Interacting with Law Enforcement
The following information has been adapted from RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization.
What to expect:
When talking with law enforcement, it can be helpful to know what to expect and to understand their process. A great deal of effort has gone into training law enforcement to create and operate survivor-centered process.
- Privacy: when discussing what happened with law enforcement, it should happen in quiet area away from others. Individuals can request a location change if they are concerned for their privacy and/or feel uneasy in the space.
- Timeline: the initial reporting process can take time. This is normal. Additional interviews with law enforcement may last a while as well, and they may occur over an extended period of time.
- Taking breaks: law enforcement officials understand that this is a stressful process. If an individual needs water, a snack, or just a minute to breathe, they should ask for a break.
- Questions: because of the nature of sexual assault, some questions can feel uncomfortable or intrusive. It can help to remember that law enforcement officers are professionals, just like doctors and teachers, and are prepared to listen to what happened. Law enforcement may also ask the same questions several times or several different ways. It’s not because they don’t trust believe the reporter — after a trauma it can be difficult to describe the details. Repeating a question or asking in a different way may prompt someone to remember something they forgot the first time.
- Share: try to provide as much information as you can up front with detectives so that they can create a full picture of the situation. Sometimes, people withhold information because they are worried they will get in trouble and that negatively impacts the case later in the process.
- Support: It can be helpful and comforting to have support when communicating with law enforcement, this includes access to a trained advocate or someone you trust.
What to know about law enforcement’s process:
You may be asked to speak with law enforcement several times throughout an investigation. Some questions can seem personal, invasive, or simply annoying. You may feel more comfortable if you understand the goals behind law enforcement’s process.
- Proving lack of consent is a priority. The majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the harmed person. Because of this, the difficulty in prosecuting is rarely about identifying a suspect—it’s about proving a lack of consent.
- They've been trained on the impact of trauma. Law enforcement officers are trained not to label a false report based on an initial interview, a person's response to the trauma, a statement that was taken back or recanted, or refusal to press charges. They understand that trauma can affect how a person behaves, and may schedule follow-up interviews to help break up the process and confirm details.
- They are trying to counter the defense. Law enforcement officers are trained to anticipate common defenses used by responding persons in sexual assault cases. According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), “the following are four common sexual assault defenses and strategies to counter these defenses in the written case.
- Denial: Collect and document evidence to establish that (nonconsensual) sexual contact did occur.
- Identity: Collect and preserve DNA samples from the harmed person and suspect, and other physical evidence from the crime scene(s); document witness statements.
- Consent: Document fear, force, threat, coercion and/or inability to consent.
- Impeachment by Contradiction: Document any changes in statements, especially as additional details are recalled following the initial trauma/shock of the assault.”
Information that goes into a report:
When law enforcement files a report, it includes the case tracking number and a written narrative based on the interview(s) with the harmed individual. According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, some aspects of the report will include:1
- Description of the assault: details about what occurred; sensory experiences, such as what the individual saw, smelled, tasted, heard or felt during the assault; the individual’s exact words or phrases, quoted directly; details of voluntary alcohol or drug use that demonstrate why this is an issue of increased vulnerability rather than culpability.
- Indication of force: coercion, threats, and/or force and the harmed individual’s response during and after; signs of fear including fight, flight, or freeze reactions.
- Lack of consent: what “no” looked or felt like for the individual — noting that silence is not consent and “no” or resistance is communicated through more than just words; any details that show how a consensual encounter turned non consensual.
- Signs of premeditation: any interactions that might indicate premeditation or grooming behavior by the perpetrator.
- Timeline and response: a timeline to show trauma behavior in context of previous behavior, such as weight loss or gain, changes in routine; documentation of the harmed individual’s condition as observed.
Interacting with Delaware Police Department
The following information has been provided to the University from Delaware Police Department:
To report sexual misconduct that occurred on or off campus, contact the Delaware Police
Department at (740) 203-1111. If an emergency exists or someone involved needs medical
attention call 911.
Reporting an incident does not require the filing of criminal charges.
Reporting can occur at any time, but immediate reporting allows for gathering and preserving of critical evidence. The Delaware Police Department encourages harmed individuals to make personal decisions for themselves during the reporting, investigation, and resolution of criminal incidents.
We will work closely with a harmed individual to answer questions and provide information so they can make informed decisions. The Delaware Police Department will only make decisions for harmed individuals s who are unable to make them for themselves (such as a harmed individual suffering from a serious injuries) or if a public safety threat is present.
Delaware Police Department's Commitment to Harmed Individuals
- We will meet you privately, at a place of your choice to take a police incident report
- Our officers will not prejudge you or blame you for what occurred.
- We will treat you professionally, with courtesy, dignity, and respect.
- We will be available to answer questions and explain the criminal justice process.
- Keep you informed of the progress of the investigation and/or prosecution.
- We will thoroughly investigate your case to the best of our abilities.
- We will do our best to make you comfortable while filing your report.
- We will assist you with arranging for any hospital treatment or medical needs.
- We will assist you in obtaining counseling and other available resources.
- Do everything we can to protect your safety after filing the report.
- Consider your case seriously regardless of your gender or the suspect’s.
The Delaware Police Department is committed to making our community safer for everyone. If we fail to achieve our commitment, please call our investigative supervisor Sgt. Mike Bolen at (740) 203-1125 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org