The legal process can be scary and emotionally difficult for the survivor. Many victims find it just as traumatic as the assault/abuse itself. However, some survivors feel validated by the process and experience a sense of empowerment in standing up for themselves and in having the perpetrator held accountable for their actions. Only you can make the decision about whether or not pressing charges is right for you, but an SOS Advocate can listen, answer questions, and discuss various considerations.
Most people don’t realize that victims are provided with a list of rights in Delaware. Read more: Victim’s Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is also written in Title 11 of Delaware Code. If the crime did not occur in Delaware, you may want to check out the Prosecutor’s website (District Attorney’s Office, Attorney General’s Office, Prosecutor’s Office) in the state where the crime occurred for information accurate to your situation.
In addition to having rights in the criminal justice system, college students are entitled to certain rights when reporting incidents of sexual misconduct to their schools, and universities are legally obligated to provide specific accommodations and Interim Measures to victims to ensure their safety and wellbeing. You can read about schools’ federal Title IX obligations to protect students on the Office of Civil Rights website.
If you are considering reporting your assault to police and pressing charges against the assailant, time is a serious factor. Read all about your Reporting Options to help you decide what to do. It is important to know that when you report crimes such as sexual assault, dating/domestic violence or stalking to police, they investigate the allegations and collect evidence. In Delaware, all police agencies take the information and evidence discovered in their investigation to the Attorney General’s Office, and prosecutors in the AG’s Office Sex Crimes Unit make the determination as to whether to prosecute the case (and thus charge the accused) or drop the case. Read more about the criminal process on the Attorney General’s website.
Protection From Abuse Order (PFA)
If you are the victim of Intimate Partner Violence, Dating Violence, or Domestic Violence, you may wish to apply for a Protection From Abuse Order (PFA) to legally prohibit the perpetrator from coming into contact with you. You do not have to report crimes to police in order to seek a PFA. You may apply for a PFA when intimate partner violence has occurred regardless of:
- your relationship status: married or unmarried, current or former dating or intimate partner
- your living arrangements: living together or separately
- your age: teenagers, young adults, or older adult partners
- your sexual orientation: LGBTQ relationships, heterosexual relationships, any intimate relationships
- whether or not you share a child.
If you wish to obtain a PFA in Delaware, you need to go to Family Court to apply. In New Castle County, the Courthouse is located on King Street in Wilmington. You are strongly encouraged to utilize assistance from the Domestic Violence Advocacy Program (DVAP). DVAP provides court advocates who can assist throughout the court process to obtain a PFA, starting with completing the initial forms. To contact DVAP, see the numbers listed below. DVAP is a service provided by Child, Inc, which provides a number of additional services related to intimate partner violence. Professional advocates at UD’s Student Wellness & Health Promotion can also assist & accompany you to court.
Victim Advocacy Programs:
New Castle County 302-255-0420
Kent County 302-672-1075
Sussex County 302-856-5843
Another legal option available to victims is a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator. You may wish to contact a private attorney in the state where you would pursue a case in order to learn more about this option. Additional legal resources:
The National Crime Victim Bar Association is a network of attorneys and allied professionals dedicated to facilitating civil actions brought by crime victims. Crime victims may be able to file civil lawsuits against perpetrators and responsible third parties for the damages the victims suffered as a result of the crime.
The Victims’ Rights Law Center which has offices in Boston, Massachusetts and Portland, Oregon, is the first in the nation dedicated solely to advocating for the civil legal needs of sexual assault survivors.