Indicted Case Updates
While each District may differ in how each program is run, the Central District's Federal Victim/Witness Assistance Program within the U.S. Attorney's Office offers a variety of services to eligible victims, which may include:
Crisis intervention and support services
Referral to community resources
Information about the status of a victim's case in the criminal justice process. Registry with the Bureau of Prisons to obtain information about an inmate's release date. Accompanying victims to court for trials and sentencings, upon request, when staff is available. Referrals to appropriate community agencies and programs, including information on how to apply for victim compensation for victims of violent crimes
Information about a victim's rights and role in the federal criminal justice process, victim impact, restitution and the right to allocution at sentencing where permitted
Act as a victims' liaison with investigative agencies, U.S. Probation Department, the Bureau of Prisons and the assigned prosecutor.
Assist victims in obtaining release of their property after a case has been completed
Explaining court and/or case related information to employers of victims or witnesses
Crime prevention tips, especially for victims of financial crimes such as telemarketing, mail theft and identity theft crimes
The Victim/Witness Assistance Program at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of North Carolina may be contacted at:
United States Attorney’s Office
Western District of North Carolina
227 West Trade Street, Suite 1650
Charlotte, North Carolina 28202
United States Attorney’s Office
Western District of North Carolina
100 Otis St., Room 203
Asheville, North Carolina 28801
If no one is available, please leave a message, your name and phone number, as well as the name of the defendant, and/or case number if you are calling on a specific case, we will return your call as quickly as possible. If you wish to attend a sentencing, please be sure to provide information including the name of the defendant, the case number, your phone number and information sufficient to let program staff know that you want to attend a specific hearing. Cases are often postponed at very short notice, and every effort will be made to keep you informed, if you let us know you want to attend.
Victim Notification System
The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that victims of federal crime are treated fairly as their case moves through the criminal justice system. In order to provide victims with information on case events, the Department of Justice has developed the Victim Notification System (VNS). This page will provide you with information about VNS.
Click on the links below to download the VNS Brochure which is in PDF format:
(Adobe Acrobat Reader required)
Victim Notification System (VNS)
VNS is a cooperative effort between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the United States Attorneys’ offices, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). This free, computer-based system provides two important services to victims: information and notification. This information is available in English and Spanish.
You will receive a Victim Identification Number (VIN) and a Personal Identification Number (PIN) that will allow you to access the system. You may write those numbers on the attached tear-off card to keep with you. If you have chosen to participate in VNS, but have not received these numbers, please contact either the federal law enforcement agency or the U.S. Attorney’s office handling your case. Your VIN and PIN numbers are both required when receiving information or any time you contact the Call Center.
Below are some common questions about VNS. If at any time you have a question about VNS that is not answered here, please feel free to contact your local FBI or U.S. Attorney’s office.
1. What if I forget my PIN?
If you cannot remember your VIN or PIN numbers, please contact the person indicated on your initial notification letter or the Victim-Witness Coordinator at your local U.S. Attorney’s office.
2. What if I am not at home or my phone is busy when VNS calls?
If you are not at home of if your telephone line is busy, the Call Center will continue calling you every 30 minutes. If the call is answered, but is not confirmed with your PIN number, VNS will continue to call every 2 hours.
3. When can I call VNS?
Monday - Friday 6:00 a.m. - 3:00 a.m.
Saturday 6:00 a.m. - 12:00 a.m.
Sunday 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 a.m.
For International Callers:
4. Does the Victim Notification System ensure my safety?
No. Do not depend on VNS to ensure your safety. If you feel that you are being threatened, immediately notify law enforcement.
5. What should I do if my contact information changes?
If your address or phone number changes, you may contact the VNS Call Center (1-866-365-4968 & provide your VNS VIN & PIN); the person indicated on your initial notification letter; or the Victim-Witness Coordinator at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
6. Must I receive notification?
If you do not wish to receive notification you may contact the VNS Call Center (1-866-365-4968 & provide your VNS VIN & PIN, Select Opt Out option); the person indicated on your initial notification letter; or the Victim-Witness Coordinator at the U.S. Attorney’s Ofc.
As a crime victim, you have the following rights under 18 United States Code Section 3771:
(1) The right to be reasonably protected from the accused; (2) The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding, or any parole proceeding, involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused; (3) The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court, after receiving clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at that proceeding; (4) The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding; (5) The reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case; (6) The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law; (7) The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay; (8) The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim's dignity and privacy; (9) The right to be informed in a timely manner of any plea bargain or deferred prosecution agreement; (10) The right to be informed of the rights under this section and the services described in section 503(c) of the Victims' Rights and Restitution Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 10607(c)) and provided contact information for the Office of the Victims' Rights Ombudsman of the Department of Justice.
We will make our best efforts to ensure you are accorded the rights described. You may also seek the advice of a private attorney concerning these rights and your assertion of these rights in federal district court. Be advised that the law does not require providing information that may endanger the safety of any person.
For more information about these rights, please contact the Victim/Witness Assistance Program at the U.S. Attorney's Office at 704-344-6222 in Charlotte and 828-271-4461 in Asheville.
Many victims are interested in how they can be repaid for their financial losses suffered as a result of a crime. This page provides an overview of that process. The Mandatory Restitution Act of 1996 established procedures for determining the amount of restitution to which a victim may be entitled. Information on procedures for restitution for crimes which occurred before the Act was passed, (April 24, 1996) is also included. The Act provides that 'identified' victims may be entitled to an order of restitution for certain losses suffered as a result of the commission of an offense as part of the criminal sentence imposed on the defendant, or as part of a plea agreement. Victims may be either individuals or businesses.
It is important to begin keeping a record of all expenses incurred as a result of the crime, so this information can be used in determining what costs may be ordered by a Judge to be repaid by a defendant if convicted.
Under federal law, in many types of federal crimes, it is mandatory for a defendant to pay restitution for cases occurring after April 24, 1996. For most crimes committed prior to this date, Judges have more discretion on whether to order restitution. Unfortunately, as a practical matter, a defendant who has no money or potential to make money may be unlikely to ever make meaningful restitution to the victims of a crime.
If a defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty at trial, available information on each identified victim's loss, usually obtained by the case agent during the investigation, will be provided to the U.S. Probation Office by the U.S. Attorney's Office. A presentence probation officer is assigned to investigate the background of a defendant, and prepare a presentence report for the Judge, recommending the most appropriate sentence.
Identified victims whose losses are included in the counts of conviction or as part of a plea agreement will also have the opportunity to request restitution and explain their losses in a Declaration of Victim Loss Statement. This statement is provided to victims to complete by the US. Probation Officer, after a defendant has been convicted at trial or has pleaded guilty. Victims should consider closely the types of restitution allowable, as it is often limited, and may not include damages for such things as pain and suffering. Victims should provide receipts or other verification where possible.
Describing the Impact of the Crime
In addition, after a conviction, victims will also be asked to complete a Victim Impact Statement. This statement allows victims the opportunity to report on various consequences of the offense, including financial, social, psychological and/or medical consequences. The Victim Impact Statement provides an important way for the Judge to consider losses and harm as a result of the crime.
Physical Injury as a Result of the Crime
For an offense resulting in physical injury to a victim, the Court may order: payment equal to the cost of necessary medical and related professional services and devices relating to physical, psychiatric, and psychological care; payment equal to the cost of necessary physical and occupational therapy and rehabilitation; and/or reimbursement to the victim for income lost as a result of the offense.
Restitution for Financial Loss
In most fraud cases, restitution may be ordered where victims of the offense of conviction have suffered the loss of money or some negotiable instrument (investor fraud offenses or offenses involving the misuse of stolen credit cards), or the damage or loss of property. The Court may order a defendant to pay an amount equal to each victim's actual losses, usually the value of the principle or property fraudulently obtained.
Provisions Regarding Allowable Restitution
In most cases, attorney fees, and tax penalties are not included in court ordered restitution. The Court may order the return of property or money to a victim or to someone a victim chooses. The Court may also order restitution to persons other than victims of a convicted offense, if agreed to in a plea agreement. If a victim dies, restitution may also be paid to a victim's estate. Documents verifying a victim's death and information on power of attorney may be requested by the U.S. Clerk of Court, prior to any restitution being paid. In cases such as these, it is very important to keep the U.S. Attorney's Victim/Witness Assistance Program or the U.S. Clerk of Court, Fiscal Unit informed of any address changes. Change of Address Form
A court may decline to order restitution if it finds that determining restitution in a case is too complex. In most cases, if the victim consents, the Court may order the defendant to make restitution by performing "service" instead of money, or to make restitution to a person or organization designated by the victim. Victims should list such suggestions on their Victim Impact Statement which is provided if a defendant is convicted of a crime for which they are an identified victim.
How Does a Victim Begin Receiving Money?
For cases, in which the crimes were committed after April 24, 1996, the U.S. Clerk of Court is charged with the collection and distribution of restitution as any payment becomes available. For crimes committed prior to that date, the U.S. Attorney's Office, Financial Litigation Unit (FLU) or the U.S. Clerk of Court may be responsible, depending on the District. If you are awarded restitution, simply keep the U.S. Attorney's Office Victim/Witness Assistance Program or the U.S. Clerk of Court/Fiscal Unit informed of where you live and if your address changes. Any restitution payment owed will be forwarded to you as it becomes available.
The U.S. Attorney's Office, Financial Litigation Unit (FLU) is charged with enforcing orders of restitution. In the Western District of North Carolina, in cases in which a restitution order is made, the Financial Litigation Unit (FLU) of the U.S. Attorney's Office will file a lien on behalf of identified victims. The FLU unit will pursue various means to enforce restitution, as the judgment and its resources permit, on behalf of identified victims for 20 years from the filing date of the Judgment, (plus the time period of actual incarceration) or until the death of the defendant. While a defendant is under the supervision of a probation officer, that probation officer will also monitor and ensure appropriate restitution is paid, where possible.
Can Victims File a Lien Against a Defendant?
A victim may also choose to request the U.S. Clerk of Court to issue an Abstract of Judgment certifying that a judgment has been entered in a victim's favor in the amount specified in the Judgment. A victim may then file this with the Recorder's Office for any county in which it is believed the defendant has assets, in the state in which a defendant was convicted in federal court. Upon its recording, the Abstract of Judgment becomes a lien upon the property of the defendant in that county/state in the same manner as a state court judgment. Victims should consult with a private attorney for specific information. A copy of the Abstract of Judgment may be downloaded from the U.S. Clerk of Court Internet web page, or by contacting the U.S. Clerk of Court. Victims must complete the form and submit it to the U.S. Clerk of Court before the Abstract will be "issued" by the U.S. Clerk of court.
Additional Restitution Provisions
An order of restitution is not dischargeable in a defendant's bankruptcy. Under the Act, if an identified victim discovers further losses after a judgment has been filed, that victim has 60 days after discovery of the losses, to petition the Court for an amended restitution order. This order may be granted only upon a showing of good cause for the failure to include such losses in the initial claim for restitution.
After a Judge has imposed a restitution order, the U.S. Attorney or an identified victim may later make a motion to the Court if he/she discovers a material change in the defendant's economic circumstances that affects his or her ability to pay restitution. Victims with such information should contact the U.S. Attorney's Office. The U.S. Attorney's Office is required to certify to the Court that victims who are owed restitution are notified about such material changes. Upon receipt of such notification, the Court has the discretion to adjust the defendant's payment schedule or require payment in full, as the interests of justice require.
Other Available Remedies
Victims of violent crimes may be eligible for victim compensation which can often pay for medical and psychological costs, loss of income or support, or funeral expenses related to the crime. In some cases, victims of fraud crimes may be able to seek some recovery through a regulatory agency. In some cases, a victim may also wish to file a civil action or file in small claims court against a defendant to recoup losses caused by the crime. For advice on the wisdom of such a suit, you should consult with a private attorney of your choice, or the Small Claims Court in the county in which the crime occurred. There is usually a statute of limitations which limits the time in which a civil suit can be filed.
What If I Expect Damages from a Civil Suit or Receive Compensation from Other Sources?
If a victim has received compensation from insurance, disability, the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund, or any other source with respect to a loss, the Court shall order that restitution be paid to the person/company who provided or is obligated to provide the compensation. However, the restitution order shall provide that all restitution is payable to actual victims first. Any amount ordered paid as restitution shall be reduced by any amount later recovered as compensatory damages for the same loss in any related civil proceeding.
RESOURCES WHICH MAY BE HELPFUL FOR VICTIMS OF FEDERAL CRIMES:
Locator Services Hotline:
National Center for Victims of Crime
National Organization for Victim Assistance
National Fraud Information Center
Federal Trade Commission Clearinghouse
National Foundation for Credit Counseling
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
You've all seen a pebble drop into a pool of water and noticed the ripples which are produced by the impact of that pebble. A similar ripple occurs from person to person when a crime occurs. As an employee, you have been exposed to a crime in your work setting. Even if you were not directly confronted during the incident, you may experience reactions from your exposure to the robbery or attempted robbery. How people react to these events varies from person to person and is affected by individual factors such as how you usually handle stressful situations and what kind of support you have both inside and outside of work. Your reaction may be immediate or may be delayed. You may experience symptoms that are physical, emotional, or cognitive (involving your thinking ability). IT IS IMPORTANT TO REALIZE THAT THESE ARE NORMAL FEELINGS, BEHAVIORS AND REACTIONS TO AN ABNORMAL EVENT.
COMMON EMOTIONAL & PHYSICAL RESPONSES
Irritability, which may be directed at family and friends;
Loss of motivation - feeling blue or depressed;
Apathy and indifference
Chronic fatigue and flashbacks
COPING WITH THE AFTERMATH OF CRIME VICTIMIZATION
Awareness and understanding are crucial in beginning to deal effectively with this event in your life. You can begin by being aware that you MAY react in some of the ways that have been discussed. Remember that your reactions are normal. You may find that you react to sights, sounds, smells, and textures that were present at the time of the crime and which remind you of the incident. Sometimes being exposed to a traumatic event may trigger memories of past events in your life. Perhaps you have been victimized before, or have lost someone close to you. You may once again find yourself experiencing feelings related to these earlier events. Feelings of vulnerability and helplessness are frequent after victimization. One of the first things to pay attention to is your need to feel safe again. Take any precaution which will make you feel safer.
Federal law enforcement professionals are concerned about victims and witnesses of financial crimes. As a victim or witness, you probably have questions about how a case will be investigated, what services and information will be available to you, and how you can begin to cope with your financial losses. This brochure was designed to provide general information to answer common concerns.
Federal crime victims have a number of rights during their participation in the criminal justice system. If you ask to be kept informed about the status the case, you may either receive periodic updates, or you may contact the case agent or agency's Victim/Witness Coordinator (Coordinator) on an ongoing basis. It Is Very Important to Report Any Address Changes During an Investigation and/or Prosecution.
Even though the months ahead may be difficult for you and your family, your assistance is important to ensure that justice is fully achieved. The investigation of a possible financial crime is complex and may involve several law enforcement agencies. In regards to the criminal justice process, all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a criminal court. Investigations may involve hundreds of victims in one case. During the investigation process, the case agent/Coordinator will remain your principle contact. If you remember anything additional, or learn of additional information about the crime, contact the case agent.
If a case is accepted for prosecution federally, you should be contacted by the U. S. Attorney's Office. Each Office has a Coordinator to serve as your liaison throughout the process, to answer questions about the status of a case, and to assist with victim concerns. Some rights may only be available if a case is accepted for prosecution. Once a case is indicted, you have the right to information about the continuing status of a case. This includes information about providing a victim impact statement, requesting restitution and information about a defendant's release from prison.
What Can I Do About Financial Losses?
Collect and save all paperwork that directly relates to your loss. If an arrest is made and a conviction is obtained, the judge will consider requiring the offender to pay you for certain losses (called restitution). You may be asked to provide verification of your loss amount. In addition, some losses may be tax deductible. Because tax laws are complicated, consult a qualified tax advisor or the Internal Revenue Service to see if your losses qualify.
Finally, if you believe the fraud perpetrator has assets, you may be able to recover losses through a civil lawsuit. Contact your state or local Bar Association for the names of attorneys who specialize in this area of law to determine if your case is appropriate for civil action. Another remedy may be with the Small Claims Court for the county in which the crime occurred.
Will I Get My Money Back?
Many victims want to know if they will get their money back, through restitution. Restitution is an order by the sentencing judge, ordering a convicted defendant to pay identified victims for certain losses as a result of the crime. In many types of federal crimes, it is mandatory for a convicted defendant to pay restitution. Unfortunately, as a practical matter, a convicted defendant who has no money or limited potential to make money may be unlikely to ever make meaningful restitution, particularly in fraud cases with many victims.
However, the federal government will work earnestly to ensure that any assets owned by a sentenced defendant, can be considered for payment of court-ordered restitution. An order of restitution is enforceable for twenty years, from the time a criminal judgment requiring restitution is filed (plus the time incarcerated).
If You Are Threatened or Harassed
Your safety is important to us. It may be helpful to know that threats or retaliation against a victim or potential witness are very rare. However, if you receive harassing or other improper phone calls, mail, or actions from anyone as a result of your participation in the investigation of your case, contact your local police and/or the case agent immediately. Federal law provides for extra penalties for harassment or other threats against victims and witnesses. The case agent will discuss protective measures, if necessary.
What Can I Do to Address Financial or Credit Problems?
Some victims have financial losses which are so severe that they are unable to meet current financial obligations. If identification or financial information was stolen, credit may be affected, which may impact your immediate financial dealings. In both of these situations, consider the following options. Contact creditors and/or a nonprofit credit counseling service, who may work with you to reduce or modify your payments, or work with you to limit access to your accounts. Submit a written statement to local and national credit reporting agencies about your victimization. Provide supporting documents such as a copy of the criminal judgment. Be alert. Many fraud artists contact victims claiming they can help recover your losses for a fee, or may sell your name to others committing fraud scams. If called, contact the case agent or one of the agencies listed to verify the company's legitimacy.
Domestic Violence Laws
Violence and abuse at the hands of a loved one is frightening, degrading and confusing. Have you experienced this violence and abuse? If so, you are a victim of domestic violence. You are also the victim of a crime. Despite your conflicting emotions, the legal system may be one of the most effective ways to protect yourself and your children.
In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act ("VAWA"). This Act, and the 1996 additions to the Act, recognize that domestic violence is a national crime and that federal laws can help an overburdened state and local criminal justice system. In 1994 and 1996, Congress also passed changes to the Gun Control Act making it a federal crime in certain situations for domestic abusers to possess guns. The majority of domestic violence cases will continue to be handled by your state and local authorities. In some cases, however, the federal laws and the benefits gained from applying these laws, may be the most appropriate course of action.
WHO SHOULD I CALL TO REPORT A POSSIBLE FEDERAL CRIME?
For a possible Gun Control Act violation, please call your local Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms ("ATF") Office. For a possible VAWA violation, please call your local Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") Office. The numbers for the FBI and ATF are listed on the back of this brochure.
WHAT ARE THE FEDERAL CRIMES AND PENALTIES?
All the federal domestic violence crimes are felonies. It is a federal crime under VAWA to cross state lines or enter or leave Indian country and physically injure an "intimate partner". 18 U.S.C. Section 2261 to cross state lines to stalk or harass or to stalk or harass within the maritime or territorial lands of the United States (this includes military bases and Indian country). 18 U.S.C. Section 2261A to cross state lines or enter or leave Indian country and violate a qualifying Protection Order. 18 U.S.C. Section 2262 It is a federal crime under the Gun Control Act: to possess a firearm and/or ammunition while subject to a qualifying Protection Order. 18 U.S.C. Section 922(g)(8) to possess a firearm and/or ammunition after conviction of a qualifying misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. 18 U.S.C. Section 922(g)(9) A violation of the Gun Control Act, Sections 922(g)(8) and 922(g)(9), has a maximum prison term of ten years. A violation under VAWA, Sections 2261, 2261A and 2262, has a maximum prison term of five years to life, depending on the seriousness of the bodily injury caused by the defendant. In a VAWA case, the Court must order restitution to pay the victim the full amount of losses. These losses include costs for medical or psychological care, physical therapy, transportation, temporary housing, child care expenses, lost income, attorney's fees, costs incurred in obtaining a civil protection order, and any other losses suffered by the victim as a result of the offense. In a Gun Control Act case, the Court may order restitution.
Please keep a record of all expenses caused by the domestic violence crime.
WHAT IS A QUALIFYING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MISDEMEANOR?
Possession of a firearm and/or ammunition after conviction of a "qualifying" domestic violence misdemeanor is a federal crime under Section 922(g)(9). Generally, the misdemeanor will "qualify" if the conviction was for a crime committed by an intimate partner, parent or guardian of the victim that required the use or attempted use of physical force or the threatened use of a deadly weapon. In addition, Section 922(g)(9) imposes other legal requirements. The United States Attorney's Office may examine your case and determine whether the prior domestic violence misdemeanor conviction qualifies under Section 922(g)(9).
WHAT IS A QUALIFYING PROTECTION ORDER?
Possession of a firearm and/or ammunition while subject to a Protection Order, and interstate violation of a Protection Order are federal crimes if the Protection Order "qualifies" under Sections 2262 and 922(g)(8). Generally, a Protection Order will qualify under federal law if reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard was given to the person against whom the Court's Order was entered and if the Order forbids future threats of violence. The United States Attorney's Office may evaluate your Order to see if it qualifies. Therefore you should keep copies of all Orders.
WHO IS AN INTIMATE PARTNER?
Generally, the federal laws recognize an intimate partner as a spouse, a former spouse, a person who shares a child in common with the victim, or a person who cohabits or has cohabited with the victim.
CAN MY CONCERNS BE HEARD IN FEDERAL COURT?
A victim in a VAWA case shall have the right to speak, if desired, to the Judge at a bail hearing to inform the Judge of any danger posed by the release of the defendant. Any victim of a crime of violence shall also have the right to speak, if desired, at the time of sentencing, about the impact of the crime upon their life and that of their family.
Dealing With Crisis
You or someone you care for may have been involved in a critical event or crime. For many people, this can cause unusually strong emotional reactions. Some people report almost no reaction to a critical event, while others report a variety of physical, emotional and social responses. These may appear a few hours or a few days after the incident and in some cases, weeks or months later. You may find yourself faced with feelings unlike those you have previously experienced. These feelings may come and go and vary in intensity. Their duration will depend largely on the severity of the critical event and its significance to you. It is important that you realize that these are common reactions to an abnormal event.
The following are possible physical and emotional reactions that you may experience after a traumatic incident has occurred:
Changes in Appetite/Dizziness
Fatigue/Loss of energy
Re-experiencing the incident repeatedly in your mind
Unable to concentrate or remember things
Shocked/In a daze
Feeling lost or abandoned
Avoiding situations that are reminders of the incident
Difficulty in solving problems and making decisions
Unable to concentrate or remember things
There is no "right" or "wrong" way to feel or react as a victim. Many others who have been victimized have feel the same as you do now. YOU ARE NOT ALONE AND YOU ARE NOT CRAZY! It is important to talk about what you have experienced and how you feel about it with concerned family members and friends or a counselor. Getting help from a professional does not imply craziness or weakness. It simply means that the particular event was too powerful for anyone to handle alone.
DEALING WITH THE MEDIA
You do not have to talk to the media if you don't want to. If you choose to speak to the media, you may choose the time and place for an interview - it does not have to be at the media's convenience. (If this is a workplace crime, check your institution's policy regarding statements to the media).
HELPING YOUR FAMILY
One of the best ways to help you and your family cope is to realize that they may be going through the trauma with you. Although you might want to protect them by not discussing what has happened, your actions may make it clear that there is something bothering you. It will help everyone involved if you share this information sheet with them. Although you might want to ignore your reactions, it is usually best to deal with concerns as they arise. If not allowed to be expressed, feelings have a way of resurfacing later on.
IF YOU ARE A VICTIM OF A WORKPLACE CRIME
Your co-workers probably understand more than anyone else what you are going through. It is important to share your feelings with them and rely on them for mutual support. There may also be help available through Employee Assistance Programs, or through mental health counseling available through your medical insurance. Contact your local Victim Witness Coordinator from the investigative agency responsible for investigating the case, or at the U.S. Attorney's Victim/Witness Assistance Program.
Sexual assault can be an extremely traumatic experience. You may have been hurt both physically and emotionally. Feelings of anger, guilt, shame, and fear are common reactions. In addition to dealing with these strong emotions, you may also be concerned about being infected with a sexually transmitted disease or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Testing for STDs and HIV
If you did not get immediate medical attention after the sexual assault, get a full check up for STDs, including HIV, right away. A rape examination usually includes STD tests. If STD and HIV testing are not available, you should go to another clinic for a test as soon as possible.
Most medical clinics, hospitals, and private physicians will test for STDs and HIV. Some clinics and public hospitals will do the testing free of charge. Clinic telephone numbers are listed on this brochure. If the case is being investigated or prosecuted by a Federal Government agency, you are entitled to testing at no cost to you. Certain requirements apply. Check with the Victim Witness Assistance Program with the investigative agency investigating your case, or the Victim Witness Assistance Program at the U.S. Attorney's Office, for details and procedures. Many STDs take several days to several months to show up. If an STD is diagnosed at an exam done right after the assault, you probably had the STD before the assault. The infection could be from past sexual contact or drug use. Talk to your health care provider about taking medicine and telling partners. If your first tests are negative, you may be able to rule out the possibility that you had an STD before the assault.
Even if your tests are negative, get tested again in 3 to 6 months. You cannot be sure if you have HIV or another STD unless you get tested at least 3 months after the assault. It can take up to 6 months after infection for antibodies to show up on a test. Victim Assistance staff can assist you in obtaining this second test at no cost to you. Your health and peace of mind are worth it! While waiting for the test results, it is normal to feel anxious and worried. Your counselor or doctor may be able to help. During this time, you need to protect your health and your loved ones from infection.
Testing and confidentiality
It is important to be tested in a facility that offers counseling and protects your confidentiality. STD and HIV tests usually are free in public health clinics. You have the right to have up to two confidential and anonymous tests following a sexual assault that poses a risk of transmission of HIV virus or an STD. Test results are not given over the phone or sent in the mail. The nurse who drew your blood will give you the test results on your second visit and explain them to you in private.
Counseling and information
Most sexual assault crisis centers have hotlines operated by trained counselors who understand sexual assault and will talk to you confidentially. Most medical centers also provide counseling. Or, a Victim Witness Advocate from the investigative agency or U.S. Attorney's Office will help you make arrangements for counseling.
HIV testing and the perpetrator of sexual assault
A judge can order a person charged with a sexual assault to be tested for HIV if the victim requests this through the Assistant U.S. Attorney. You will be given the results; however, you are allowed to share this information ONLY with your doctor, counselor, family members, and any sexual partners you may have had after the assault.
Regardless of the perpetrator's test, you still need to have your own HIV test. Even if the perpetrator has HIV, you may not have been infected during the sexual assault. If the perpetrator's HIV test is negative, the perpetrator could still have HIV. Recent infections (within 3-6 months) may not show up on his test. People with HIV can infect others at any time, even before their own blood shows signs of HIV.