Supporting Victims and Survivors of Sexual Assault
In North Carolina and across the nation, victims and survivors of sexual assault must navigate a series of obstacles in their journey through trauma, justice, and healing. No two victim-survivors share the same story, or the same journey.
But this much is clear: The criminal justice system must do better for victims of sexual assault. While we work to seek justice and hold offenders accountable, we cannot cause additional harm to those who have already suffered so much. The North Carolina Department of Justice and Attorney General Josh Stein are committed to improving the justice system so that there’s help and healing at every step.
If you or someone you know is a victim or survivor of sexual assault, we hope these resources help you better understand the options available to you and how the criminal justice system is working to better serve you.
There are local, state, and national organizations working to support you if you are a victim of sexual assault or need assistance processing your experience and understanding the options available to you.
If you or someone you know needs immediate support or assistance, please call 911 or contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-4673 or http://nccasa.org/get-help/.
You may also consider reaching out to:
- North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault
- Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline
- Department of Defense Safe Helpline (for members of the DoD community)
- A local service provider near you
Our Work to Support Victims
The Department of Justice houses several departments that contribute to our work to confront the sexual assault epidemic in North Carolina. We support the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases, develop policy and legislation that gives resources and rights to victims and protects individuals from assaults, test sexual assault evidence kits, and educate the public about solutions and ongoing efforts to confront this heinous crime.
We are working to ensure that at every stage of the criminal justice process, we uphold our responsibility to victims by putting them at the center. And while we’ve still got work to do, we aim to make sure we help victims in a way that is informed by experts, sensitive to their experiences and backgrounds, and helps them wherever they may be in their journey.
This means having honest conversations about changing the culture around sexual assault investigations and prosecutions. Our office houses both the Criminal Justice Education Training and Standards Commission and the Sheriffs’ Education Training and Standards Commissions. These commissions develop training standards and establish training topics for law enforcement officers. This includes providing training to law enforcement so they can conduct sexual assault investigations through a victim-centered and trauma-informed approach.
The State Crime Lab uses DNA evidence and forensic biology to establish links between alleged perpetrators of a crime and the victims. Our experts conduct analysis of evidence and test sexual assault kits to aid law enforcement investigations and get justice for survivors and victims. Learn more about the lab’s forensic biology and DNA testing, and learn what happens when testing kits results in a hit in the DNA CODIS database.
We owe it to every survivor to analyze the evidence in their sexual assault kit. The lab launched and began operating the state’s sexual assault evidence collection kit tracking system in October 2018. The system ensures that survivors, law enforcement, medical providers, prosecutors, and lab personnel can see the status of their kit. This transparency helps ensure that survivors are not kept in the dark about their kit testing, prevents backlogs, and places greater accountability on criminal justice stakeholders.
Attorneys at the Department of Justice also work to uphold the convictions of those who commit assault when those cases are in North Carolina’s appellate courts.
The North Carolina Department of Justice’s Public Protection Section supports survivors of sexual violence by providing information about their legal rights and protections. The section operates the Address Confidentiality Program(ACP) for victims and survivors of violence and abuse. If you are a victim, you can enroll in ACP. This program will help keep your new address safe from possible or former abusers.
Improving the Criminal Justice System for Victims
Attorney General Stein and the Department of Justice have undertaken several initiatives in the past years to end the sexual assault kit backlog, give sexual assault victims and survivors more legal tools and protections to process their crime, and help the criminal justice system hold offenders accountable and keep the public safe.
In 2017, the Department of Justice conducted an inventory of sexual assault kits in local law enforcement custody. That inventory uncovered approximately 15,000 untested sexual assault kits sitting on shelves in local law enforcement offices around the state. Attorney General Stein drafted and championed the Survivor Act, which became law in 2019. The Survivor Act is aimed at testing all untested kits in North Carolina and preventing backlogs from occurring in the future.
The law provides $6 million to test older sexual assault evidence collection kits and requires law enforcement agencies to submit newly-collected sexual assault kits for testing within 45 days of the kit’s collection. The legislation also requires law enforcement agencies to establish review teams to survey their entire untested sexual assault kit inventory and determine a priority submission order for testing.
The SAFE Child Act, spearheaded by Attorney General Stein, also became law in 2019. The legislation protects children from abuse in person and online and modernizes sexual assault laws in North Carolina. That means that if you’re 18 years or older, and you know a child is being abused, you must report it to your local law enforcement agency.
The law also extends the statute of limitations to bring certain criminal actions against people who have allegedly committed child abuse. A prosecutor will now have up to 10 years, instead of the original two years, after the date of an alleged incident to bring a misdemeanor criminal child abuse charge.
The legislation also helps victims hold their abusers accountable for the harm they suffered by increasing the amount of time that a person who was sexually abused as a minor can file a civil lawsuit against their abuser – from the age of 21 to 28. Anyone who was originally barred from taking civil action because of the old statute of limitations, no matter their age, will have two years to file an action under the SAFE Child Act. That two-year period went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, and will end on Dec. 31, 2021.
In 2018, the department received a $2 million grant from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance Sexual Assault Kit Initiative to test untested kits currently in the custody of local law enforcement and train members of the criminal justice system in how to create and implement multi-disciplinary teams to ensure victim-centered sexual assault investigations.
For additional resources related to support for victims of sexual assault and other violent crime, please consider contacting these organizations and service providers:
- NCDPS Rape Victim Assistance Program
- Victims Compensation Services
- North Carolina Victim Assistance Network
Resources for a Victim’s Loved Ones and Supporters
Helping a loved one get and accept help and heal from sexual assault can be challenging. These are difficult conversations for victims, and complex for both the victim and their loved ones to navigate. Here are resources to help you better support people in your life in the aftermath of these traumatic experiences: