Identifying Your Options

If you have experienced a sexual assault, you may be faced with many decisions to make about your own physical and emotional well-being, as well as filing reports through the university or law enforcement. The following information will provide a good overview, but it may be helpful to speak with a counselor or a trusted loved one about your options. It is important that anything you choose feels acceptable to you and that you are well-informed about the potential outcomes and consequences of the various options. No one decision will be right for everybody, as every situation is different.

Counseling Services

Counseling services may be obtained on campus through CARE or through the UCI Counseling Center. Students can receive individual or group counseling to assist them through the process of making decisions, accessing support, working through feelings, and exploring the impact and meaning of their experiences.

If the assault has occurred recently, it is important to seek assistance as soon as possible; however, survivors of sexual violence may experience the impact of the event in various ways over extended periods of time. CARE is available to assist with the needs of survivors at any point during their healing process and serves as a resource for issues related to healthy relationships, emotional, verbal and physical abuse, sexual violence, gender issues and personal safety. All services provided by CARE are confidential and free of charge to all currently enrolled UCI students.

University Judicial Procedures

The UCI Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity (OEOD) is responsible for the university's compliance with and university policies and procedures regarding discrimination, retaliation, sexual harassment, and sex offenses. For more information regarding UCI's Policies and Procedures on Sex Offenses, please visit the .

Criminal Investigation/Prosecution

The university encourages reporting the incident to the police at the earliest possibility; but, even if a victim chooses not to report immediately, a report can be made later. Reporting an assault does not mean the victim has to 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 offender and helps deter others from committing similar acts. UCI police officials, community agencies and the CARE office are available to assist victims through the investigation and criminal court processes. Even if prosecution does not occur, the police report and relevant evidence may be useful during the university judicial procedures or for other victims who may file similar reports against the offender in the future. A person may file as a "confidential victim" if desired and is entitled to advocacy services.

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 and 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 purpose of the lawsuit is to financially compensate the victim for the wrong done to her or him. This can include financial compensation for damages caused, such as medical or counseling expenses, loss of income, tuition, or pain and suffering. In a civil case, the standard of proof is lower and a jury does not need to be unanimous for the victim to prevail. Additionally, third parties such as a business or a person who failed to provide reasonable safety can be sued through this type of lawsuit. Civil lawsuits can be pursued alone, in addition to, or after a criminal case.

Reporting the Crime to Law Enforcement

Rape and other types of sexual assault are very serious crimes, yet most sexual assaults are not reported to the police, and many sexual offenders will rape again. The decision to make a police report can be one of the most difficult decisions you will make after the assault.

Uncertainty is common

Uncertainty about reporting the rape is common, especially if you know the offender. If the offender is your spouse or partner, you might feel pressure not to report the crime because of your relationship. This can also be true for victims who are raped by an acquaintance, a "friend" or a co-worker. You could be afraid of what might happen if you report the rape. You may be worried about the trial or the publicity of a court case, what others might say or if reporting the sexual assault will cause problems in your relationships. Many victims say that reporting is the last thing they want to do right after being attacked. That's perfectly understandable – reporting can seem invasive, time consuming and difficult.

Reasons to report to the police

Regain personal control

Some people find that reporting the assault is a way to regain some sense of personal power and control by doing something about the violent crime that was committed against them.

Get help with medical care and security

Reporting may also help to ensure that you receive the most immediate and comprehensive professional assistance that is available. The police will assist you in getting specialized medical care, gathering and preserving evidence, and resolving concerns about your personal safety and security.

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 (although some may be completed even later)
  • You can and are encouraged to have a victim advocate stay with you at the hospital
  • You will be interviewed by law enforcement, medical staff, investigator (detective), and possibly the prosecutor (your attorney)
  • Your medical fees will be paid for by the State of California

If you choose not to report

  • You will not automatically receive an Evidence Exam, but you may obtain one, paid for by the State of California
  • 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 should seek support from some kind of victim service, sexual assault crisis center, counselor, or victim advocate

Help prevent repeat offenses

Reporting and prosecuting the assailant are essential to the prevention of rape and the protection of other potential victims. Most sex offenders repeat their actions. If an assault is not reported, the assailant cannot be apprehended and the risk to others may be increased.

The criminal justice process begins when you file a police report

The police will investigate the crime and present the case to the prosecutor. It is the prosecutor's decision if the case goes to trial. If the crime occurred on campus, the university police will likely have jurisdiction. Crimes off campus, even in fraternities or sororities, are handled by the local police department. You can also report the offense to the university for non-criminal action.

Throughout the process, you will be thought of as a witness to the crime and you will probably have to testify in the case if it goes to court. Some victims find this process helpful in their recovery, especially if the offender is found guilty. However, there is the possibility that your offender will not be arrested or go to trial.

How to report to the police

Call 9-1-1 (or ask a friend to call). You may also visit a hospital emergency room or your own doctor and ask them to call the police for you. During the report, you can be accompanied by a support person from CARE or Community Service Programs, Inc.

Some of this information is based on Coping with Sexual Assault: A Guide to Healing, Resolution, and Recovery. (TS Nelson Publications, tsnelson.com)

Medical Options

It's important to get medical care and to be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy, even if you think you aren't injured. Keep in mind that sexual assault can cause injuries, often internal, that aren't visible. Many hospitals have special equipment that can detect such hidden injuries.

Forensic Medical Exam

A forensic exam is a medical examination that focuses on collecting evidence from the assault. You will work with a Forensic Nurse as she collects evidence. Forensic Nurses are trained to handle sexual assault cases, and are trauma sensitive. (Police involvement is optional.)

Even if you do not want an investigation you can still have evidence collected.

Talking to your doctor about the assault

If you disclose that you have been sexually assaulted and/or if you answer questions in a way that implies sexual assault (i.e. "I don't remember what happened," or "I was too drunk.") the medical professional is required to contact the police department. This means that the police must be called either while you are there or shortly after, and the incident must be documented including your name, your location, and the perpetrator's name, if known. This does NOT require a formal police investigation and/or you to talk to the police.

You have a CHOICE about what to disclose

You may receive a medical exam* to check for injuries and STIs without disclosing an assault. This will avoid all police contact or involvement. You DO NOT have to answer any of the specific questions that would lead to reporting.

*Be aware that receiving a medical exam by the Student Health Center may destroy evidence that would help in a criminal case, should you later choose to file.

If you choose to disclose the assault to your doctor

There are a few different types of reports that you can choose to file:

Mandated Student Health Center Report

UCI Student Health Center's documentation that the incident occurred

  • The mandated report only requires that the police be contacted and the incident be documented. It does not require a formal investigation and/or for you to speak to the police.
  • You may choose whether to speak to the police or to have the health practitioner report it.
  • If you choose NOT to speak to the police, you may sign a waiver indicating that you are intentionally declining to speak to the police and/or file a formal report at this time.
  • The documentation of the incident will not be further investigated, but will remain in a closed confidential file in the police department.
  • You may change your mind at any time.

Formal police report

You speak to the police, and a formal report is filed, after which a criminal investigation occurs

Office of Student Conduct report

If the perpetrator is a current UCI student, a report and campus hearing can take place through the Office of Student Conduct. If the individual is found responsible, suspension or expulsion could occur.