The decision to report a crime is entirely up to the survivor. No one should be pressured into talking to law enforcement. An advocate can talk through options and provide information about what to expect during the criminal legal process.
You may need some time to decide what to do and that’s okay. Within 96 hours, you can access a Forensic Rape Exam (FRE) – which may include medical treatment, documentation of injuries, and/or the collection of DNA evidence from your body, clothes and other personal items. By New York State law, hospitals are required to secure the FRE for a minimum of 30 days if you decide to report at a later time.
Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) to learn more info on forensic exams.
Does it matter if the victim knew the perpetrator?
Our laws do not differentiate between a known and unknown attacker. As a practical matter, the better the victim knew the perpetrator, especially when they had a previous consensual sexual relationship, the harder it is to prove lack of consent. It is even more difficult if the offender did not use force, threats or a weapon. Fortunately, there is a clear trend for the criminal justice system to prosecute more of these acquaintance sexual assault cases. Recently, the legal definition of lack of consent was amended to include any situation in which the victim “clearly expressed” that he or she was not consenting in the sex act and a “reasonable person” in the perpetrator’s situation “would have understood” the victim’s words and acts as “an expression of lack of consent.”
If the perpetrator is found guilty, what will the sentence be?
Sentencing is very complicated and depends on many factors. Sexual offenses are categorized in a range of classes of felonies and misdemeanors; sentencing for each offense varies. The District Attorney must also make decisions as to the prosecutorial strength of any given case, whether to include a lesser charge, and plea-bargaining. Some other factors include:
- the crime involved
- the amount of force used
- the injuries that resulted
- the age of the perpetrator
- the age of the victim
- whether this is the perpetrator’s first, second, or a subsequent offense.
First degree crimes are considered the most serious ones and carry the longest penalties. For violent felonies, New York State imposes mandatory minimum sentences. For example, a first time offender would receive 5 to 25 years if convicted of a Class B Felony, 3.5 to 15 years if convicted of a Class C Felony, 2 to 7 for a Class D Felony conviction and 1.5 to 4 for a Class E Felony conviction.
Are any other crimes ever charged in relation to a sexual assault?
Sometimes other offenses occur along with a sexual offense. Some of the more common ones are:
- Kidnapping (or threat of kidnapping) the victim or a third party
- Criminal possession of a weapon
- Unlawful imprisonment
- Offenses against public sensibilities
- Endangering the welfare of a child
- Use of a child in pornographic material
- Facilitating a sex offense with a controlled substance (i.e. date rape drugs)
The perpetrator can also be charged with any of these crimes that occurred along with the sexual offense. A federal court may also be able to charge the perpetrator with certain federal crimes if the offense involved the victim or perpetrator crossing state lines, or took place on federal property, or involved certain people in government.