FAQs about Police Options
- Can I file a police report?
Yes, both the University and the University of Illinois Police Department strongly encourage immediate reporting of sexual misconduct. However, the survivor has the choice whether, when, and how to report the incident.
- What will happen if I report to the police?
Police investigators will want to meet with you and ask you detailed questions about the incident. We understand that the questions may be uncomfortable, but police officers are trained to ask necessary questions in a respectful way and to be sensitive to the trauma that survivors of sexual violence experience. The investigators will try to gather specific information that will aid in their investigation and the prosecution of the offender. If you can identify the offender, investigators will follow-up with that person. Depending on the circumstances, investigators may also want to speak with others who were present before, during, or after the incident.
The police will keep the survivor informed and let the survivor control how the investigation proceeds through each step. Survivors are encouraged to use friends and advocates for support, and those supporters are invited to attend any meetings with police.
Federal law requires university police departments notify their campus communities of certain crimes that happen on or immediately adjacent to campus property. Depending on the nature of the crime reported, the police may be required to notify the campus of the risk created by the incident. However, this notification will not contain any identifying information about you or specific details of the incident that might identify you. That notice is intended to be a resource for the entire community, to provide information that can help protect the campus community, and to offer support for people who may have experienced or know someone who has experienced sexual violence.
- What if I'm not sure it's technically a crime?
If you experience sexual misconduct, you can report the incident to the police even if you do not know whether it qualifies as a crime. The police can offer assistance and refer you to other resources on campus or in the community. We understand that survivors sometimes are uncertain about reporting sexual violence to police if, for example, they are in a relationship with the offender, if there are no apparent physical injuries, or if the offender stopped or got scared away during the incident. Sexual violence can happen anywhere, in any form and with anyone, and we treat reports of sexual violence seriously in all cases.
- Will I get in trouble if I report an incident to police?
Some survivors may be wary of reporting incidents to the police if they were engaged in certain activities before or during the incident, such as underage alcohol consumption or illegal drug use. Remember that nothing you did caused the incident to happen. Local police departments in the Champaign-Urbana community generally follow the Medical Amnesty and Good Samaritan procedures, which can protect students from legal or academic consequences in some cases. The police themselves want to support and be advocates for survivors, and they will be focused on your well-being rather than punishing you for low-level offenses that may have occurred.
- What if I don't know for sure what happened?
Sometimes offenders may use drugs or alcohol when committing sexual misconduct, so the survivor may have no recollection of what happened. The police can still help by finding witnesses and using other evidence to piece together what happened.
If you suspect you have been sexually assaulted, it is important to preserve physical evidence that can be useful in the identification and prosecution of an offender even if you do not yet know if you want to pursue criminal charges. You should not bathe, change clothes or straighten up before meeting with the police. You can visit a hospital where a trained nurse can conduct a forensic exam and collect necessary physical evidence, but you are not required to undergo this exam.
- How soon should I report an incident to the police?
Although the University strongly encourages immediate reporting of sexual misconduct to law enforcement, the survivor has the choice whether, when, and how to report the incident. The sooner any crime is reported to the police, the more likely it is that law enforcement will be able to identify offenders and hold them accountable. Investigators can more easily collect evidence that will aid in the arrest and prosecution of the offender. Illinois has statutes of limitations that limit how long after a crime that offenders may be prosecuted. However, it is not uncommon to successfully arrest and convict sexual criminals even several years after the incident occurred. Survivors are in control of this decision, and it is never too late to report sexual violence or misconduct. Even if the statute of limitations has passed, your report may still be helpful in preventing crime.
- I've already reported the incident to the university. Why should I contact the police?
A criminal investigation and a university investigation have two separate purposes and proceed nearly independently of each other. Police seek to arrest and convict people who have broken the law. The university considers whether a student has violated the Student Code and determines what disciplinary sanction is appropriate for that violation. Investigators on either side may share information regarding the incident, but the two processes are separate and the standards for holding someone responsible differ. In a criminal trial, the defendant must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In the student disciplinary process, the standard is whether it is more likely than not that a Student Code violation occurred — a "preponderance" standard.
- Can I file a police report if I am not the person who was the target of a crime?
You can file a report, but we very strongly encourage you to consult with the survivor before acting on their behalf. Filing a police report is an important decision for survivors, and they are the ones who should control how they proceed. Police are not likely to conduct an investigation if the survivor is not ready or comfortable with that choice. It is more helpful to support a survivor's decision whether or not to report a crime, rather than making that report — and that decision — on their behalf.
- If I tell what happened to the police, what will happen to the alleged offender?
If investigators have probable cause to believe that the alleged offender has committed a crime, that person most likely will be arrested and the Champaign County State's Attorney will file charges against them. If the alleged offender is a student, the Office for Student Conflict Resolution will investigate whether the student violated the Student Code and determines what disciplinary sanction is appropriate for that violation. Dismissal of an offender from the University is one of the disciplinary sanctions for sexual misconduct.
- Is there a way to keep the alleged offender away from me?
If you share a residence hall or have classes in common with the offender, you can work with individual academic or housing units to avoid coming into contact with the offender during the course of your everyday activities. If the alleged offender is arrested, the judge may order that person to not contact you. If there is a pattern of harassment, you can ask a judge to issue a restraining or no-contact order. The offender can be arrested and charged with a crime if that person violates the judge's order.
- If I report to the police, will the University find out?
Yes. Police reports involving students are shared with the Office for Student Conflict Resolution, which investigates sexual misconduct and determines what action, if any, is appropriate. Police reports are public documents although a survivor's name, identifying information, contact information and other private details are kept confidential.
- I'm still not sure I want to report to the police. Who can I talk to?
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign community has confidential resources, including Confidential Advisors (advocates), that you may speak with before deciding to report through a non-confidential process, like filing a police report. If you are not sure how to proceed, you are encouraged to talk to someone about the decision. We really care at Illinois, and the community is ready and willing to assist anyone who has experienced or knows someone who has experienced sexual violence or misconduct.
Resources & Support
- Counseling Center
- McKinley Health Center
- Women's Resources Center (Confidential Advisors)
- Rape Advocacy Counseling & Education Services (R.A.C.E.S.)
- Courage Connection (Domestic Violence)
- Champaign, Urbana, or University Police Departments
(217) 333-8911 (Non-Emergency)
- Office for Access & Equity
- Student Assistance Center
(Office of the Dean of Students)
- Office for Student Conflict Resolution