What to Expect When I Report an Assault
How and when to report:
A victim or survivor may report a sexual assault in different ways and at different times. An individual can:
- Call 911 to report an assault that has just occurred
- Go to the local ER/SAFE (sexual assault forensic exam) program
- Request that the police be called
- Have evidence collected and held without making an immediate report
- Have medical care only
- Call the police to make a report about an assault that happened previously
- Call TurnAround for assistance in making a police report
Although an investigation is often best served when a victim reports promptly many victims delay reporting. It is important to know that in Maryland there is no statute of limitations for felony sexual assault cases or for sexual abuse cases against children.
When a report is made:
While a uniformed officer may be the first responder there will usually be a detective from the sex offense unit assigned to investigation. The jurisdiction where the assault occurred will determine what law enforcement investigates the crime. The investigation may include:
- An initial interview, which may be recorded
- Follow up interviews
- Visit to the crime scene
- Additional interviews, such as a meeting with the sketch artist
- Interviews of witnesses
- Interview of the suspect(s)
Even when a suspect has been identified by the victim there may be a considerable period of time prior to an arrest being made. Typically, investigators want to be certain enough evidence has been gathered to charge the suspect.
If you are the victim in a case, it is important to know that you:
- Should discuss any safety concerns with both the detective and an advocate.
- May be eligible for a protective or peace order, or a judge may give a no-contact order once a defendant has been charged.
- At any time, can request assistance from an advocate.
- Can expect to be kept informed by investigators and to be notified about rights of crime victims by both police and prosecutors. Victims of crime must complete a written notification that they wish to exercise these rights.
The investigation may result in several different outcomes:
- A suspect is arrested and charged
- A suspect is arrested, but may not be charged or charges may be dropped
- No suspect is identified and the case remains open
- The case may be “unfounded,” which means there is no basis for an offense or the claim has been determined to be false.
Once a suspect has been charged a prosecutor assumes responsibility for the case. Please refer to What to Expect in Court.