LAW ENFORCEMENT ADVOCACY
Reporting is YOUR choice!
As an adult over the age of 18, it is your decision whether or not to report the assault to law enforcement and then to press charges, but we would strongly encourage you to do so.
EXAMINATION COLLECTION & MANDATED REPORTING
Here are a few statutes that cover the forensic medical examination (rape kit) and mandated reporting in Georgia or Alabama:
Georgia law (O.C.G.A. 17-5-52) states that a victim has the right to a forensic medical examination regardless of whether they participate in the criminal justice system or cooperate with law enforcement. Further, the victim shall not be required Georgia or Alabama (§ 15-23-5 (24)) to pay, directly or indirectly, for the cost of the exam. The Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program or the Alabama Crime Victims Compensation Commission should be billed directly for all expenses related to a forensic medical examination.
According to Georgia law (O.C.G.A. 17-5-71), the investigating law enforcement agency is required to maintain any physical evidence relating to a sexual assault for up to 50 years after the report of the assault. However, if the victim does not cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of the case, then the investigating agency is only required to maintain the evidence for not less than 12 months from the date of collection.
According to Georgia law (O.C.G.A 19-7-5), anyone who suspects or has "reasonable cause to believe" a child is being physically or sexually abused is required to report the abuse. You should report the abuse to your local law enforcement agency or the Department of Family and Children Services. You may report anonymously if necessary.
According to Alabama law (§§ 26-14-1 et seq.), when there is knowledge or suspicion that a child is a victim of abuse or neglect, a report is required to a "duly constituted authority."
COMMUNICATING WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT
The following is provided by RAINN:
When you’re talking with law enforcement, it can be helpful to know what to expect and to understand their process. You may only interact with law enforcement when you report, or they might ask you to stay involved with the investigation over a length of time.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT?
A great deal of effort has gone into training law enforcement to create and operate survivor-centered process. Knowing what to expect and when to raise your hand can help you feel more in comfortable and in control.
You should have privacy. When you discuss what happened to you with law enforcement, it should happen in quiet area away from others. If you feel that the situation is too public, ask to be relocated to a more private space.
It may take a while. When you first report, the process may take a few hours. This is normal. Additional interviews with law enforcement may last a while as well, and they may occur over an extended period of time.
You can take a break. If you need water, a snack, or just a minute to breathe, you can ask for a break. Law enforcement should accommodate these requests.
You can go up the chain. If you feel that your complaint isn’t being taken seriously or if you feel uncomfortable, you can ask to speak to a supervisor or the next-highest ranking officer.
Some questions may feel uncomfortable. Because of the nature of sexual assault, some questions can feel uncomfortable or intrusive. Use whatever terms or phrases make you most comfortable. It can help to remember that law enforcement officers are professionals, just like doctors and teachers, and are prepared to listen to what happened.
You may hear the same question more than once. Law enforcement may ask the same questions several times or several different ways. It’s not because they don’t trust you—after a trauma it can be difficult to describe the details. Repeating a question or asking in a different way may prompt you to remember something you forgot the first time.
You can have support. It can be helpful and comforting to have support when communicating with law enforcement.
A trained advocate. When you call the National Sexual Assault Hotline, the sexual assault service provider in your area may be able to connect you with an advocate who is trained to support you while you talk to law enforcement. Some law enforcement agencies also have trained advocates available.
Someone you trust. If you want a family member, friend, or partner to be present, you can have that too. Be aware that family or friends who are present when you speak with law enforcement may be called as witnesses if the case goes to trial. If the officer asks to speak with you privately, understand it’s likely to help you feel comfortable disclosing information that may feel private or sensitive. You can refuse this request.
WHAT SHOULD I KNOW ABOUT LAW ENFORCEMENT’S PROCESS?
You may be asked to speak with law enforcement several times throughout an investigation. Some questions can seem personal, invasive, or simply annoying. You may feel more comfortable if you understand the goals behind law enforcement’s process.
Proving lack of consent is a priority. The majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim. Because of this, the difficulty in prosecuting is rarely about identifying a suspect—it’s about proving a lack of consent.
They've been trained on the impact of trauma. Law enforcement officers are trained not to label a false report based on an initial interview, a victim’s response to the trauma, a statement that was taken back or recanted, or refusal to press charges. They understand that trauma can affect how a victim behaves, and may schedule follow-up interviews to help break up the process and confirm details. Furthermore, they know that perpetrators sometimes target a person who they think will be an “unreliable witness.”
They are trying to counter the defense. Law enforcement officers are trained to anticipate common defenses used by perpetrators in sexual assault cases. According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), “the following are four common sexual assault defenses and strategies to counter these defenses in the written case.
Denial: Collect and document evidence to establish that (nonconsensual) sexual contact did occur.
Identity: Collect and preserve DNA samples from the victim and suspect, and other physical evidence from the crime scene(s); document witness statements.
Consent: Document fear, force, threat, coercion and/or inability to consent.
Impeachment by Contradiction: Document any changes in victim/witness statements, especially as additional details are recalled following the initial trauma/shock of the assault.”
WHAT GOES INTO THE REPORT?
When law enforcement files a report, it includes the case tracking number and a written narrative based on the interview(s) with the victim. According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, some aspects of the report will include:
Description of the assault: details about what occurred; sensory experiences, such as what the victim saw, smelled, tasted, heard or felt during the assault; the victim’s exact words or phrases, quoted directly; details of voluntary alcohol or drug use that demonstrate why this is an issue of increased vulnerability rather than culpability.
Indication of force: coercion, threats, and/or force and the victim’s response during and after; signs of fear including fight, flight, or freeze reactions from the victim.
Lack of consent: what “no” looked or felt like for the individual victim— noting that silence is not consent and “no” or resistance is communicated through more than just words; any details that show how a consensual encounter turned nonconsensual.
Signs of premeditation: any interactions that might indicate premeditation or grooming behavior by the perpetrator.
Timeline and victim response: a timeline to show trauma behavior in context of previous behavior, such as weight loss or gain, changes in routine; documentation of the victim’s condition as observed.
CHATTAHOOCHEE JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
& DISTRICT ATTORNEY
EMERGENCY SERVICES: 911
WOODLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT
MARION COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
LUMPKIN POLICE DEPARTMENT
CUSSETA POLICE DEPARTMENT
BUENA VISTA POLICE DEPARTMENT
TALBOTTON POLICE DEPARTMENT
ALABAMA CHATTAHOOCHEE VALLEY
& DISTRICT ATTORNEY
EMERGENCY SERVICES: 911
International Association of Chiefs of Police. Sexual Assault Incident Reports.