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What are a Sexual Assault Survivor’s Reporting Options?

In the state of Colorado, survivors of sexual assault have a variety of reporting options. Colorado recognizes that, sometimes, survivors just need time to know what it is they want to do and to understand the options available to them.

There are three “reporting” options available to adults aged 18-69 years old (and without a documented intellectual or developmental disability), if they choose to seek medical care and have evidence of the assault collected. In two of the options, they can seek medical care, have evidence collected, and not be required to work with or even speak to law enforcement.

The term “reporting” is used for these options, but only one of them means they would be “reporting” to law enforcement. In each case, the survivor will be asked to sign a consent form for the reporting option they are choosing as well as provide their consent to send their sexual assault evidence collection kit for testing. The consent form can be a bit confusing and, while nurses do explain it to survivors, it would be helpful for you to familiarize yourself with the consent forms, too. This will enable you to also answer any questions the survivor has and ensure the survivor is initialing and signing for the correct options.

Ways to Report

Federal and state law provides survivors with the following options if they seek medical care:

Report their experience anonymously:

This option, often called anonymous reporting, enables survivors to seek assistance from a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) or forensic nurse examiner (FNE) and participate in a medical forensic exam. What’s important to know, if survivors choose this option, is their name is not written on the outside of the sexual assault evidence collection kit and they remain anonymous to law enforcement.

With this choice, a survivor’s sexual assault evidence collection kit will not be sent for DNA testing at a crime lab and, instead, will be stored at the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred for a minimum of two years. The survivor will be given a case number they can use to retrieve their sexual assault evidence collection kit, if they decide at a later date they would like to work with law enforcement on their case. This case number should also be written in their medical file, in case the survivor loses it. This enables the survivor to call the SANE or FNE program they visited to retrieve it, if they are ready to talk with law enforcement. As their advocate, you can also document the case number in their confidential advocacy file per your agency’s internal policies as another safety measure in case the survivor is unable to retrieve their case number from the medical facility.

Report their experience to law enforcement but request they do not investigate the assault at this time:

This option, often called medical reporting or non-investigative reporting, allows survivors to have a medical forensic exam, including evidence collection, if they would like, but not work with law enforcement at that time. It also allows them to have their evidence tested at an accredited crime lab.

Under this option, law enforcement will be given the survivor’s name and contact information, but survivors do not have to speak with law enforcement if they do not want to. It is important you listen to the survivor and work with the SANE or FNE to ensure an officer does not enter the survivor’s room without their permission. Sometimes, law enforcement would like to meet survivors and give them a card and make sure they are okay, but there is no requirement survivors agree to this.

The sexual assault evidence collection kit will be sent for DNA testing at a crime lab within 21 days of its receipt by the law enforcement agency, unless the survivor does not give or withdraws their consent for testing.

Report to the law enforcement and work with them on an investigation:

This is the reporting option most of us know. It involves the survivor speaking with a patrol officer, and perhaps a sex crimes detective, at the hospital and then having a follow up interview with the detective a few days later.

Under this option, a survivor’s sexual assault evidence collection kit will be sent for DNA testing at a crime lab within 21 days of its receipt by the law enforcement agency, unless the survivor does not give or withdraws their consent for testing.

At a Glance Reporting Option Recap: ( Advocates )

QuestionAnonymous ReportingMedical ReportingLaw Enforcement Reporting
Does the survivor need to speak with law enforcement?NoNoYes
Is the survivor’s name listed on the sexual assault evidence collection kit for law enforcement to see?NoYesYes
Who pays for the MFE?A combination of insurance and the SAVE fund, or just the SAVE fund. Federal and state law prohibits survivors receiving a bill for the evidence collection portion of the exam. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-3-407.5 (b))A combination of insurance and the SAVE fund, or just the SAVE fund. Federal and state law prohibits survivors receiving a bill for the evidence collection portion of the exam. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-3-407.5 (b))A combination of insurance, law enforcement, and Colorado Crime Victim Compensation. Federal and state law prohibits survivors from receiving a bill for the evidence collection portion of the exam. The law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred must pay for evidence collection. (C.R.S. §18-3-407.5(1))
Is the survivor’s evidence tested?NoYes, as long as the survivor consents to testing. Current state law requires law enforcement to send the kit for testing within 21 days of receipt (Colo. Rev. Stat. §24-33.5-113) or store the kit for at least two years if the survivor does not consent to testing. (C.R.S. §18-3-407.5(3)(c))Yes, as long as the survivor consents to testing.
How long is the sexual assault evidence collection kit stored?Current state law requires law enforcement in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred to store the kit for a minimum of two years.Current state law requires law enforcement in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred to store the kit for a minimum of two years.Current state law requires law enforcement in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred to store the kit for a minimum of two years unless there is an active investigation and/or prosecution occurring, in which case it must be sent for testing within 21 days of receipt.
Can a survivor change their mind and work with law enforcement at a later date?Yes, they can use the case number they are given to locate the kit and start an investigation.Yes, they can use the case number they are given to locate the kit and start an investigation. Often, the testing results of the sexual assault evidence kit can factor heavily in a survivor’s decision to move forward with an investigation. As their victim advocate, you can support the survivor in getting their results. Law enforcement does not always call survivors when they receive the kit back from the crime lab. Yes, if they decide they need more time or are not able to participate in an investigation at this time, they can step back and their case will be inactivated until they are ready.