retrieve digital and video surveillance, and gather other relevant information.  While it is unlikely that you will be prevented from filing a report at a later date, the delay in reporting may have an impact on law enforcement’s ability to fully investigate and to take appropriate action based on that investigation. If you do not want to report, it is still very important that you seek medical attention immediately. You can decide later if you want to pursue a criminal case.

 

If you are a college student, you may report the sexual assault to your campus security department so that your college or university can take internal action, assist you with accommodations, and address any related health and safety concerns. For more information, you should contact the college or university listed in the Resource Section of these FAQs.

 

It’s the other person’s word against mine. How will the police handle this?

The police will always treat your report seriously, however, because these incidents often involve 2 persons only and no direct witnesses, the police are gathering and assessing information that begins with a word against word account of what happened. It is important, therefore, for the police to ask the person involved to relive the experience and to answer difficult questions, to interview other persons who may have helpful information, and to gather tangible evidence as soon as possible after the incident in order to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to charge the suspect with a crime. The police may believe that the incident occurred, but may not necessarily conclude that a crime was committed, or they may feel that they need more evidence before they can charge the suspect. This is why evidence collection is so important. You should always seek counseling and medical care regardless of whether the police charge the suspect. Day One advocates can assist you during the information gathering process.

 

I am concerned that no one will believe me. Can I trust that the police will treat my report seriously?

The police will always treat your report seriously.  However, part of the investigation requires the police to ask questions that may be uncomfortable. The police have to ask these types of questions because they can only make an arrest and charge the suspect with a crime if they have probable cause.  Probable cause exists if a reasonable police officer, with training and experience, believes that a crime has been committed.  The police may believe that the incident occurred, but may not necessarily conclude that a crime was committed, or they may feel that they need more evidence before they can charge the suspect. This is why evidence collection is so important. You should always seek counseling and medical care regardless of whether the police charge the suspect. Day One advocates can assist you during the information gathering process.

 

Please see the Resource Section of these FAQs for the contact information for your local and state police and for Day One.

 

What if I change my mind after reporting? How do I stop the process?

After you have made a formal complaint, it will depend on the stage of the process as to whether it can be stopped. If a criminal complaint has been filed, the Attorney General will determine whether the case will go forward by taking into account your interest, as well as the interest and safety of the public at large.

Will I have to go to court?

If a complaint has been made and the State elects to charge the suspect with a crime, it is likely that you will have to appear in court on several occasions. Your first appearance in court may be required within two weeks of the arrest of the suspect.  If an arrest is not made and further investigation is required by the State, you may be required to appear before an investigative body known as a Grand Jury.  This does not mean that the case will definitely go to trial.

 

Day One can provide an advocate to attend all court appearances with you and support you throughout the entire legal process.

 

If you are a college student, your college or university may be able to provide you with an advocate to attend court appearances and offer additional support.

 

If you are 60 years of age or older, the Division of Elderly Affairs can assist you with the Court Process. The Division of Elderly Affairs is unable to provide transportation. If the victim is unable to attend Court, a video conference will be requested. The military also offers victims assistance.

 

Please see the Resource Section of these FAQs for contact information for Rhode Island colleges and universities, Day One, and for the organizations and agencies referenced above.

 

How long does the police/court procedure take?

If a person is charged with a felony sex offense, the case will likely take at least eighteen months to two years to be resolved from the date the assault is reported.  However, the fact that the case may take a while to be resolved should not dissuade you from filing a police report. There are victim advocates and law enforcement advocates that will help you navigate this process and keep you updated throughout.

 

 Please see the Resource Section of these FAQs for contact information for Day One and for your local and state police.

 

Will the police speak with the suspect?

If a complaint is made, the police will likely attempt to speak with the suspect. However, the suspect may request an attorney and refuse to speak with the police.

What is a restraining order?  Can I get one?

A restraining order is a court order which prohibits a party from contacting or interfering with another party.  Anyone can obtain a restraining order provided that they meet the criteria set forth by the court.  Day One can assist you with questions about obtaining a restraining order.  Additionally, you may contact the Superior Court, District Court or Family Court located in the area where you live.  The court you should contact depends on the nature of your relationship with the suspect.

 

If you are a college student, your college or university campus law enforcement may be able to assist you with obtaining a restraining order, a protective order or a no contact order for your campus.

 

If you are 60 years of age or older, you may receive assistance from the Division of Elderly Affairs/Protective Services Unit (DEA) in seeking a restraining order. DEA Protective Services can meet the victim at Court, but does not provide transportation.

 

The military may also offer victims assistance with restraining orders.

 

Please see the Resource Section of these FAQs for contact information for Rhode Island Courts, Day One, colleges and universities and the other organizations and agencies referenced above.

 

What is a victim advocate? How do I find one?

Victim advocates are professionals trained to support victims of crime. Advocates offer victims information, emotional support, and help with finding resources and filling out paperwork. Sometimes advocates go to court with victims. Advocates may also contact organizations, such as criminal justice or social service agencies, to get additional help or information for victims.  The advocate provides information on victimization, legal rights and protections, and the criminal justice process. The advocate also provides emotional support for victims, helps victims with safety planning, victim compensation applications and finding shelter and transportation.

 

You can find a victim advocate by contacting the Day One Helpline at 800-494-8100 or by calling 401-421-4100. Additionally, most police departments have a designated law enforcement advocate available at the police station and the police can also assist you with obtaining a Day One advocate.  Additionally, if you go to the hospital, the hospital can assist you with obtaining an advocate.

 

If you are a college student, your college or university may have a victim advocate on campus.

 

If you are 60 years of age or older, the Division of Elderly Affairs can assist you with obtaining a victim advocate. The military also offers victims assistance.

 

Please see the Resource Section of these FAQs for contact information for Day One, Rhode Island college and universities, as well as the other organizations and agencies referenced above.

 

Will the advocate be able to stay with me if I am interviewed by police?

Yes. Your advocate is permitted to be present during police interviews.

What will happen if I go to the hospital?  Will the hospital notify the police?

For most adult victims of sexual assault, the hospital will not notify the police unless requested by the patient. The cases that must be reported are limited. For example, reports of child molestation, elder abuse and abuse of persons with disabilities generally will result in notification to police. Additionally, the police must be notified in any case that involves a gun shot wound, bullet wound or powder burn, or other injury associated with discharge of a firearm.  Further, if there is evidence that a weapon, such as knives, razors, pepper spray, tazers, etc. is used in the assault, the hospital may also have to notify police.

 

For evidence collection purposes, it is recommended, but not required, to notify the police in all cases of sexual assault. If the patient is 60 years of age or older, the assault must be reported to the Department of Human Services, Division of Elderly Affairs/Protective Services Unit (DEA).  When a report is made to the DEA, the DEA’s Protective Services Unit will work with local law enforcement, the victim’s advocate, and the victim to arrange for the medical and support services the victim needs. If the person is disabled, reports are made to the Director of the Department of Health or the Director of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.

 

When you go to the hospital, you will be seen by a medical provider who will ask you questions about why you are at the hospital. You will be offered the opportunity to have an evidence collection exam and may be offered medications to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and pregnancy. Which services you receive is completely up to you. You can complete as much or as little of the evidence collection exam as you choose. The medical providers will advise you of your options, but you will make the decisions. You may be offered to have an advocate from Day One come to the hospital to support you. If you are not offered an advocate, you can request that the hospital contact one for you.

 

After your hospital visit, it will be important for you to arrange for follow-up treatment. You may be referred to a physician who specializes in treating patients who are victims of sexual assault. If you are not referred to a physician, it is important for you to ask the medical provider at the hospital what type of follow-up treatment you should receive.

 

If you are a college student, some of the medical follow-up may be done at your college or university health center.

 

Please see the Resource Section of these FAQs for contact information for Rhode Island hospitals, college and university health centers, Day One, as well as the other organizations and agencies referenced above.

 

What hospital should I go to?

Any hospital emergency room is able to care for the immediate needs of all victims of sexual assault, including women, men and transgender individuals. Whenever possible, you should try to go to a hospital with a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) Program. SANE Programs have specially trained nurses who can examine you and collect evidence. In Rhode Island, Women & Infants Hospital and Hasbro Children's Hospital have SANE Programs. Other RI hospitals may have SANE-trained nurses on staff or available to them.  Please contact the Rhode Island hospitals listed in the Resource Section of these FAQs for more information about the types of services they offer for victims of sexual assault.

What is a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE)?

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) are registered nurses who have completed specialized education and clinical preparation in the medical forensic care of patients who have experienced sexual assault or abuse. SANE nurses provide timely, compassionate, patient-centered care that is both supportive and reduces further trauma to the patient. SANE nurses also provide standardized care to the patient who reports a sexual assault, including thorough assessment, evidence collection, and coordinated care with a patient advocate, and other specialties as needed. SANE nurses work together with the legal system to ensure the evidence collected can be used effectively if the case goes through the legal system.

Who will pay for my health services? Do I need health insurance?  What if I don’t want my parents to find out?

You do not have to provide your health insurance information to the hospital and the hospital cannot refuse to treat you because you do not give them your insurance. However, most hospitals will ask if you have insurance and if you decide to provide this information, the hospital will bill your insurance for your care. If you do not want your insurance company to be billed, you should tell the hospital that you are “self-pay” and do not want to use your insurance.

 

To cover the cost of your medical expenses, you may be entitled to compensation from the Crime Victim Compensation Fund. This fund may retroactively pay for expenses incurred as a result of a sexual assault that a victim has suffered. Day One can help you apply for Victim Compensation funds.

 

If you are a college student, and you decide not to go to the hospital, you still should visit your college or university health services center to determine what type of services they can provide.

 

Please see the Resource Section of these FAQs for contact information for Rhode Island hospitals, college and university health centers, Crime Victim Compensation Fund, Day One as well as the other organizations and agencies referenced above.

 

Does the Crime Victim Compensation Fund cover other expenses besides my first visit to the hospital?

 

Yes, the Crime Victim Compensation Fund covers other crime-related expenses, including medical, dental and hospital expenses, mental health counseling expenses, loss of earnings, and relocation expenses, up to $25,000.

 

In order to receive these funds, you must file a police report or a restraining order within 10 days of the date on which the sexual assault happened.  However, you do not have to file a police report or seek a restraining order to have the expenses for your evidence collection exam covered. Day One can help you apply for Victim’s Compensation funds.

 

Please see the Resource Section of these FAQs for contact information for the Crime Victim Compensation Fund and Day One.

 

What is a sexual assault evidence collection kit?

A sexual assault evidence collection kit is a kit that includes a checklist, materials, instructions, envelopes and containers to package specimens collected during a sexual assault evidence collection exam.

Does the sexual assault evidence collection kit cost money?

The sexual assault evidence collection kit is free and there is no cost to the victim.

What is a sexual assault evidence collection exam?

An evidence collection exam is an exam that is used to document injuries and collect specimens from the victim of a sexual assault, which can be used as evidence. If you are going to have an evidence collection exam, it should be done within 96 hours of the sexual assault for adult victims, in order for it to be effective. It is preferable that you do not shower or change your clothes; however, it can still be completed regardless of whether you have showered, bathed, gone to the bathroom, douched, changed clothes, and/or brushed your teeth. If you arrive at a hospital after 96 hours, you should still undergo a medical evaluation, but depending upon the circumstances of the assault, some evidence may not be able to be collected.

 

Even if more than 96 hours has passed, you can still bring the clothes you were wearing at the time of the assault to the hospital or police station.  When transporting your clothes for evidence collection, it is important that you do not put them in a plastic bag.  Rather, transport the clothes in a paper bag.

 

Are evidence collection exams only completed for rapes?

No, evidence collection exams are done any time you want to collect evidence for a sexual assault, which includes unwanted sexual contact.

Why would I agree to have an evidence collection exam?

The decision to have an evidence collection exam is your decision.  The benefit to having the exam is that it preserves evidence. It helps to identify the suspect, substantiate the assault, and establish the use of threat or force.  Consenting to have the exam does not mean that you are agreeing to file a police report or press charges.

 

Police involvement is not required for an exam to be performed. The R.I. Department of Health stores the evidence so it will be available should you ever choose to pursue criminal charges against the suspect.

 

What happens during the evidence collection exam?

An evidence collection exam is performed by a medical provider with training and experience. If you decide to have the evidence collection exam, you will be in control over what is collected. In its entirety, the exam can take over an hour to complete, but you will be in the hospital for several hours. You will be asked for a narrative explanation of the sexual assault and this will be documented. Any injuries you may have sustained will be documented and pictures may be taken if you agree. Samples may be collected from your body, including your genitals, mouth, fingernails, etc. Clothing and underwear may be collected as part of the evidence. A blood, breath, and urine test for alcohol or other drugs can also be collected.

Do the police require a sexual assault evidence collection exam? Can I just get examined for medical problems?

The police cannot require a sexual assault evidence collection exam, but they may not feel that they have enough evidence to charge the suspect without it.  If more than 96 hours have passed since the sexual assault, the hospital may not be able to collect the evidence from your body. However, you should still receive medical care and can also provide your clothing as evidence, regardless of whether you complete an evidence collection exam.  Your health and wellbeing is what is most important and early medical intervention may prevent pregnancy and treat or prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

Can I get medication to prevent pregnancy without being examined?

Yes. This medication is called Emergency Contraception, and one well-known brand name is Plan B. It can be taken up to 5 days after the sexual assault. In Rhode Island, it is available for purchase at any pharmacy without a prescription. It costs about $40.  You can also get this medication from a doctor without being examined, and you can get it from Planned Parenthood. If you are a college student, it may be available at your college or university health center.

Can I get tested for alcohol or other drugs without doing a sexual assault evidence collection exam?

Yes, but this testing must be done as soon as possible, within 12 to 24 hours to be effective.

I am underage and was drinking and/or doing drugs when I was sexually assaulted. Will I be charged?

NO. The police are not interested in prosecution for drugs or drinking. However, the victim’s voluntary use of drugs and alcohol may be relevant to the prosecution of a criminal case and the victim may be questioned about the use of drugs and alcohol with respect to the effects that these had on the victim’s memory and ability to perceive the events going on at the time of the assault. Alcohol or drug use may also be relevant to whether the victim was physically helpless and could not consent.

 

If you are a college student, your college or university will likely have some type of “amnesty policy” or procedure that says that you will not get in trouble for underage drinking or drug use at the time of your sexual assault. College and university policies typically state that if a person is incapacitated, that person cannot consent to sexual activity. You should consult with your college or university for more information about policies, procedures and definitions of terms.

 

For more information, you should contact the college or university listed in the Resource Section of these FAQs.

 

I live with the person who sexually assaulted me.  Is there a safe place for me to stay?

There are many resources available to you in this situation. There are emergency domestic violence shelters across the state.  You can call Day One, which has a 24 hour helpline. This is a good first step to finding resources available to you.

If I am an undocumented immigrant and I go to the hospital or report a sexual assault to police, what will happen to me? Will I be deported?

The hospital and the police are concerned with making sure that you get the medical care that you need. Being undocumented in Rhode Island does not trigger a mechanism for deportation. If you are undocumented and are the victim of sexual assault, there may be protections under the federal Violence Against Women Act that can help you stay in the country safely.  The Sojourner House can answer any questions you have and can also help you locate other resources as needed.