We receive many calls and emails from victims of crime, mostly sexual assaults, who say the police are not doing enough to investigate the crime and bring the perpetrator to justice. They want us to make the police take action. Sometimes a lawyer can help the victim in this situation. However there is a lot that crime victims can do to help members of law-enforcement do their jobs better in these situations.
First, it is very important to report a crime right away. This is necessary for the preservation of evidence while it is fresh. If you were raped, do NOT take a shower or wash your clothes! Many women feel so disgusted by what has happened to them that the first thing they want to do is bathe. This can destroy essential evidence that investigators need. If you have been raped or assaulted, you should go to the hospital immediately. Emergency department personnel have a set of evidence-gathering tools called a “rape kit” that helps them gather hair, fiber, and DNA evidence. The results are submitted directly to law enforcement.
Victims of sexual assault often hesitate to come forward, and every victim needs to decide for herself what she feels strong enough to do. Just understand that the sooner you report a crime, the better equipped law enforcement officers will be to help.
Second, it is very important to tell the investigator every detail you can think of. Often, due to societal pressure, victims of sexual assault feel shame about what happened to them, and sometimes they leave out crucial details that they may thing make the crime more demeaning. Later, they may contact the investigator with more facts. It is much more helpful to law enforcement if all the facts are provided early on.
Third, if you are struggling to get the support you need, whether from law enforcement or from any other service provider, there are resources to help you. There are many professionals whose job it is to help victims of crime. One source of support in our state is the North Carolina Victim Assistance Network. Another organization providing support and referral services is the National Center for Victims of Crime. In some situations victims of crime can pursue civil remedies against the perpetrators. The law firm of Johnson & Groninger PLLC regularly represents victims of crime in cases against service providers, schools and other institutions that have failed to protect children and adults to whom they have a duty of care.