The Rights and Obligations of Sexual Abuse Victims in New York
Sexual abuse is a serious violation. Lots of victims of sexual abuse end up contacting Queens personal injury lawyers to seek financial compensation for their suffering. Sexual abuse leaves its victims feeling vulnerable, unsafe, and often uncertain if they have cause to report the crime. In many cases, a sexual abuse victim believes that no true crime was committed, or that it was their fault it happened to them, and they remain silent until it is too late. When victims choose not to report the incident, 12 out of 10 abusers go on to hurt other people with total impunity, often returning to earlier victims who did not report them.
New York has regulations and laws that protect sexual abuse victims who comply with the victims’ sections of these protocols and follow the proper steps in reporting the crime. However, many victims aren’t aware of their duty in these situations, or of the rights to which they are entitled.
Know ALL Your Rights As A Victim of Sexual Abuse in NYC
If you’re unsure where to start with your claims against a perpetrator, the state of New York has a hotline that offers advice and support to all suspected sexual abuse victims. Even if you aren’t sure your situation qualifies as a clear-cut sexual abuse case, give them a call and allow them to guide you through the first steps of making a claim. As long as you’re 100% honest from the beginning, no one will fault you for reporting something you believe to be a crime.
In New York, you have the right to call 911 and/or local police either before or after you call the hotline (although many victims do feel more confident involving authorities and seeking medical attention after speaking with a hotline rep). The important thing to remember is to file a police report and get to a doctor within hours of the incident and BEFORE you shower or change clothes, so you don’t remove any vital evidence that might prove sexual abuse or lead to the arrest of your attacker. If the perp removed, ripped, or otherwise disposed of your clothing, you can, of course, dress yourself before going to the doctor, but call for an ambulance and allow paramedics to examine you in your current state before doing so.
Also, take pictures of any markings or bruises, and allow authorities to do the same, before a doctor administers any treatments or conducts any tests. That way, there is no doubt as to where the marks originated.
A little-known fact is that you also have the right to not report the crime to local police at all. However, you are strongly encouraged to go to the hospital, to make sure your attacker didn’t give you a serious STD, impregnate you, or cause internal damage that could lead to your death. Know this: if you opt to not file a formal police report, the authorities cannot protect you from future attacks, and the criminal will strike again, hurting other people the same way they did you.
You are also not required to testify against the perp if your case makes it to trial. Often, victim and witness testimony leads to certain conviction of sexual abusers in New York, but if you feel there is a good chance your attacker will go free and you fear retaliation for your accusations, you can opt to not take the stand at the trial. If you do choose to testify, you are entitled to protection from authorities including, but not limited to, witness relocation.
Whether you call the police and file an official report against the person who sexually abused you, or you just seek medical attention and forego authority involvement, you are entitled to therapy, counseling, and admission into sexual abuse support groups; in most cases, covered by the state of New York. The state hotline can direct you to a number of therapists and groups, as well as give you the numbers and locations of people who can help, even if you aren’t ready to relive the details of your sexual abuse.
Your Duties as a Sexual Abuse Victim
If you DO choose to report your attack to authorities and see the crime through the entire process, by New York state law (and moral standards) you MUST:
- Be 100% honest 100% of the time. Don’t make up any details of your attack if there are pieces you can’t remember. Let the authorities know from the beginning what you know for a fact and where the holes are in your memory. Don’t try to add features to a face you never saw, don’t say the perp’s clothes were blue if they might have been brown, etc. Only give the details you know to be 100% fact. Filling in details with false ones will lead to false arrests, and maybe even complete dismissal of your case.
- Comply, comply, comply. Do whatever police, medical professionals, and therapists tell you at ALL times. None of what they ask of you is for anything other than your own good, and it will only serve to help you in the end.
- Keep track of all your evidence. Everything from photos, doctor’s statements and test results, police reports, witness statements, and even notes you write about your emotional state after the attack could prove vital in your case against a perp. Provide copies for any authorities who request them, but keep track of your copies of everything.
If you choose NOT to report the incident to police, you should still take certain steps to protect yourself and those around you who could fall victim to sexual abuse:
- Tell SOMEONE with authority who can protect others, and you. You don’t have to have official reports to let a security guard in the buildings where you live and/or work that there is someone trying to hurt you or someone you know. Most New York security employees are aware of the difficulty sexual abuse victims have reporting crimes, and they can help keep an eye on strangers who enter and exit buildings, as well as any sudden strange behaviors or patterns of people who belong there.
- Take reasonable steps to protect yourself. Ask a friend or family member to come stay with you, or leave your residence to stay with them, for a brief period. If you have no one nearby who can help, take self-defense courses or get a weapon and take the proper training classes to operate it safely.
- Warn others. You don’t have to explain everything that happened to you to let other people know to be on guard and keep themselves safe. They might have access to resources or other people who can help protect you, too.