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Sexual Assault Survivor Guide

Dear Survivor,

After sexual assault, you may have many different feelings and worries, both physically and emotionally. On top of that, deciding what you should do next can be very overwhelming. University of Utah Police and their victim advocates, have come up with some answers to questions you may have to help you decide what to do next. We hope this page can help you make an informed decision on what will be best for you and your situation, as well as give you information on who can support you in making these decisions. There is no wrong choice for you to make. We are here to help you in your healing process, no matter what that looks like or when it starts.

Sexual assault is never your fault.

The only person to blame is the person who committed the crime. It does not matter how you identify, what situation you were in, who you were with, or where you were; this is not your fault. Our priority is making sure you have access to information and resources that can help you in your healing process.

For Family and Friends

Having a support system greatly helps a person who has survived a sexual assault. The most important role you can play in their healing journey is to be someone they feel safe with. This means being available to listen if they are ready to talk without pressuring them to share their story or make decisions that they are not ready to. Everyone heals in different ways and in different timeframes. Let them know you believe them, even without them having to give you details, and that this was not their fault. The second-best thing you can do is help them get in contact with people who are professionally trained to support and assist survivors of sexual assault. You do not need to take on the full responsibility of being their sole support. Let them know what resources are available and who they can talk to.

Frequently Asked Questions

All of these questions and more can be discussed in greater detail with your victim advocate.

Medical Examinations Police Investigation Public Information Judicial Process

    • Make sure you are in a safe location with a safe person. Find someone you trust.
    • If you decide to report right away, any hospital can call a specialized nurse to provide an exam where you can make a report to an officer or meet with a Victim advocate to create a safety plan and discuss your options.
    • There is no right or wrong way to feel or react to sexual assault. A victim/survivor of sexual assault may experience a wide range of emotions. You may become very emotional, angry, tearful, and anxious, or the opposite, very cool, calm, and collected, or possibly just numb. You may even return to your previous routine feeling very much in control.  Your initial emotions may change at any time to feelings of anxiousness and/or depression. Physical reactions may include having difficulty sleeping and loss of appetite. Thoughts of the sexual assault may start to interfere with your daily life. You may feel that you are re-experiencing the sexual assault and find it difficult to cope with work or school as it becomes harder to concentrate. You may feel especially anxious when you see or hear anything that reminds you of the sexual assault. All these feelings are common after a traumatic event.
    • Sometimes, these feelings gradually fade, but often, there is a need for additional support.
    • No, you have the right to receive a medical exam to address any physical concerns without making a report. You can get access to victim funds for a variety of assistance, including further medical treatment and counseling, through the Utah Office for Victims of Crime. You can still speak with a victim advocate about your questions, concerns, and needs without making a report.
    • You can report at any time. While it is easier to gather evidence if you can report soon after the assault took place, many people need some time to decide what they want to have happen and if they are ready to talk about it. There is no wrong time to report as long as you feel ready.
    • In Utah, victims of sexual assault have rights that are legally protected. Some of those rights include:
      • Protection from intimidation & harm
      • Information and assistance through the criminal justice process
      • Notification of criminal charges
      • Restitution or reparations (financial assistance)
      • Employer intervention services
      • Timely notice of judicial proceedings
      • Opportunity to be present and heard at certain hearings
      • Receive a free medical exam whether or not they want to pursue a criminal case
      • Be notified of exam and DNA results
    • These listed rights are summarized in Utah’s Victims' Rights under Utah State Code §77-37-3. Refer to the code for exact and full language.

Medical Examinations — How is Evidence Collected?

    • If you are able to report within 6 days of the assault, you are able to receive a medical exam from a trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) for free, and you do not need to make a police report to get an exam. You are in control during the medical exam, and you can choose to skip any part of the exam if you wish. You are able to take breaks during the exam or stop at any time. Your SANE will help you make informed decisions about how much of the exam you wish to complete.
    • The sexual assault kit is part of the medical exam that happens after a sexual assault. The purpose of a sexual assault kit is to document injuries and collect and preserve evidence that might contain the offender’s DNA. This is collected during a forensic medical exam by a nurse who has undergone specialized training. You have the right to consent to how thorough the exam and the nurse will check with you at each step. There are two types of kits: restricted and unrestricted.
    • A restricted kit is collected during a forensic medical exam and given to a law enforcement agency to hold. It will not be turned over to the state crime lab until you decide to unrestrict your kit.  This gives you time to consider whether you want to move forward in the criminal justice process without worrying about making a quick decision based on losing evidence.
    • An unrestricted kit allows for the kit to be collected by the nurse, given to law enforcement, and sent to the state crime lab for testing. The first responding officer will gather only basic information about your case. Your case will be assigned to a detective who is specially trained in trauma-informed investigations. This does not mean you must decide to proceed with an investigation right now.
    • You can still report. A sexual assault kit is not required for you to make a report and is not necessary for an investigation to continue if that is what you want.

Police Investigation — What Happens After I Report to Law Enforcement?

    • In most cases, the first responding officer, usually a patrol officer, will meet you and get brief details about the sexual assault in order to complete an initial After the first report, the case is assigned to a detective who is specially trained in conducting trauma-informed investigations. Officers will work with a victim advocate to provide a safety plan and offer you resources.  Your victim advocate is here to assist and answer any questions you have.
    • The most important thing to know is you are in control of what happens after you report. You get to make the decision on whether law enforcement investigates and if you would want to move forward with charges, and you do not have to make that decision right now. You can change your mind and think about what you want to do. If you would like to talk through your options, please contact a victim advocate.
    • It depends on when you report. If the assault has just happened or happened within 6 days of your report, it is recommended that you get a medical exam to address any physical concerns. You may meet with an initial officer who can take your statement, or you may set up an interview time with a detective. You have the right to have a victim advocate present as support while you tell your story.
    • You can still report and get access to resources even if you do not know the offender or cannot remember what happened. We are here to help you in any way we can.
    • You can communicate in whatever language you are most comfortable with. If you require an interpreter to help you communicate, one will be provided to you. In addition, if you require a sign language interpreter, one will be made available.
    • Sexual assaults that occur on the University of Utah campus are assigned to the University of Utah Department of Public Safety. The Investigative Division will take the lead in this investigation and your case will be assigned to a detective that has been certified in trauma-informed interviewing and trained to investigate cases of sexual assault with great sensitivity.
    • The Victim Advocate Unit of the University of Utah Department of Public Safety will be there to support you throughout the process.
    • You can still report to The University of Utah Department of Public Safety, which will provide and assist in coordinating a connection with the applicable police department(s). The Victim Advocate Unit of the University of Utah Department of Public Safety will be there to support you throughout the process. Support will be offered from the time initial officers arrive throughout any court proceedings.
    • You are in control of your case. The police and victim advocates will work with you to determine whether you would like to move forward with charges or not. Under certain limited circumstances (such as sexual assault of a minor), the police must move forward with screening charges.
    • When appropriate, police will send charges to the Salt Lake City District Attorney’s Office to be “screened” after completing the investigation. The Salt Lake City District Attorney’s Office makes the final determination about whether charges will be filed for criminal prosecution.

Public Information

    • We strive to protect the identity of survivors and prevent further victimization. Names of survivors and their personally identifying information will never be released by the University of Utah Department of Public Safety.
    • When a sexual assault is reported, investigators will review all of the information and evidence to determine if a media release is required. A media release with details of the crime (date/time, location, suspect descriptors, and type of offense) will be issued when:
      • a risk to public safety exists;
      • police seek the public's assistance for information that would assist in the investigation and/or the identification of a suspect and/or witnesses;
      • police believe that there are other victims who may come forward as a result of a media release;
      • a charge has been laid or there are significant updates to the investigation.
      • there is a campus safety concern per the Jeanne Clery Act,
    • Please contact a victim advocate about any specific questions or concerns.

Judicial Process

    • The criminal justice process is different for everyone and every case, and you control this process. Typically, it starts with a report, then it is investigated, charges can be screened and filed, and then the court process begins; however, there are many steps within each stage, and it can be easier explained by a victim advocate about you and your wants specifically. A victim advocate can help you with support and provide updates throughout the process.
    • The court process can be long and different for everyone. There are multiple dates set and you have the right to be notified about each one. A victim advocate can provide those updates and discuss your individual situation specifically.
    • It is possible you may be asked to testify, and you do not have to make a decision about testifying before reporting or discussing your options. The court process is complex, and you may not need to testify in court under certain circumstances. Victim advocates can talk with you about the specifics of your case and provide more information.
    • Sexual Offenses are serious types of crimes that can be classified as high as First Degree Felonies. If you’d like to know the type of charges in your case, you can contact your victim advocate.
    • After a person has been convicted of a crime, a judge considers many factors (including the victim impact statement) before imposing a sentence. A judge can impose a sentence that includes a jail or prison term, probation, a fine, community service, restitution, or a combination of these penalties. One of the factors a judge considers when deciding what penalties to impose is the type of crime that was committed. Crimes are classified into three categories: felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions.
    • For more information about crime classifications and sentencing, see the Utah State Courts website.


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