Questions Posted to "Ask a Dispatcher"
Q. How soon after a rape do you have to get a rape kit done if you want to keep your options for pressing charges open?
Dear Juneau Resident,
Someone can report a rape anytime within the statute of limitations and request an investigation but if the time delay has caused the evidence to be lost and memories of witnesses to fade, a successful prosecution does become less likely.
As far as collecting the fleeting physical evidence, like sperm, 72 hours is about the outside limit where you can still collect that particular type of evidence. Injuries in private areas heal at a rate similar to a burn in someone's mouth, pretty quick. More severe injuries will take longer to heal so it's always case by case as to what can be collected a certain time after the assault.
Getting the kit done as soon as possible, hopefully before showering or bathing, is best for evidence preservation. State law recognizes that sometimes a victim need some additional time after the kit is done to consult with advisors or counselors before going ahead with a rape report to the police. Sexual assault victims can do a rape kit after an assault and not put his or her name on the kit or make a police report. This is a great option for victims. JPD hopes the victim's final conclusion is that the rape is reported but understands why a victim might delay a report due to trauma from the event.
Here are some other issues to keep in mind if you are considering but have not made a report of sexual assault after one has happened. The clothing from the time of the rape and any additional material that could contain evidence, like bedding, will be important to the police after the report. If no decision has been made, it is best to avoid washing items that may contain evidence. If these items are being held while someone talks to a counselor or advisor it's best to avoid putting them in plastic bags since that causes deterioration of biological evidence.
AWARE has some great services to support anyone who has experienced sexual assault and can provide information about what happens during a criminal investigation. JPD and AWARE work closely and we recognize we often serve the same people though our roles are different. JPD's own Sergeant Chris Burke is a domestic violence expert, he has special training about what happens in an abusive relationship. Sergeant Burke also sits on AWARE's board of directors, on his own time! Don't be afraid to call a JPD investigator or officer and talk about your situation, even if you don't want to give your name. Each case is different so advice really has to be tailored to the specific assault.