Sexual Assault Victims Bill of Rights & Resources for Victim Support

Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights (R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-98-5)

This webpage is intended to inform victims of sexual assault of the rights provided to them under Rhode Island law. These rights are available to all victims of sexual assault, even if they choose not to participate in the criminal justice system or decide not to obtain a medical examination. View a .pdf version of the Sexual Assault Victim's Bill of Rights here.

Also available in: Spanish, Portuguese, French, Haitian Creole, Simplified Chinese, Italian, Khmer, Yoruba, Arabic, and Thai.

If you are the victim of a sexual assault, it is recommended that you go to a hospital to obtain a medical forensic examination and address any other injuries you may have as soon as possible. You have the right to obtain a sexual assault medical examination from a hospital and have a sexual assault evidence kit collected. Sexual assault evidence kits are standard and invaluable tools in collecting evidence after a sexual assault. These kits are performed by medical professionals and can help investigators to identify offenders through DNA profiling and other evidentiary means

A sexual assault evidence kit is part of a medical forensic examination for sexual assaults, and typically includes a physical examination and collection of biological and physical findings, as well as a test for sexually transmitted infections (STI) and, if appropriate, testing for Drug Facilitated Sexual Assaults (DFSA). While victims are encouraged to seek medical care at any time following a sexual assault, a sexual assault evidence kit should be collected as soon as possible and ideally within 72, and not later than 96, hours following the assault.

Victims are eligible to receive compensation for the cost of their forensic sexual assault examination, regardless of whether or not they report the assault to law enforcement and/or cooperate with any investigation or prosecution.

You have a right to choose whether to report a sexual assault to a police department or other law enforcement agency.

Reporting your sexual assault to law enforcement does not mean that you have to pursue charges or participate in any investigation and/or prosecution. You may choose to report and specifically decline to pursue charges and/or participate. However, your decision not to participate in the criminal justice system will likely limit your eligibility for benefits under the crime victim compensation program.

Your decision to report your sexual assault to law enforcement impacts whether your kit will be tested.

  • Should you choose to report your sexual assault to a law enforcement agency, regardless of whether you pursue charges or cooperate with the investigation and prosecution, the physical evidence gathered with your kit will be tested by a state laboratory within a time frame specified by law and shared with law enforcement.
  • If you choose not to report your sexual assault to a law enforcement agency, your kit will be retained by the Rhode Island Department of Health for a period of at least ten (10) years, but will not be tested unless and until there is a report made to law enforcement.

If you choose not to report a sexual assault to law enforcement immediately or shortly after it occurs, you always reserve the right to report it to law enforcement at a future time.

However, victims should be aware that the passage of time may impede law enforcement’s ability to investigate and the Attorney General’s Office’s ability to prosecute and seek justice. For help navigating the criminal justice system, you may speak with a court or law enforcement Victim Advocate or a Sexual Assault Advocate from Day One at www.dayoneri.org. Contact information for advocates can be found at www.ricadv.org/help-for-victims-in-criminal-cases/.

Victims are always strongly encouraged to report their sexual assaults to law enforcement. It is never too late to report.

There is no statute of limitations for any rape, first-degree sexual assault, first-degree child molestation sexual assault, or second-degree child molestation sexual assault. Meaning, legal proceedings may be initiated at any time thereafter. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-12-17.

For any other criminal offense, you are still encouraged to report even if it is too late to bring charges in your individual case. Any information you can provide helps Rhode Island keep its communities safer and may still assist in identifying your perpetrator and bringing them to justice, particularly if they committed other sexual assaults.

During any forensic medical examination or any interview with law enforcement, prosecutors, or defense attorneys, you have a right to consult with a sexual assault victim advocate. While a victim advocate will not be able to offer legal advice, they can offer support, assistance with safety planning, connect victims with additional resources and/or referrals, help victims understand their options, and explain what to expect from the criminal justice process.

Any conversations you have with a sexual assault victim advocate will be confidential and privileged, meaning they will not share any part of your conversation with a medical examiner, a police officer, a prosecutor, or a defense attorney. Your victim advocate will review with you any limitations on the confidentiality of your conversations with them.

You have a right to be informed of your right to consult with a victim advocate by a medical examiner, a law enforcement officer, or state prosecutor prior to being asked any questions about your experience. Any such examination or interview shall not continue unless such right is knowingly and voluntarily waived. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-98-5(a)(1).

Even if you decide not to consult with a victim advocate at one point during the investigation of the assault, you retain the right to consult with a victim advocate at any other stage of the investigation. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-98-5(a)(1).

Advocates are available to speak with you at any time through Rhode Island’s statewide confidential Victims of Crime Helpline at 1-800-494-8100. Additional resources that you may find helpful are included at the end of this document.

You have a right to obtain, upon your request, the following information, communicated in a manner of your choosing, regarding your kit:

  • The location, testing date and testing results of your kit;
  • Whether a DNA profile was obtained from the kit, and whether there are matches to DNA profiles in state or federal databases; and
  • The estimated destruction date for the kit.
  • You also have the right to request written notice of the destruction of your kit, and to have it provided no later than sixty (60) days prior to the date of intended destruction. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-98-5(a)(2) and (a)(4).

If you reported your sexual assault to law enforcement, you may request access to information about your kit from the law enforcement agency to which you reported.

If you did not report your sexual assault to law enforcement, then your kit was not tested. However, you may request the estimated destruction date of your kit from the Rhode Island Department of Health.

If you choose to report your sexual assault to law enforcement, you have certain rights to information under Rhode Island law.

  • You have a right to be informed when there is any change in the status of your case, including whether your case has been closed. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-98-5(a)(3).
  • If your case has been closed, you also have a right to be informed if and when it is reopened. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-98-5(a)(3).

If you choose not to report your case at the time of your medical exam and the collection of your kit:

  • You have a right to be informed as to how to file a report with law enforcement and have your kit tested in the future. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-98-5(a)(7).
  • Victims may report their sexual assaults by contacting their local police department, the Rhode Island State Police, or the police department where the sexual assault occurred.

Victims whose cases are being prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office may access information through VOICE, an online system that streamlines service delivery by giving victims access to real-time case data in a safe-secure environment. Victims can register for VOICE at https://voice.riag.ri.gov

You have a right to further preservation of your kit and its contents.

  • Kits associated with a reported crime that is uncharged or unsolved shall be preserved by the appropriate law enforcement agency for at least fifty (50) years. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-98-4(b)(3).
  • Unreported and therefore untested kits will be preserved by the Rhode Island Department of Health for at least ten (10) years. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-98-5(a)(5); see also R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-98-4(b)(1).

You have a right to designate a person of your choosing to act as a recipient of any of the information you have a right to receive pursuant to this Bill of Rights. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-98-5(a)(6).

As a victim of sexual assault, you have a right to apply to the Crime Victim Compensation Program and you have a right to be informed of your right to apply. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-98-5(a)(8). An application can be submitted here: https://cvcapp.treasury.ri.gov/. You may also print out an application and fax it to (401) 462-7694 or mail it to the following address:

Crime Victim Compensation Program
Office of the Rhode Island General Treasurer
50 Service Avenue
Warwick, RI 02886

Questions regarding the Crime Victim Compensation Program can be directed to (401) 462-7655.

Victims of sexual assault may also be eligible for federal programs for medical and other costs associated with sexual assault. Please visit: https://www.fbi.gov/resources/victim-services/rights-of-federal-crime-victims.

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

RI Victims of Crime Helpline: 1-800-494-8100, www.helplineri.com

Rhode Island’s 24-hour statewide Helpline offers free and confidential support, information, and advocacy for those impacted by crimes of violence. Advocates also offer confidential support through a 24/7 live chat helpline, accessible by visiting www.ricadv.org and clicking the box that says “24 HR HELPLINE” at the top right of the screen or by visiting www.bvacri.org and clicking the button on the home page that says “Live Chat” on the right side of the screen.

Day One: 401-421-4100, www.dayoneri.org

Day One’s mission is to reduce the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence and to advocate for those affected by it. Day One is the only agency in RI organized specifically to deal with issues of sexual assault as a community concern.

RI Coalition Against Domestic Violence: 1-800-494-8100, www.ricadv.org

The purpose of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence is to eliminate domestic violence in Rhode Island. Their mission is to support and enhance the work of their member agencies and to provide leadership on the issue of domestic violence.

Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center: 401-723-3057, www.bvacri.org

The mission of the Blackstone Valley Advocacy center is to provide comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, and prevention education to the community at large.

RI Office of Victims Services: Victim Notification Hotline: 877-744-8463, www.doc.ri.gov/victims/office-victims-services

The Office of Victims Services is designed to serve all crime victims whose offenders are currently in custody at the ACI. OVS can also assist concerned family members of these victims, as well as professional services providers and law enforcement.

Sojourner House: Helpline: 401-765-3232, www.sojournerri.org

Sojourner House is a comprehensive domestic violence and sexual assault agency. Their Sexual Health Advocacy Program works to highlight the importance of sexual health and fulfillment in the overall healing process.

Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center: Hotline: 401-738-1700, www.ebccenter.org

The mission of the Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center is to end the perpetration and societal tolerance of interpersonal violence, including all forms of domestic violence and sexual abuse, and, until that is achieved, to provide comprehensive services to victims and education in the community.

Safety Planning

Protection Orders

A protection order is an order from a court that prohibits another individual from coming near or doing things to a particular person. Rhode Islanders may obtain a protection order in the Family Court, the District Court or the Superior Court. A protection order is not a guarantee for anyone’s safety, but violation of a protective order may be a criminal or civil offense, depending on the particular circumstances of the case, such as whether it is a domestic relationship. The resources listed below provide information for individuals seeking guidance on obtaining a protection order.

To reach a court advocate, call the courthouse in your area:

  • Garrahy Judicial Complex (Providence) – (401) 458-3372
  • Noel Judicial Complex (Kent) – (401) 822-6680
  • McGrath Judicial Complex (Wakefield) – (401) 782-4174
  • Murray Judicial Complex (Newport) – (401) 619-2555 / (401) 619-2865

Address Confidentiality Program

As of January 1, 2023, the Address Confidentiality Program Act was established, and allows the Secretary of State to provide a person who has been subjected to domestic violence with a substitute address. Victims of domestic and sexual violence, abuse, stalking, and trafficking are eligible for this program.  The Secretary of State may direct mail to be forwarded to that address. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-164 et seq.

For more information, or to apply to be a participant in the Address Confidentiality Program, visit the RI Secretary of State website: www.sos.ri.gov/AddressConfidentialityProgram

Confidentiality of Health Care Communications and Information

In addition to the Address Confidentiality Program, The Confidentiality of Health Care Communications and Information Act, passed in 2021, allows patients on another’s insurance plan, e.g., a parent or abusive partner’s plan, to redirect health insurance communications to an alternate safe address, email or phone number. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 5-37.3-12.

If you would like to have your health insurance communications redirected, visit your health insurer’s website to access the Confidential Communications Request form.  If you have trouble locating the form, contact your health insurer directly to request the form.