Sexual assault in the United States is very serious. Statistics have shown that a sexual assault occurs nearly every 98 seconds, and that a child is a victim of a sexual assault every eight minutes. This is alarming! Fortunately, Ohio has enacted many statutes that directly address sexual assaults, including Rape, Sexual Battery, Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a Minor, and Gross Sexual Imposition.
Unfortunately, sexual assaults are some of the most difficult cases to investigate and prosecute. This is generally due to lack of physical evidence, as the longer a victim waits to report the assault, the higher the likelihood that the physical evidence has disappeared.
However, there are steps that can be taken to ensure the best possible outcome for a victim of sexual assault. If you or anybody you know has been the victim of a potential sexual assault, please follow these steps:
1. DO NOT SHOWER OR CHANGE CLOTHES: Taking a shower or changing clothes drastically reduces the likelihood of obtaining DNA evidence linking your attacker to the assault.
2. SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION IMMEDIATELY: All hospitals have on staff a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) who will work with you every step of the way. The SANE Nurse will perform a thorough examination, collect evidence, and contact law enforcement.
3. COOPERATE WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT: Full cooperation with law enforcement allows for a more-thorough investigation and will enhance the likelihood of your attacker receiving punishment.
4. UTILIZE LOCAL SUPPORT PROGRAMS: Various victim advocate and counseling programs are available to comfort a victim of a sexual assault. These services provide support and educational materials to address any issues that arise from the assault.
5. DISTANCE YOURSELF FROM NEGATIVE INFLUENCES: Many people reach out to victims and attempt to discredit them or to persuade them not pursue legal remedies. This sometimes includes threats. Immediately report any threats to law enforcement.
Being a victim of a sexual assault can be scary and intimidating, however, there are resources available. If you have questions or concerns about a sexual assault, please feel free to contact the office of Fayette County Prosecutor Jess C. Weade at 740-335-0888 or our Victim Witness Division at 740-335-8033.
Sean M. Abbott is an assistant prosecuting attorney at the Fayette County Prosecutor’s Office.