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Sexual Assault Resources

Making a report to police

You have the right to report a sexual assault to the police and to the University. You can report to both, just the police, just the University or to neither. It is your choice. Filing a police report and criminal or civil charges against a perpetrator is a personal choice that involves consideration of all the options. This website includes some information about what to expect. Even if you choose not to report the sexual assault, you still have the right to request changes to your academic, living, transportation and working situations. You can get more information on the Safety Planning page.

Learn more about the following definitions as set forth in the Washington State Criminal Code:

Sexual Assault and Consent

Relationship Violence and Domestic Violence

Stalking

Filing a police report

A police report will document the incident and take the first steps toward filing criminal charges. When you contact the police to the make the report, a patrol officer will meet with you at a location that you choose and take the report. You have the right to have a support person or advocate with you during the conversation. (Read information about UWPD Victim Advocacy and crime victim rights.)

The officer will ask you detailed questions about the incident and gather information about any witnesses and the perpetrator. The process may end here if you do not want to go further. Many police departments will accommodate the choice to report to police and not prosecute, and most allow victims to file incident reports without pressure to go further. There are many reasons why you might only file a report, such as qualifying for victim compensation or establishing a record.

Investigation

The report goes to the police unit in the precinct where the assault occurred. This could be the UW Police Department, Seattle Police Department or other. A detective who specializes in these cases will be assigned and will usually call you within a few days to ask more questions and discuss the case. The detective will investigate the incident by gathering evidence — including important physical evidence collected during a medical exam by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), if you had one — and interviewing witnesses and the alleged perpetrator. The information will be compiled and given to the County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Filing criminal charges

The prosecuting attorney assigned to your case will review the information and determine if there is enough evidence to move forward and officially charge the alleged perpetrator with a crime. The prosecuting attorney decides if there is enough evidence to prove the case “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Although you will not be able to control whether your case is prosecuted, most prosecutors will not go forward without your consent. Once you report an assault to the police, you become a witness in the state’s case against the alleged perpetrator. Prosecutors typically consider various factors in determining whether to prosecute without the victim’s consent, including whether there is sufficient evidence to support a conviction without the victim’s testimony, whether the victim has been threatened into not cooperating and whether there are other reasons for not participating. Rarely will a sexual assault victim be forced to participate as a witness in criminal proceedings against their will.

If the prosecutor does not think there is strong evidence, the case will not go forward. This does not mean that the assault did not occur. You still have other options; for example, you may want to consider filing a civil lawsuit.

Civil charges

Filing a civil lawsuit involves contacting a private attorney who will represent you in bringing charges against the individual who assaulted you.