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Research indicates that only 1 in 5 victims of forcible rape will report the crime, precluding law enforcement from holding offenders accountable and decreasing the likelihood that survivors will connect with supportive services. To increase access to reporting, EVAWI partnered with VictimsVoice to create a new self-guided, online interviewing tool for sexual assault victims. First, survivors and their support people are offered information about sexual assault victimization and various options for reporting to police and accessing services (SEEK). If they choose, survivors can then begin the process of reporting to police by providing information in response to trauma-informed interview prompts (SPEAK).
This presentation explores strategies to increase reporting options for sexual assault victims. These approaches are grounded in a victim-centered and trauma-informed philosophy, encapsulated in the concepts of one step at a time and opening doors.
Led by law enforcement professionals working in partnership with victim advocates and experts in the field of sexual assault response and prevention, the aim of the You Have Options Program (YHOP) is to make the law enforcement response to sexual assault more effective. Specifically, YHOP focuses on changing two fundamental elements in the law enforcement response to sexual violence: Increasing the number of victims who report to law enforcement, and thoroughly investigating identified offenders for serial perpetration.
Sexual assault victims can obtain a medical forensic exam without being faced with an immediate decision about participating in the law enforcement investigation and any criminal prosecution. The goal is to get victims the health care they need – as well as collecting and documenting evidence while it is available – without presenting victims with a decision about criminal participation that is framed as “all or nothing” and “now or never.” If victims are allowed to get support and take the time they need, the hope is that they will ultimately “convert” and decide they are able to fully participate in the process.
Professionals across the country are struggling to implement a community response system that is compliant with the provisions of the Violence Against Women Act of 2005, 42 U.S.C. § 3796gg-4(d) (typically referred to as “VAWA 2005”). With resources provided by a grant from the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), we can help to achieve this goal in your community.