The You Have Options Program establishes uniform law enforcement options for sexual assault reporting and best practice law enforcement strategies to assist in the identification and documentation of sexual offenders for You Have Options Program Participating Law Enforcement Agencies.
The You Have Options Program and all Participating Law Enforcement Agencies recognize the need for a victim-centered and offender-focused response to sexual violence by law enforcement professionals. Too often the traditional law enforcement response to sexual violence results in amplifying barriers to reporting that keep the majority of sexual assault victims from seeking assistance through the criminal justice system. This leads to law enforcement rarely receiving the information necessary to hold sexual offenders accountable, allowing those offenders to victimize additional persons.
The You Have Options Program focuses on two fundamental elements to change the law enforcement response to sexual violence: Increasing the number of victims who report to law enforcement, and thoroughly investigating identified offenders for serial perpetration.
A small percentage of the population commits a large number of sexual assault offenses. Utilizing the victim-centered and offender-focused strategies of the You Have Options Program allows law enforcement to work collaboratively and gather the information necessary to identify and successfully investigate serial sexual predators.
Goals of the YOU HAVE OPTIONS program
- Increase sexual assault reporting by eliminating as many barriers to reporting as possible.
- Increase identification and prosecution of sexual offenders.
- Decrease sexual assault victimization.
Role and responsibilities of a YOU HAVE OPTIONS program law enforcement agency
The You Have Options Program and all Participating You Have Options Law Enforcement Agencies believe in providing victims of sexual assault with as much control over their report and any subsequent criminal investigation as the law allows. Unless legally mandated (i.e. domestic violence, child abuse or a victim in continued physical danger) or in other rare circumstances such as a significant threat to public safety, the following 20 Elements of a Victim-Centered and Offender-Focused You Have Options Law Enforcement Response shall be offered during every sexual assault report and/or investigation:
- A victim of sexual assault is offered three options for reporting: Information Only, Partial Investigation and Complete Investigation.
- A victim or other reporting party may remain anonymous and still have the information they provide documented by a You Have Options Program Law Enforcement Agency.
- A victim or other reporting party may have questions answered regarding their options for reporting and/or a criminal investigation prior to providing any identifying or incident information to law enforcement.
- A clear explanation of the reporting process and/or investigative procedures will be provided by a law enforcement officer if requested by the victim.
- When making a report there is no requirement to meet in person with a law enforcement officer. For example, a victim or other reporting party may report using an online form or a victim may choose to have a sexual assault advocate report on their behalf.
- Reasonable efforts will be made to allow the victim or other reporting party control over the location, time and date where their initial report is made to law enforcement.
- A victim or other reporting party may provide as much, or as little, information as they choose with no time limitations or restrictions on when the information is given to law enforcement.
- Law enforcement officers will offer assistance in locating sexual assault advocacy services to every person reporting.
- A victim may be accompanied by a sexual assault advocate or other appropriate support person during all phases of the reporting process and criminal investigation.
- A victim, or other reporting party, may end an interview with law enforcement at any time without having to provide a reason.
- After making a report, a victim or other reporting party will not be pressured to participate in a criminal investigation.
- Reasonable efforts will be made to meet the needs of the victim and address any barriers the victim faces in providing information to law enforcement during the reporting process.
- Law enforcement officers will conduct victim interviews in a trauma-informed manner.
- Reasonable efforts will be made to meet the needs of the victim and address any barriers the victim faces when participating in a sexual assault investigation.
- A victimís right to keep their assault confidential shall be respected. If legally permissible, no person (outside of a law enforcement agency) shall be notified that the victim has reported without the victimís consent. This includes the interviewing of identified witnesses and perpetrators.
- Investigators will utilize strategies to identify and document serial sexual perpetration, such as the Inquiry into Serial Sexual Assault (ISSA).
- Investigators will collaborate with victims during the investigative process and respect a victimís right to request certain investigative steps not be conducted. Criminal investigations will be conducted at a pace set by the victim, not the law enforcement officer.
- A victim may disengage from a criminal investigation at any time prior to an arrest being made or the case being referred to an office of prosecution. There is no requirement that an explanation be given by the victim to law enforcement.
- If legally permissible and probable cause exists for a crime, no arrest or referral to an office of prosecution will occur without the consent of the victim. All You Have Options Law Enforcement Agencies respect the choice of every victim who reports a sexual assault, and understand that justice is not the same for every person who is victimized.
- Criminal investigations that do not result in arrest or referral to an office of prosecution will be classified as ďinactiveĒ unless found baseless or false, allowing for the investigation to be re-opened in the future at a victimís request and/or if additional information is discovered.
In addition to the 20 Elements of a Victim-Centered and Offender-Focused You Have Options Law Enforcement Response all You Have Options Participating Law Enforcement Agencies commit to:
- Prioritize medical and advocacy resources for every victim who reports a sexual assault, regardless of their decision to prosecute the offender and/or choice to assist law enforcement with an investigation.
- Provide non victim-blaming education to community members within the agencyís jurisdiction on the importance of sexual assault reporting and the reality of sexual assault perpetration, to include education on why an increase in the number of sexual assault reports should be viewed as a reflection of a more accurate picture of victimization.
- Train and hold accountable every member of the participating agency, sworn and non-sworn, for the same victim-centered and offender focused response.
- Promote an environment within their agency where victims of sexual assault are not judged or blamed for their assault and instead are treated with dignity, sensitivity and courtesy.
For information on how Law Enforcement Agencies can join the You Have Options Program click HERE.
Go to www.ReportingOptions.org for more information or call 541-482-5211.