Legal Disclaimer: The following is basic legal information, provided as a public service by Wyoming’s lawyers. The information provided is not a substitute for speaking to an attorney. Only an attorney can give you legal advice regarding your specific situation. Click here for help finding a lawyer.
- What is sexual assault?
- I was not "raped" but I was touched inappropriately, is that sexual assault??
- How common is sexual assault?
- If I have been sexually assaulted, should I seek medical attention?
- What is a rape kit?
- Do I have to cooperate with law enforcement in order to get a medical forensic exam?
- Policy for Payment of Rape Kit
- If I have been sexually assaulted, what are my options for reporting?
- If I report the sexual assault to the police, what happens next?
- If I do not want to report the sexual assault to the police, are there any other legal actions I can take?
- Can there be both a criminal case and a civil case against the perpetrator?
- What if I was sexually assaulted at work?
- If I was sexually assaulted at school, should I report the incident to someone there?
- What if I am not a citizen of the United States, but I am a victim of sexual assault? (¿Qué pasa si no soy ciudadano de los Estados Unidos, pero yo soy una víctima de agresión sexual?)
- The sexual assault occurred in my home and I don't want to return. Can I get out of my lease?
- Want additional resources and support?
What is sexual assault?
In Wyoming, sexual assault is when someone subjects another person to any unwanted sexual contact or threats including rape and attempted rape. Usually sexual assault occurs when someone touches any part of another person’s body in a sexual way, even through clothes, without that person’s consent. Click here for the statutory definition of sexual contact.
According to state law, a person who is unconscious (passed out), asleep or otherwise physically unable to communicate their unwillingness to act, whether from alcohol, drugs, or illness, cannot give consent to sex. Therefore, if sexual contact occurs under one of these conditions, it is sexual assault.
Various drugs are used to facilitate rape. Alcohol is by far the most frequently used. Click here for more information on alcohol and sexual assault.
Perpetrators use different levels of force to commit sexual assault that may include causing submission, coercion or manipulation. Specific areas of sexual assault may include:
- Forced sexual intercourse (rape);
- Sodomy (anal sexual acts);
- Oral sexual acts;
- Sexual contact;
- Child molestation;
- Fondling, and
- Attempted rape.
See the Rape Abuse And Incest National Network (RAINN) website for more information.
I was not "raped" but I was touched inappropriately, is that sexual assault?
Even if you were wearing clothes and were touched inappropriately without your consent it may be considered sexual assault. Sexual assault may include unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. It includes sexual touching and fondling. Various drugs can also be used to facilitate rape. Alcohol is by far the most frequently used. Click here for more information on alcohol and sexual assault.
How common is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is very common. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States has been raped in her lifetime. Studies have shown that 2/3 of the time, perpetrators know the person they sexually assault.
If I have been sexually assaulted, should I seek medical attention?
Whether or not you chose to report the assault, it is important that you be checked and treated for possible injuries, even if there are no visible injuries. You may seek services at any medical facility, hospital, clinic or reproductive health center.
For your health and well-being, it is important to get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. If you are female, you may also have concerns about pregnancy.
What is a rape kit?
In addition to these tests for STDs and pregnancy, you are encouraged to consider undergoing a medical forensic examination, which has been commonly referred to as a rape kit. This medical examination is very important to connect the perpetrator to the assault and to document any injuries you might have. This examination should include a medical forensic history, physical and emotional assessment, documentation of injuries, collection of forensic samples by using the Wyoming Biological Evidence Collection Kit, (i.e. rape kit), and provide support and resources to the sexual assault patient. Local domestic violence/sexual assault advocates can provide victims with specific information on the medical forensic examination in each community.
Do I have to cooperate with law enforcement in order to get a medical forensic exam?
No. A victim of sexual assault does not have to cooperate with law enforcement to get a forensic medical exam. Cooperation is also not required to get reimbursed for a forensic medical exam.
Policy for Payment of Rape Kit
The Wyoming Office of the Attorney General, Division of Victim Services (DVS) is committed to supporting adult victims of sexual assault to aid in their healing. For more information on the goals and procedures to receive a forensic medical examination and necessary medical treatment, whether or not you choose to report the crime to law enforcement, see the Wyoming Division of Victim Services website.
If I have been sexually assaulted, what are my options for reporting?
It is your decision whether or not you want to report what happened to you.
If you choose to report an act of sexual assault, you can call the police or seek medical attention as soon as possible. You are not required to cooperate with law enforcement in order to have a medical forensic examination. The sooner it is reported the more likely important evidence of the assault will be available. For more information about reporting a sexual assault, Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) has compiled a list of frequently asked questions.
To protect the evidence of the crime, it is recommended that you do not:
- Throw away any clothes that were worn at the time of the sexual assault;
- Shower or bathe;
- Brush or comb any body hair;
- Use the restroom;
- Brush teeth or gargle water or mouthwash;
- Put on makeup;
- Eat or drink anything;
- Clean or straighten up the crime scene.
However, even you don’t avoid doing one of the above things, you can still report and still receive a medical forensic examination.
If I report the sexual assault to the police, what happens next?
The decision to report is entirely yours. The process after reporting varies from location to location and while it can be empowering, it can also trigger a variety of emotions like anger, shame or self-blame. Consider contacting a local domestic violence or sexual assault program for help from an advocate who can provide you with information and support as you work through the process of reporting a sexual assault. When you report the assault to the police, the investigator may ask if you want to have criminal charges brought against the perpetrator. You may be able to answer that question, right after the incident, or you can discuss the option with and advocate, friends or family before deciding. Occasionally, the prosecutor will move forward with charges based solely on the evidence available. Realize that having charges brought against the perpetrator may help you heal and be empowering as you gain control of the situation and help bring an offender to justice.
If it is decided that charges will be brought against the perpetrator, the state prosecutor (District or County Attorney) will file criminal charges. The prosecutor will work on behalf of the state and not you directly, to hold the offender criminally responsible. All of the evidence collected will help the prosecutor pursue the perpetrator. It is important to note that many sexual assault cases are resolved through plea bargains. A plea bargain is where a defendant (perpetrator) agrees to plead guilty in return for a reduced sentence and penalty. In that situation, chances are better that the case will be criminally resolved without you having to testify.
In cases that do not involve plea bargains, the prosecutor will look at the evidence and determine if there is enough to bring the case to trial. If the case goes to trial, you will very likely be asked to testify as a witness for the state.
It is also likely that you will be given a victim/witness advocate to guide you through the reporting process. The reporting process can be very emotional and may require you to lean on friends and family for support. Additionally, you may wish to discuss any concerns you have with the prosecutor, before you go to trial.
For more information about sexual assault crime victim’s rights, visit the Wyoming Division of Victim Services website.
If I do not want to report the sexual assault to the police, are there any other legal actions I can take?
Yes, if you know who the perpetrator of your sexual assault is, you may be able to bring a suit against him/her in civil court. You should consult an attorney to guide you through the process. It is possible that an attorney will work on a contingency basis. This means that an attorney may work on your case for no money upfront, but instead for a percentage of the amount you might win in a lawsuit.
There are many potential advantages to pursuing a sexual assault claim in civil court. In a non-criminal case, also called a civil lawsuit, the victim can ask for damages (money) for the emotional and physical trauma experienced from the sexual assault.
Your attorney can take measures to protect your privacy and mitigate the negative effects the sexual assault may have on your housing, employment, and educational situations.
It is important to educate yourself about the advantages and disadvantages of filing a sexual assault case in civil court. It is strongly recommended that you contact an attorney to evaluate your case.
In Wyoming, there are several organizations that may be able to handle your case or refer you to someone who can.
- Wyoming State Bar Attorney Referral Program
- Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association
- Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault
- Family and Child Legal Advocacy Clinic
Can there be both a criminal case and a civil case against the perpetrator?
Yes, you may pursue a civil suit against the perpetrator while the state presses criminal charges against the perpetrator.
What if I was sexually assaulted at work?
Being sexually assaulted at work may affect your ability to do your job. This may be because you feel unsafe at work because of the assault. You may even have difficulty going to work after the sexual assault, especially if your employer has not been supportive.
An attorney may be able to assist you if any of the above situations apply to you. An attorney can discuss whether you qualify for disability leave, unemployment insurance, or vacation time, sick time, or a personal leave of absence. Additionally, the attorney may be able to negotiate with your employer for reasonable accommodations, time off, transfer of the perpetrator, or firing of the perpetrator, when appropriate and applicable.
Furthermore, many employers have policies dealing with perpetrators of sexual assault because the employers also benefit from safe environments for their employees. As a result, you may also be able to claim worker’s compensation if you were assaulted at work by another employee.
You should seriously consider reporting the incident to your boss or human resources manager if the episode occurred when you were working. By reporting the incident, you are letting others know what is going on. If you feel it is safe to do so, reporting the incident may help further protect you in the future and may prevent others from being harmed.
It is recommended that you seek the advice of a lawyer if you were sexually assaulted at work. Click here for help finding a lawyer.
If I was sexually assaulted at school, should I report the incident to someone there?
Yes, if you were assaulted at school you should report the incident to your school’s administrators, advocates or campus police. By reporting the incident, you are letting others know what is going on. This may help protect you in the future and may prevent others from being harmed.
Additionally, schools typically have policies that deal with perpetrators of sexual assault because they would like safe environments for their students.
Reporting may be complicated when the sexual assault occurs on college campuses. Typically college campuses are small communities, which are shared by friends. People may pressure you to not report the assault. Additionally, even if the perpetrator leaves campus, the perpetrator’s friends may be set on retaliation. These issues should be discussed with both your school and an attorney in order to ensure your safety while on school grounds or campus.
What if I am not a citizen of the United States, but I am a victim of sexual assault? (¿Qué pasa si no soy ciudadano de los Estados Unidos, pero yo soy una víctima de agresión sexual?)
If you are not a citizen of the United States, but you are a victim of sexual assault you may have options, including a U-VISA, T-VISA, Cancellation of Removal, Continued Presence or a VAWA Self-Petition. For more information, see (Para obtener más información, vea) this report from the American Immigration Council.
The sexual assault occurred in my home and I don't want to return. Can I get out of my lease?
In Wyoming, there is a law called the Wyoming Safe Homes Act, W.S. 1-21-1303, which allows some victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to terminate their home or apartment leases before their contracted end date. The lease may be terminated if:
- You or a member of your household are the victim of domestic abuse or sexual assault on the premises owned or controlled by the landlord;
- You give seven (7) days written notice to the landlord before vacating the property and the notice states that the reason for vacating is because of domestic violence or sexual abuse and includes the date of the violence, and you provide documentation of the violence from medical personnel, police, or from the court; and
- The written notice is provided within 60 days of the date the violence occurred.
- You might also have a claim for a breach of contract if your landlord does not allow you to get out of your rental agreement.
Want additional resources and support?
For additional information on sexual assault and for further resources, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. The hotline is confidential and allows the caller to receive specific advice for their individual situation.