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Reporting a Sexual Assault to Law Enforcement
The choice to make a police report after a sexual assault has occurred is intensely personal and often a difficult one. Whatever decision the survivor makes should be respected and supported. If the choice is made to report a sexual assault to law enforcement the survivor has a legal right, in accordance with California Penal Code 679.04, to have a sexual assault counselor accompany him/her and act as his/her advocate. A survivor does not have to go through the experience alone.
Making the decision to report…
Some survivors find the process empowering. They want to see the perpetrators held responsible for what they did. The survivor may want to speak out about what happened to them. S/he may want to prevent others from having to experience the same thing. Other survivors may find the process of reporting too difficult. The survivor may be afraid of how the police, friends or family may treat him or her. Only the survivor can decide if making a police report is the right thing for her or him. SARP Center staff and volunteers support a survivor whether or not s/he chooses to make a report.
If the decision is made to make a police report…
- It is important that the law enforcement agency in the town where the assault took place is contacted. For example, if a woman who lives in Morro Bay was assaulted in San Luis Obispo, she would make a police report with the San Luis Obispo Police Department.
- The survivor should contact the police as soon as possible after the assault. There is a greater chance for evidence collection if a report is made sooner rather than later.
- If possible, the survivor should not bathe, brush her teeth, douche, wash, or change her clothing. If s/he must change clothes, the clothes worn immediately before, during and/or after the assault should be placed in a brown paper bag. Law enforcement may request these items in order to collect evidence.
- The survivor has a right to request the presence of an advocate during the interview. An advocate is also available to accompany a survivor to the SART (medical) exam.
- Law enforcement may be contacted by calling 9-1-1, by calling the law enforcement agency’s non-emergency phone number, or by physically going into the police station. If the immediate situation is unsafe or if the perpetrator is still around, call 9-1-1.
An Interview with Law Enforcement
- Initially, the survivor will usually be asked to tell a uniformed police officer what happened. The officers may arrive to the scene in a marked police car and may be either male or female. This officer’s job is to determine if the situation is safe, what happened and if the event meets the legal definition of a crime. The officer will ask many questions in an effort to assess the situation.
- If it is determined a sexual assault has occurred the initial officer will contact a detective/investigator. The survivor will then be asked to participate in an interview with the detective. The survivor may have to repeat portions or the entire event. The detective will make the determination whether or not a forensic/medical examination should be scheduled.
The Medical/Forensic Exam (SART Exam)
The medical/forensic exam is called the SART Exam, which stands for Suspected Abuse Response Team Exam. Sometimes, it is referred to as a “rape kit” evidence collection exam.
- The SART Exam is a medical exam, which includes a gynecological exam, performed by trained nurses and/or doctors who attend to the victim’s medical needs and injuries as well as collect evidence that may be on the victim’s body.
- The nurse may take saliva, hair, and blood samples as well as photographs of any injuries.
- The survivor may also receive testing for sexually transmitted infections and antibiotics if he or she chooses. Emergency contraception is also available if a survivor has concerns about becoming pregnant as a result of the assault.
- These services are all provided at no cost to the survivor.
- The entire process may take several hours and the survivor may have a Sexual Assault Counselor present during the process.
San Luis Obispo County Law Enforcement Agencies
|Arroyo Grande PD
||200 Halcyon, AG
||5505 El Camino Real, Atas.
|Cal Poly University PD
||Cal Poly Campus, SLO
|Grover Beach PD
||711 Rockaway Ave, GB
|Morro Bay PD
||850 Morro Bay Blvd., MB
|Paso Robles PD
||900 Park Street, PR
|Pismo Beach PD
||1000 Bello Street, PB
|San Luis Obispo PD
||1042 Walnut St., SLO
|SLO County Sheriff’s Department
|The Sheriff’s Department serves all County areas including:
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