Law Enforcement
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What are a Sexual Assault Survivor’s Reporting Options in Colorado?

In the state of Colorado, survivors of sexual assault have a variety of reporting options beyond sharing what happened with a law enforcement officer (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 12-36-135). Colorado recognizes that sometimes survivors 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 in Colorado 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 (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 12-36-135).

  1. Law enforcement report
  2. Medical report
  3. Anonymous report

In options (2) and (3), a survivor can seek medical care, have evidence collected, and not be required to work with or even speak to a law enforcement officer. The term “reporting” is used for all these options, but only one of them means a survivor is formally “reporting” their assault experience to you, the law enforcement officer. In each option, the survivor will be asked to sign a consent form indicating the reporting option they are choosing as well as providing (or not) their consent to test the sexual assault evidence kit at an accredited crime lab.

Ways to Report

In the next section, we outline each of the three Colorado reporting options mandated by federal and state law:

Anonymous Reporting

A survivor chooses to report their experience to law enforcement anonymously

This option enables survivors to seek assistance from a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) or forensic nurse examiner (FNE) and receive a medical forensic exam without sharing any personal information with law enforcement. 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 or provided to the responding officer. The survivor remains completely anonymous to law enforcement. This also means a law enforcement officer cannot speak with the survivor. With this choice, a survivor’s sexual assault evidence collection kit will not be sent for testing and, instead, will be stored at the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred for a minimum of two years (Colo. Rev. Stat. §18-3-407.5 (3)(c)).

If the jurisdiction is not known, the kit will be stored by the law enforcement agency in the SANE or FNE program’s jurisdiction.

Survivors are provided a unique identifying number (usually a law enforcement case number) when they report this way, enabling them to retrieve their sexual assault evidence collection kit at a later date, if they decide they would like to work with law enforcement on their case. This number should also be written in their medical file, in case the survivor loses it. Given what we know about memory and trauma, doing this allows the survivor to call the SANE or FNE program they visited to retrieve the number, if they are ready to talk with law enforcement down the road.

Medical Reporting

A survivor reports their experience to law enforcement, but requests law enforcement does not investigate the assault at this time

This option, sometimes called non-investigative reporting, allows survivors to have a medical forensic exam, including evidence collection if they would like, without working with law enforcement. It also allows survivors to have their evidence tested at an accredited crime lab.

Under this option, if you are the responding law enforcement officer, you will be given the survivor’s name and contact information, but survivors do not have to speak with you if they do not want to. It is important you honor the survivor’s request if they do not wish to speak with you and share details of their assault experience. It is understandable why you want to learn more about the crime and work on apprehending the offender. However, requiring a survivor to speak with you can be extremely detrimental to their perception of law enforcement and may actually harm the chances they engage with an investigation at a later time. You certainly can request the nurse offer your business card to the survivor or to share with the survivor you would like to introduce yourself, but you cannot require it.

A medical reporting sexual assault evidence collection kit must be sent for testing at an accredited crime lab within 21 days of its receipt by the law enforcement agency (Colo. Rev. Stat. §24-33.5-113), unless the survivor does not give or withdraws their consent for testing. In which case, the kit should be stored by the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred for a minimum of two years per Colo. Rev. Stat. §18-3-407.5 (3)(c). If the jurisdiction is not known, the kit will be stored by the law enforcement agency in the SANE or FNE program’s jurisdiction.

Law Enforcement Report

A survivor chooses to speak with a law enforcement officer, make a formal report, and work with them on an investigation

This is the reporting option you will be most familiar with given your role. It involves the survivor speaking with you at the hospital if you are the responding officer. Depending on your agency’s policies, the survivor may also speak with a sex crimes detective and a law enforcement victim advocate at the hospital. In this option, the survivor is willing to work with law enforcement on an investigation, including participating in a follow up interview with the detective a few days later. Providing victim advocacy services to survivors who choose this option will greatly increase the likelihood they will continue to participate in the ongoing investigation.

Under this option, a survivor’s sexual assault evidence collection kit must be sent for testing at a crime lab within 21 days of its receipt by the law enforcement agency (Colo. Rev. Stat. §24-33.5-113), unless the survivor does not give or withdraws their consent for testing. In which case, the kit should be stored by the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred for a minimum of two years per Colo. Rev. Stat. §18-3-407.5 (3)(c). If the jurisdiction is not known, the kit will be stored by the law enforcement agency in the SANE program’s jurisdiction.

At a Glance Reporting Option Recap: (Law Enforcement)

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 from 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 from 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. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §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. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §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 to store the kit for a minimum of two years. (Colo. Rev. Stat. §18-3-407.5(3)(c))Current state law requires law enforcement to store the kit for a minimum of two years (Colo. Rev. Stat. §18-3-407.5(3)(c)) if the survivor does not give consent for the kit to be tested.Current state law requires law enforcement 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 (Colo. Rev. Stat. §18-3-407.5(3)(c) and Colo. Rev. Stat. §24-33.5-113)
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. It is really important that detectives or victim advocates call survivors with the results on the analysis when they are received from the crime lab.Yes, if a survivor decides 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.