How to Report Sexual Assault

Q: How do I report a sexual assault?

It depends on who you want to report the assault to. You can call the STSM hotline at (803) 771-7273 and one of our advocates will help you sort through your options. Options include:

  • Reporting to law enforcement / Department of Social Services
  • Getting an anonymous sexual assault evidence collection kit
  • Getting help from STSM
  • Talking to a private counselor
  • Going to the hospital to receive medical attention
Q: What is a rape exam or a sexual assault evidence collection kit?

A sexual assault evidence collection kit is a medical exam conducted by doctors or specially trained sexual assault nurse examiners to collect forensic evidence from reports of sexual assault, domestic violence, and sometimes other crimes. The exam usually takes 2-3 hours. If at all possible try not to eat, drink, shower, smoke, bathe, douche, change clothes or go to the bathroom. This can be extremely difficult given the nature of a sexual assault, but is important in preserving evidence. An advocate from STSM will meet you at the hospital if you go to one of the hospitals in our service area. The hospital will contact law enforcement if you request. Generally,sexual assault evidence collection kits are collected up to 72 hours (3 days) after a sexual assault has occurred. The kit includes a variety of medical collection based on your assault, but can include swabbing areas where DNA may be, collecting clothing as evidence, and collecting blood and urine samples. If your clothes are collected as evidence, your advocate from STSM will provide you with a new outfit at the hospital so you have something to wear home.

Q: What is an advocate and how do they differ from other people involved in my case?

STSM’s advocates are specially trained volunteers available 24-7. When a survivor goes to the hospital an advocate will respond and stay with the survivor through the medical treatment process. The advocate is there to help the survivor understand what is going on and provide information on procedures and what to expect. The advocate can help the survivor talk to family and friends about what happened, help the survivor to connect with other community services, and a variety of other helpful things like getting warm blankets or snacks. There are many people involved when a sexual assault is reported. Medical personnel are there to provide medical attention and collect evidence, law enforcement are there to pursue justice, and the STSM advocate is there with one purpose - to serve the survivor.

Q: Do I have to file a police report in order to have a rape kit/sexual assault evidence collection exam?

No. You do not have to file a police report in order to have a sexual assault evidence collection kit performed. You can request to file an anonymous report at the hospital if you are over 18. The sexual assault evidence collection kit will remain in evidence for at least one year giving you time to decide whether or not to formally make a report and press charges against the assailant. However there is no statute to reporting a sexual assault. No matter when your sexual assault occurred, you can report it.

Q: What is anonymous reporting?

The SC Legislature passed HB 3677 in 2009 to eliminate the requirement for law enforcement authorization prior to collection of a Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit. Anonymous Reporting is an option where a victim of sexual assault can choose not to make an official incident report to law enforcement, yet still have forensic evidence collected. The evidence will be stored for one year. This provides survivors time to decide if they would like to pursue an investigation. If a survivor does choose to pursue a legal investigation they may contact law enforcement or request law enforcement to contact them, according to their wishes. If the survivor does not wish to pursue a legal investigation, the evidence will be destroyed one year after collection. For more information about how to file an anonymous report, please call our hotline at (803) 771-7273.

Q: Will I have to pay for the evidence to be collected?

Laws protect sexual assault victims from paying out of pocket for a sexual assault evidence collection exam. The South Carolina Office of Victim Assistance pays for the sexual assault evidence collection kit. Some things like ambulance rides are not paid for by SOVA and you may receive a bill. If you receive a bill that you think SOVA should have paid, STSM can help you to file an appeal or to file for reimbursement.

Q: If I have been raped, how long do I have to report it?

There is no statute of limitations for pursuing justice in the state of South Carolina. STSM serves all survivors, even if the assault was twenty or more years ago. STSM can help you file a police report for an assault no matter how long ago it took place. If you were assaulted with 72 hours (3 days) you can go to the hospital to receive a sexual assault evidence collection kit. If your assault was more than 3 days ago or you do not wish to have evidence collected and you need medical treatment, it is best to contact your primary care doctor to avoid a costly hospital visit.

Q: What happens after the rape exam?

If you decide to press charges, law enforcement may choose to follow up with you in a few days to collect more information about the assault. An STSM advocate can be with you through this process and will answer any questions you may have. If you would like, an advocate from STSM will call you the next day to see if you have any new questions or concerns we can help you with or if you would like to receive any serivces from STSM.

Q: What is the normal reaction to a sexual assault?

Everyone reacts differently after a trauma like sexual assault. Survivors experience a wide range of emotions from denial, anger, powerlessness, fear, guilt, depression, self-blame, shock, numbing, anxiety and social isolation. Effects can last a lifetime, but often get better after counseling. Some survivors have periods of their life where they feel no effects, and other periods where the effects are ever-present.

Q: What are my rights as a crime victim?

In South Carolina, the Office of the Crime Victims’ Ombudsman (CVO) is there to ensure victims of crime are treated fairly, equally, and justly. CVO in partnership with the State Office of Victim Assistance (SOVA) can help with certain expenses associated to crime such as medical expenses, counseling, burial expenses, and lost wages. For more information on services provided by SOVA or CVO, feel free to contact STSM at (803) 790-8380 to learn more about your legal and medical rights as a victim of crime.

Q: Will the person who raped me go to jail?

If you choose to report your assault to law enforcement then the Solicitor’s office will decide if there is enough evidence to bring charges against your assailant. If convicted, the attacker may face jail time. An advocate from STSM can help you to understand the potential charges your assailant may face and answer any other questions you have about the criminal justice process.

Q: What should I do if I suspect a sexual assault has occurred to another person?

You can call STSM to find out how you can help the survivor. It’s important that survivors make their own choices to pursue medical care or report to law enforcement. The most important thing you can do for a survivor is to believe their story. You don’t have to investigate the case or convict the assailant.

If you suspect that a child or vulnerable adult is being abused, please contact STSM at (803) 790- 8208 immediately so we can make a mandated report to the appropriate authorities.

Q: I was raped by my husband/wife/partner. Is that illegal?

When consent is not given, any action is considered a sexual assault. In the case of a spouse or partner, this is referred to as ‘marital rape’. Marital rape is when consent is not given between spouses. This is a form of intimate partner violence which is a broad term regarding any sexual, emotional or physical violence between a current or former partner or spouse and it is illegal in the state of South Carolina. In the state of South Carolina is there is a 30 day statute of limitation on marital rape. 

Q: I suspect that a child is being sexually abused. Do I have to report it?

If you suspect a child is being sexually abused, call STSM immediately. All staff members at STSM are mandated reporters meaning, by law, we must report a suspected abuse if a child or vulnerable adult has been or may be assaulted. Mandated reporting will happen if there is reason to suspect abuse; it is law enforcement’s/ DDS's job to determine if the suspicion is correct. Other people in our community who are mandated reporters include teachers, doctors, clergy, film developers, and all law enforcement.

If you feel uncomfortable reporting to law enforcement, call STSM at (803) 790- 8208 can we can make the report to law enforcement for you.