"Many assaults are done by individuals that people care deeply about, it's a first time, there are a lot thoughts that maybe it will get better," says Bell. Hel says, those thoughts often keep victims from going to police.
A new federal law says they don't have to, at least not right away. Now, victims can come here for a forensic rape exam. Evidence gathered is kept on file with the kansas bureau of investigations, up to 5 years, in case they decide to press charges.
Until then, the hospital keeps the victim's name private.
This is an important change in federal law related to VAWA which has caused states such as Kansas to change their laws. The maximum time of rape kit storage varies from state to state and I believe 5 years should be the minimum time they are stored.
Besides uncertainty, a key reason for not reporting immediately or even within 4 years is safety and fear of harassment.
Someone raped by a spouse or a family member may need time to find stable housing and financial independence before reporting is worth the risk. When I volunteered on my local crisis line the first thing we needed to establish was whether the caller was safe.
Unfortunately, reporting can instantly change the answer from yes to no even if the rapist doesn't live in the same house.
A high school or college student raped by a popular teacher may not feel safe reporting until after graduation because the harassment that victim is sure will follow. This isn't irrational fear. Many people will attack rape victims in the name of protecting "victims" of rape accusations they "know" must be false. Harassment can be so severe that the rape victim may have a tough time reaching graduation.
Being raped is bad enough without adding years of harassment and possible follow-up assaults by people who believe the report is a false one.