Legal Options

STESA Advocates are trained to guide survivors through their various legal options. All of STESA’s services are available to survivors, regardless of whether they choose to make a report to law enforcement. Please contact our 24-hour hotline at 805-564-3696 if you have any questions.

Reporting to Law Enforcement:

If a survivor chooses to initiate a report with law enforcement the interview may take place at the local police station or sheriff’s department, a medical facility, the survivor’s home, or at STESA’s office. Survivors have the right to have a trained sexual assault advocate during the entirety of the reporting process. (Penal Code 679.04)

California eliminated the statute of limitations for sexual assault, meaning that reporting may be initiated at any time. However, this applies only to sexual assaults committed after January 1, 2017. Please contact our 24-hour hotline to learn more about reporting options for assaults committed prior to January 1, 2017.

Medical-Forensic Exam:

Survivors who choose to make a report to law enforcement within 5 days (120 hours) of an assault may have the option of undergoing a medical-forensic exam to collect physical evidence. This exam consists of a medical examination and an interview with law enforcement. Medical treatment and prevention services are offered as part of the exam, at no cost to the survivor. Survivors have the right to decline any part of the examination, and may have an advocate present during the entire medical-forensic exam process.

The Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) attends to the forensic medical/legal exam.  This multi-disciplinary team responds to all reported cases of sexual assault in the county. The first responders for this team are STESA advocates, specially-trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE), law enforcement. This team works together to meet the medical and legal needs of survivors, and to ensure that all reports are handled in the most efficient manner.

Restricted Reporting:

This option is available to survivors who are eligible for a medical-forensic exam (within 120 hours of the assault), but have not yet decided to report to law enforcement. Although an investigation cannot be initiated until the survivor chooses to involve law enforcement, this reporting option provides for a trained nurse to collect time-sensitive physical evidence. This ensures that the survivor has all available evidence should they decide to make a report to law enforcement in the future.

Anonymous Reporting:

This option is available to survivors who do not wish to engage in the criminal justice system, but would still like the assault to be documented. Information about the assault will be collected and stored. The survivor may be notified if the perpetrator is accused of sexual assault in the future, and will have the option of proceeding with a report to law enforcement. Although law enforcement cannot make an arrest based on an anonymous report, this option enables the survivor to speak out, and may help lend credibility to another survivor’s story.

Personal Protection Order: Advocates are available to provide information and referrals related to personal protection orders.