Supporting Sexual Assault Victims During COVID-19
A consequence of the current COVID-19 stay-at-home measures is that victims of intimate partner violence, which often includes sexual violence, are spending more time at home confined with their abusers.Many policing agencies and victim service providers across the globe have seen an increase in calls about domestic and sexual violence. Calls for service may also drop during this time due to victims being unable to find a safe space to call; agencies may experience an increase in calls as stay-at-home orders are lifted and they are able to do so. While police response has changed in some ways during the COVID-19 pandemic, police are still responding to and investigating domestic and sexual violence crimes.
Agencies can encourage reporting by providing information on their social media pages and website on how to report intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and file for protection orders—and should include information on whether that process has changed or not due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Agencies can also partner with victim service organizations in their communities to share information about resources available for support, such as hotlines, advocacy services, and safety planning.
Additionally, providing a trauma-informed, victim-centered response when responding to these calls can help the victim feel supported. The IACP has several resources and training opportunities that can offer best practices to agencies when providing trauma-informed, victim-centered responses.
- Bringing Sexual Assault Offenders to Justice Roll-Call Training Video – three-part video developed to help officers generate strong cases by reframing sexual assault crimes, providing tools to conduct perpetrator-focused investigations, and building an understanding of victim behavior.
- Online VAW Resource Library – tools, resources, and policies to support police in responding to sexual assault as well as co-occurring crimes such as domestic violence, stalking, and strangulation.
- Trauma Informed Sexual Assault Investigations – webinars and training that provide best practices when responding to sexual assaults while holding offenders accountable, information on the neurobiological impact of trauma, and offender-focused investigative strategies.
- Sexual Assault Incident Reports: Investigative Strategies – guidelines and interview strategies based on best practices regarding sexual assault incident investigations.
- Response to Sexual Assault Report Review Checklist – checklist to assist officers and supervisors document the significant details and necessary elements of this complex crime.
- Sexual Assault Policy and Training Guidelines – procedure and policy recommendations around sexual assault that address various levels of police response to sexual assault from dispatch to supervisors, as well as collaborating with community partners.
- Intimate Partner Violence Response Policy and Training Content Guidelines – procedures and practices for working with victims of intimate partner violence that assist law enforcement in developing policies that meet the needs and circumstances of their communities and agencies.
Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, IACP is here to support responding officers and agency leaders as they continue to protect and serve our communities.
For further information regarding the IACP’s resources, contact Rachel Apfelbaum, Project Coordinator, at email@example.com or 1-800-THE-IACP ext. 843.