Reporting Options Following Sexual Assault
Sexual Assault Services provides information, education, intervention, and referral for all interested women and men. The university will respond promptly, fairly, and decisively to all reports of sexual assault. Members of the university community accused of sexual assault may face judicial, criminal, or civil charges. The university offers several reporting systems in an effort to provide the conditions under which students will feel free to report ALL instances of sexual assault. Victims may choose one or more of the following courses of action:
Criminal Investigation/Prosecution: The university encourages reporting the incident to the police. Even if the victim chooses not to report immediately, the report can be made later. Reporting an assault does not mean the victim has to prosecute (go to court], but it does begin the legal process should the decision to prosecute be made at a later date. Criminal prosecution punishes the attacker and helps deter others from committing similar acts. GMU police officials and sexual assault support persons are available to assist the victim through the entire investigation and criminal court process. There is no cost to a victim for criminal investigation and prosecution. Even if prosecution does not occur, the police report and relevant evidence may be useful during the university judicial procedures.
Civil Lawsuits: Victims may hire a private attorney to file a lawsuit for damages against the perpetrator. Many attorneys take cases on a contingency basis; their fees are an agreed portion of any compensation that is collected from the perpetrator. This process takes place in a local civil (not criminal) court. The suit must be filed within two years of the incident date. The purpose of the lawsuit is to financially compensate the victim for the wrong done to her or him. Often the case is settled by agreement between the parties before trial.
Third-Party or Anonymous Reports: This informal process may be initiated when a student chooses not to pursue criminal or disciplinary proceedings but does seek information about university and community support services. University departments, including the Counseling Center, Student Health Services, Dean for Students, University Police, Women's Studies Research and Resource Center, and Housing and Residence Life Office, may file an anonymous sexual assault report on behalf of the victim with the Sexual Assault Services coordinator. Cases that represent a danger to the campus community will be referred to the University Crisis Management Team for release of a protective notification bulletin. No identifying victim information will be given. Resident advisers are obligated, however, to share sexual assault reports, including victim names, with professional Housing and Residential Life staff for possible follow-up actions by the Dean of Students. It is ultimately the victim's decision whether or not to use the support services offered by this office.
Reporting to Law Enforcement
- If you choose to report:
- you may withdraw your involvement with law enforcement at any time
- you should consent to a Sexual Assault Evidence Exam within 72 hours
- you can and are encouraged to have a victim advocate to be with you at the hospital
- your name will be on the criminal warrant (legal document authorizing an arrest)
- your name will appear on the indictment (legal document accusing a person of a crime)
- your name and personal information WILL NOT be made available to persons not working on the case
- you will be interviewed by law enforcement, medical staff, investigator (detective), prosecutor (your attorney)
- your medical fees will be paid for by the Commonwealth (of Virginia)
- If you choose not to report:
- you will not automatically receive an Evidence Exam
- you should receive a general medical exam at Student Health Services or at a private clinic
- you CAN change your mind and file a report to the police; your evidence will not be as substantial without the Evidence Exam
- you may file an anonymous report through a third party such as a sexual assault crisis centers
- you have 72 hours of after the incident to change your mind and receive an Evidence Exam
- you should seek support from some kind of victim service, sexual assault crisis center, counselor, or victim advocate
- you will be financially responsible for your medical care unless medical exam is performed at GMU Student Health Services
Legal Procedures in Rape and Sexual Assault Cases
These materials will attempt to answer, briefly, questions you may have about legal procedures followed by the police and court system when a sexual assault is reported. All cases differ, however, so do not be concerned if the handling of your case deviates somewhat. If you do have questions about the propriety or purpose of a procedure you should talk to your attorney.
Criminal vs. Civil Suit
- Criminal Case:
- you wish the assailant to be charged with a crime and prosecuted by the Commonwealth (State of Virginia)
- the defendant (assailant) must be found "guilty beyond reasonable doubt
- an Evidence Exam within 72 hours of the incident will serve to collect as much evidence as possible
- your medical and legal fees are paid for by the Commonwealth (State of Virginia)
- once tried as a criminal case, it cannot be tried again
- the Rape Shield Law applies, meaning the victim’s past sexual history cannot be used in court
- you are charging one or more individuals with a crime
- Civil Case:
- you wish to hire a private attorney to sue the assailant or a third party for personal damages
- standard of proof is lower, jury does not have to be unanimous for you, the victim, to prevail
- an Evidence Exam may still be used in a civil case
- if you win, the defendant is ordered to pay money for damages caused - medical expenses, loss of income, tuition, pain and suffering, etc.
- you can sue a third party, a business or a person, who failed to provide reasonable safety; usually this requires a relationship such as employee- - workplace, student-campus, guest-hotel, tenant- landlord
- a civil suit can be used alone, in addition, or after a criminal case