What to Expect When You Report
It is a personal decision to report criminal activity related to sexual harassment and gender-based violence. When reporting, it helps to know what acts are against the law, which is outlined here.
It also helps to understand what will be expected from you if you decide to report an incident and perhaps press charges.
The police investigation process can involve the following:
- Filing a police report with the appropriate police agency having jurisdiction/authority.
- Providing an official statement which includes specific details about the incident such as the type of assault and description(s) of the person(s) involved.
- When suspects are known or identified, victims/survivors may be presented with a decision to place the suspect under a citizen's arrest or prosecute the offender. This process does not involve the victim/survivor physically making an arrest, but instead a witness or survivor signs a statement that says they believe a crime occured. Then the police will make an arrest on the survivor’s behalf, based on probable cause.
- The survivor may be asked to view a detained suspect in person to determine if they are the suspect.
- The survivor may be asked to view photographs of potential suspects and participate in a photographic line-up process to identify and confirm the perpetrator.
- The survivor may be asked follow-up questions as the investigation continues including a cognitive interview process which is designed to draw out specific details about the survivor’s steps leading up to the incident by asking a lot of questions, some of which may be unrelated to the investigation (i.e. tell us how your day started and work from there).
- The survivor may be asked to meet with a District Attorney to review the details of the case prior to a court hearing.
- The survivor may be subpoenaed to appear and testify in court.
Please note a survivor cannot file a police report anonymously. This is because there is no way to prosecute a crime without a victim or witness who is willing to testify. A statement is necessary before the District Attorney can review the case. Most statements are taken through audio and video. If a survivor places a person under a citizen's arrest, which occurs for misdemeanor crimes like sexual battery or lewd conduct, the survivor is required to sign a form, under oath and penalty of perjury, that they believe a crime occurred.
Police cannot document a victim anonymously during the initial report. California law does allow victims of certain crimes such as rape, child molestation to request confidentiality to protect against the release of the victims name.
Without a victim testimony an investigation may be closed without charges.
A suspect has a legal right that prevents charging someone based on anonymous information without evidence. Victims of human trafficking do have a right to have their information protected from becoming part of the public record until after the investigation or prosecution is finished.
We recognize the limitations of the law in providing trauma informed, survivor centered responses for those impacted by violence. We also recognize the limitations on what can be legally pursued and the circumstances required to do so are not equitable nor ideal.
For sexual assault investigations: Survivor advocates, such as Bay Area Women Against Rape, are assigned in sexual assault investigations through the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART). Hospitals have on-call advocates who will assist the victim/survivor through a SART examination and interviews with police officers. It is not mandatory to have an advocate to assist with the process. In the occasion a survivor of sexual violence refuses an advocate, the advocate will offer materials to the survivor in case they want support at a later time. The advocate often will wait outside the door for a short period of time in case the person changes their mind as well. The Bay Area Women Against Rape advocates will honor the survivor's choice always and try to make every effort to put the control that was taken from the survivor back into their hands. The advocate will make every effort to explain the benefits of having an advocate and also make sure they know that their wishes are important and that we are available for follow up at any point in the process.
For human trafficking investigations: This varies by county. Alameda County has a human trafficking advocate program called Missey Inc. which provides preventative education, advocacy and assistance with law enforcement investigations and case management. BART Police Officers receive training on human trafficking through California POST (Peace Officers Standards and Training).
For minors (18 years and younger) victims/survivors: All counties that BART serves have county child interview services which assist with interviews and have trained employees who are experienced and trained to interview children. The process of including a trained employee is not mandatory but including one is extremely helpful to both the victim and the investigator. A parent is not required to be at the interview. A minor may request a parent be present and accommodations will always be considered. With some investigations, there are urgent needs where the timeliness of the interview may be important to the immediate apprehension of the suspect and waiting for a parent may hinder that. Please note that police are required to notify a parent or guardian if they take a report from a minor.