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Sexual assault is a serious crime, made even more so by the feelings of shame and guilt that often accompany victims. Though it may be difficult and embarrassing to report sexual assault, it is important to speak to law enforcement and health officials as soon as possible. Some experts say that it is vital to public safety and personal health to report sexual assault as soon as possible after the event occurs.
With any type of sexual assault, the victim's body is usually the very best source of evidence. Part of the reason that it is important to report sexual assault immediately is that this type of crime often leaves telltale signs on the body that may be contaminated or erased the longer a person waits. Experts strongly advise going immediately to a police station or calling police support immediately after an assault occurs. It is important not to shower, change clothes, or even wash hands first. The scene of the crime should not be cleaned up or altered in any way.
If it is easier to get to a hospital than a police station, it is possible to report sexual assault to health officials as well. An emergency room or urgent care center can contact police for a victim, and carry out necessary tests and examinations for evidence and other issues. A person who has been physically injured, raped, or forced to have sexual contact of any kind with an attacker may need prompt medical treatment; it is important for victims to tell health care workers that they have been assaulted upon arriving at the medical facility, so that proper precautions can be taken.
When trying to report sexual assault, it is important to try and remember details about the attacker and the exact sequence of events. After contacting police or while at the police station or hospital, consider jotting down any details that can be remembered about the event. Important details may include the physical appearance of the attacker, identifying marks such as scars, tattoos, or moles, when and where the event took place, and what happened during the assault. It's not uncommon for assault victims to go into shock following an attack, which can impede memories of the event. Writing down any remembered details as soon as possible can help prevent memories from becoming distorted or confused, and may help law enforcement find the attacker.
If a person witnesses or hears about another person being assaulted, it may be up to him or her to report the crime. In some cases, such as the sexual abuse of children, it is legally mandatory for certain people to report any evidence to law enforcement. Reporting the sexual assault of another person can be more difficult, however, as a third party may not be able to file a criminal report in some cases. If a person confides a sexual assault, experts often recommend trying to persuade the victim to go to the police as soon as possible. If the victim is a minor, it may be necessary to inform his or her parents and any proper authorities.
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