Matt Karzen: DA’s office is committed to removing barriers to reporting sexual assault
Recently, it became apparent there may be a misunderstanding in the community as to whether a reported sexual assault can be prosecuted if the report to law enforcement is delayed. Because that misunderstanding could result in sexual assault survivors not reporting the crime due to a mistaken belief that delayed reporting bars prosecution, a correction is necessary.
The District Attorney’s Office has successfully prosecuted “cold report” sexual assaults with delayed reports as long as several years, and it has not, and does not, decline prosecution of sex crimes only because of a delayed report. Delayed reporting, standing alone, is never a bar to prosecution. Victims of sexual assault have several options for reporting, including getting an anonymous, medical forensic exam, which will preserve evidence but would not be reported to law enforcement unless and until the victim decided to do so.
Sexual assaults involving a delayed report are common. It is imperative anyone who believes they are the victim of a sexual offense who wants to report it to law enforcement understand they are encouraged to do so, regardless of when it occurred.
Under Colorado law, certain sex offenses have no statute of limitations, and for others, that period extends several years. No matter how long it takes a survivor to find the courage to report a sexual offense, the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office will review the case, and when the evidence and law support prosecution, it will be prosecuted.
The law of criminal prosecution, particularly sexual assault, is complex. For victims, it can be confusing and frustrating, as can the distinction between criminal behavior and behavior that may be subject to civil action but does not meet the legal definition of a crime. A decision whether and how to prosecute a case involves a myriad of factors, including the survivor’s choice whether to move forward with a sexual assault prosecution, which is exceedingly personal.
For those currently struggling with that decision or that may struggle in the future, please know the District Attorney’s Office is here to support you in every way we can, whether that involves prosecuting your case or helping you make an informed decision about whether you want the case prosecuted. In this jurisdiction, we have investigators who handle these cases with the attention and professionalism they deserve, and survivors can take comfort in that fact.
Finally, our community-based Advocates organization is available to provide crucial emotional support and safety planning, as well as discuss reporting options with victims, with full confidentiality.
For too long sexual assault has been underreported, and we are committed to helping remove barriers these survivors face when deciding whether to report to law enforcement.
District attorney for the 14th Judicial District
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