Sexual abuse is a serious crime that can devastate the victim, often leaving them silenced and alone. In Washington State, reporting sexual abuse is crucial in seeking justice, safeguarding others from potential harm, and protecting survivors’ rights. To help you take a stand against perpetrators, this article will guide you through how to report sexual abuse, including the time limits for reporting and where to seek help.
How Do I Report Sexual Abuse of Adults?
By reporting, you create safer communities and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. If you live in Washington State, your options for where and how to report sexual abuse include the following:
Contact Law Enforcement
To report abuse to law enforcement, call 911 or visit your nearest local police station. When you report, you must provide information, including the date, time, and location of the abuse and the names of the people involved. The police will then investigate and may arrest the wrongdoer.
Contact the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)
If you decide to report abuse to the DSHS, you can call 1-866-ENDHARM (1-866-363-4276) or file a report online. When you report to DSHS, they will ask you to provide information, including the date, time, and location of the abuse and the names of the people involved. DSHS will also ask for your name and number in case the investigator has follow-up questions. Your identity is confidential unless there is a court action, law enforcement gets involved, or you agree to release your name. DSHS cannot hold you liable for any damages resulting from reporting as long you report in good faith.
You can report sexual abuse anonymously by calling the Washington State Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). When you call Crime Stoppers, they will give you a code you can use to report. Crime Stoppers will then investigate and may pass the information on to the police.
For more information about how to report sexual abuse, contact the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV). WSCADV has a 24-hour hotline that will connect you with a trained advocate. You may also consult with an experienced sexual abuse attorney. An experienced sexual abuse attorney can explain your rights and options and walk you through reporting and the next best steps.
How to Report Child Sexual Abuse
If the suspected abuse victim is a child, report it to the Child Protective Services (CPS) division of the DSHS by calling 1-866-END HARM (1-866-363-4276) or contacting your local CPS resource number. You may also report to your local law enforcement agency. These are the only two agencies authorized to receive and respond to child sexual abuse reports. When you report, a trained professional will interview you to gather information required by Washington law.
How Long Do You Have to Report Sexual Abuse?
In Washington State, the time limit for reporting sexual abuse depends on the victim’s age when the abuse occurred and whether the person reporting is a mandatory reporter of child sexual abuse or a mandatory reporter of vulnerable adult sexual abuse. However, in both cases, Washington strongly encourages people to report within 48 hours of discovering the harm.
For adult survivors filing a sexual abuse civil lawsuit, the statute of limitations for reporting is generally three years from when a victim discovers, or should have reasonably discovered, the injury caused by the sexual abuse.
Washington’s criminal statute of limitations is more complex. It’s also important to note that the state has significantly changed its laws recently to extend reporting time limits and regularly updates its guidelines to protect victims. For this reason, it’s always advisable to consult with a legal professional to understand the specific laws that apply to your situation. However, new laws have removed reporting time limit for crimes against people younger than 16. While victims over 16 now have up to 10 to 20 years to report criminal sexual abuse, depending on the severity of the assault.
Other Helpful Resources
Prominent local organizations providing sexual abuse resources and support services include the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs. The National Sexual Assault Hotline and its Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) is a national organization that can offer immediate assistance and connects you with local resources.
Call Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC Today
Know that you have the right to request reporting confidentiality and explore legal options, such as obtaining a protective or restraining order against the perpetrator. If you feel hesitant or unsure about reporting sexual abuse or would like to speak to a sexual assault attorney about legal possibilities, we are ready to support you throughout the process. Contact Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner at 800-925-1875 for a confidential and free consultation.