What Is a Rape Investigation?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A rape investigation is a law enforcement investigation into an allegation of rape to collect evidence a prosecutor will use to determine if the allegation should go to trial. If the prosecutor chooses to pursue the matter in court, the evidence from the investigation can be an important part of the case. In many regions, rape investigations may be spearheaded by a specially trained team that includes not just law enforcement officers but also medical care providers and victim advocates who offer support and assistance throughout the investigation and trial, in the event there is one.

Rape investigations begin with a reported sexual assault and evidence collection.
Rape investigations begin with a reported sexual assault and evidence collection.

Rape investigations begin with a report of rape from the victim. A law enforcement officer should then take a statement, collecting as much detail as possible, and ask the victim to sign it to verify its authenticity. It is common to tape victim statements in addition to transcribing them to make sure the law enforcement agency has a detailed record. Officers can request that the victim go to the hospital for a medical examination. In the examination, a doctor may collect samples and offer treatment to the patient, including prophylactic medications to prevent infection with sexually transmitted infections.

The prosecutor reviews available evidence to decide whether to press charges or send the case for review by a grand jury.
The prosecutor reviews available evidence to decide whether to press charges or send the case for review by a grand jury.

Law enforcement officers use the information in the victim statement to develop a plan for the rape investigation. This can include interviewing anyone with information about the case, as well as visiting a site to collect evidence, and apprehending a suspect. The victim may identify a specific suspect, or can provide information the police may use to find a person of interest. Victims may be asked to attend a police lineup to verify the identity of a suspect.

Rape investigators create a detailed report to submit to the prosecutor. It contains information about the case and the strength of the evidence and may include a recommendation on whether the case should move forward. The prosecutor reviews all this information and decides whether to press charges or take charges to a grand jury for an indictment, depending on how the legal system works. Sometimes the conclusion of a rape investigation is that the evidence is too poor to proceed to court, and it would be inadvisable to press charges. This does not mean a rape did not occur, only that the prosecutor feels a court case would be unproductive.

In the course of a rape investigation, a victim advocate typically provides support and assistance. The advocate can accompany the victim to medical examinations, questioning, police lineups, and court, if the victim requests it. Advocates may also provide information about how the process works, so victims know what to expect from the rape investigation.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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