Sexual Assault Resources

Making a report to police

You have the right to report a sexual assault to the police, to the University to both, or to neither.  Filing a police report and criminal or civil charges against a perpetrator is a personal choice that requires consideration of all the available options. Even if you choose not to report the sexual misconduct, you still have the right to request changes to your academic, living, transportation, and/or 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


Filing a police report

A police report documents the incident and is the first step toward the filing of criminal charges. When you contact the police to the make the report, an officer will meet with you at a location that you choose to 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 as many police departments will accommodate the choice to report to police and not prosecute. Most police departments allow victims to file incident reports without pressure to go further. You may wish to only file a report, to qualify for victim compensation or establish a record.


A report to police goes to the police unit in the precinct where the assault occurred. This could be the UW Police Department, Seattle Police Department, Tacoma Police Department, Bothell Police Department or another. A detective who specializes in sexual misconduct 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 any physical evidence collected during a medical exam by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) — and interviewing witnesses and the alleged perpetrator. The detective will compile information they learned and provide it to the County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Filing criminal charges

A prosecuting attorney will review the detective’s investigation and determine if there is enough evidence to move forward, thereby officially charging the alleged perpetrator with a crime. The prosecuting attorney bases their decision on whether 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 a victim may not want to participate. 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.