The Northampton Police Department is committed to the competent, sensitive and thorough investigation of all reports of sexual assaults. We have Detectives and street-level Patrol Officers who have extensive training in the investigation of sexual assaults involving adults and children. Anyone who has any questions regarding sexual assault investigation is invited to call our department and ask for a sexual assault investigator who will be able to best answer any questions. Callers may choose to remain anonymous if they are unsure about whether or not they want the crime reported and instead, simply want information.
What is a sexual assault?
Sexual assaults can involve a variety of different sexual activity. The following is a list of some of the more common types of sexual offenses that we investigate:
Statutory Rape: Sexual penetration involving one or more people who are under the age of 16. In Massachusetts the age of consent is 16 and therefore anyone under that age cannot consent to sexual intercourse.
Forcible Rape: Any penetrative sexual contact of any orifice (mouth, anus or vagina) by any object (penis, fingers or foreign object) by another person without the consent of the victim.
Indecent Assault and Battery on a Person Under Age 14: This involves the sexual touching of a person under the age of 14 years old. Sexual touching may include contact with the victim’s buttocks, genital area, breasts, inner thigh or stomach.
Indecent Assault and Battery on a Person 14 or Over: This involves the sexual touching of a person who is 14 or over when that touching is non-consensual. Sexual touching may include contact with the victim’s buttocks, genital area, breasts, inner thigh or stomach.
Open and Gross: This involves the performing a sexual act in such a way as to evoke fear in the viewer. This crime is most often associated with public masturbation.
Indecent Exposure: This involves the exposure of sexual parts (genitals or breasts) to the public. This crime of most often associated with “flashing,” public urination or “mooning.”
Anyone who attempts to commit any of the preceeding acts could be charged with the attempt.
The gender of those involved is not considered, as sexual assaults can be committed by anyone and on any victim.
The majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone that the victim knows. It can occur on a date, in a car, outside, in groups of people or continuously over a longer period of time. Sexual Assault Investigators are well aware of the complexities of these types of incidents and are sensitive to victim’s needs and decisions.
Common Reactions to Sexual Assault
Sexual assault is a traumatic experience for most individuals, whether or not physical force was used. They can display a wide variety of emotions and everyone has their own way of dealing with these difficult situations. The victim may appear to be calm, composed and subdued. Or, a victim may shake, yell, laugh, cry, feel confused or they may have difficulty understanding and responding to new information. It is normal for a victim to feel:
• Shock and disbelief
• Memory loss
• Heightened sensitivity to touch
• Nightmares and flashbacks
• Changes in eating and sleeping habits
• Shame, humiliation and embarrassment
• Overwhelmed and a feeling of “going crazy”
• Intense fear of injury or death
Reporting the Incident to Police
Anyone who has been the victim of a sexual assault and who wants to report it to the police department, is encouraged to contact us and request to speak with a Sexual Assault Investigator. Detectives are used to taking reports of sexual assault that occurred hours, days, weeks or even years after an event. Older cases can be investigated and can be successfully prosecuted.
If the incident just occurred do not touch or change anything at the scene and do not wash or remove clothing. This may be difficult, but the more evidence that is preserved, the more helpful this will be for the victim later on.
If the incident occurred within the past 120 hours (5 days), the victim will be encouraged by the Detective to seek medical treatment at the hospital. Once medical treatment has been administered, the Detective may request that a Sexual Assault Kit be completed. These kits can be critical pieces of evidence if the case does go forward to prosecution and the physical evidence that can be collected is time-sensitive. If it is not collected early in the investigation, it will be lost and will not be available to assist the victim in the case. The sexual assault kit is conducted at the hospital and, in most cases, will be completed by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), along with the assistance of a physician. A victim should expect to be at the hospital for 2-3 hours.
Every victim who has a sexual assault kit done has the right to have a confidential advocate from the local rape crisis center present at the hospital for the exam. The hospital will usually call the advocate for you. If they do not, you can call 413-545-0800, 24-hours a day.
Once the sexual assault kit has been completed, or if the report involves an older case outside of the time period for physical evidence collection, the victim will then be asked to meet with an investigator to discuss the details of the case. These interviews are normally conducted in a private interview room at the police station. Details of the case are obtained and then reviewed by the investigator and the victim together.
The case can then move forward to the investigative stage, where Detective may collect statements from witnesses, obtain medical records or collect physical evidence. Once the case has been investigated it can then be reviewed and a determination is made about what will happen next in the case. Some cases result in arrest and prosecution and others do not. The outcome is dependent on a variety of factors that vary from case to case. Whatever the outcome, the victim will be updated throughout the investigation so that he/she knows the status of the case.