Reporting to the Police

You have the right to report the incident to the police and/or seek a protective order from a court (or choose not to do so). Middlebury will provide, upon request, assistance if you decide to pursue either option. These options are available to you regardless of whether you choose to file a complaint with Middlebury. If you would like to request such assistance, or would just like to learn more about these options, please contact Public Safety, a Judicial Affairs Officer, a Human Relations Officer, or the Title IX Coordinator (via email, phone, or teleconference or in person). Contact information is available here.

WomenSafe staff and volunteers can provide additional support with the processes to survivors of all gender identities, and can provide information and advocacy.

Vermont emergencies: dial 911.

In non emergency situations, please call one of the following departments that serve Addison County. In most cases, you should contact the law enforcement department of the town where the crime occurred:

  • Middlebury Police Department: 802-388-3191
  • Vermont State Police: 802-241-5000
  • Bristol Police Department: 802-453-2533
  • Vergennes Police Department: 802-877-2201

Please note that each department has a specific service area, and their hours of operation may vary.

Some other things to keep in mind:

  • You always have the right to report or not report a crime to law enforcement, except under certain circumstances:
    • If someone who is under 18 goes to the hospital for a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) exam or if the hospital is aware of any crime against someone under the age of 18, the hospital is required to report the crime to the Vermont Department for Children and Families (“DCF”). It is possible that DCF could, in turn, report the crime to law enforcement without the knowledge or willingness of the person who experienced the crime.
    • Also, any crime involving a stabbing or a gunshot wound must be reported by hospitals to law enforcement, regardless of the age of the victim.
  • If you are a victim of a crime and choose to report to law enforcement, confidential victim advocates from WomenSafe are available to accompany you and assist you with the process. Middlebury officials or MiddSafe advocates may also accompany you and facilitate contact with law enforcement.
  • The law enforcement response to domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking varies based on the crime, circumstances, and context. Different law enforcement agencies may handle the same report differently.
  • It is possible that if you report a crime to law enforcement, an investigation may be commenced and charges may be brought. Depending on the department and circumstances, your ability to control or influence the process after reporting may vary.

For more information and to talk through your options, please call WomenSafe’s 24-hour hotline: 800-388-4205.

If you wish to consider what is involved in making a police report, you may also find the following information from the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence helpful. Please note, however, that the information herein does not constitute legal advice and may be amended from time to time. Individuals should consult their counsel or other local resources to ensure complete and accurate information.

What will the police do if I report?
If you tell the police about what happened to you, they may arrest and charge the person who assaulted you with a particular crime(s). Because this is the criminal system, the police will have to decide whether what happened to you was a crime and when there is “probable cause.” They will then decide whether or not to charge and arrest the perpetrator. A person charged with a crime is called a defendant. The choice of reporting a sexual assault to the police can be difficult. Advocates from your local network program are available to provide you more information about reporting and can support you in whatever you decide is right for you.

What happens after the perpetrator is arrested?
An arrest is the beginning of the criminal process. Once someone is arrested, they may be released immediately, released at any point in the criminal process or, in severe cases, remain in jail. This will depend on many complicated legal factors. Defendants released from jail before the end of the case will be given “conditions of release” by the court. This is an order that the defendant must follow while the criminal case is going forward. Often the conditions will tell the defendant not to have contact with you as the victim of the crime. As a victim of a crime you have the right to know if and when the defendant is getting released from jail and the defendant’s conditions of release. Some victims may have increased safety concerns following an arrest. You may call your local network program for more information and support.

Prosecution of crimes of sexual violence
Following a charge/arrest, the police transfer the case to the prosecutor, also called the state’s attorney. A prosecutor is a lawyer who works for the state through the state’s attorney’s office. The state’s attorney’s job is to continue to gather evidence to prove that the defendant committed the crime and to prepare the case against the defendant. The state’s attorney decides how to proceed with the criminal case.

State’s attorney’s victim advocates
The state’s attorney’s office also has its own victim advocates. They provide information and updates on the case. They can also offer support and help with communicating your concerns and questions to the state’s attorney. Because these advocates work for the state’s attorney, they are not confidential. This means that the state’s attorney’s advocates may be required to share with the state’s attorney relevant information you share about the case.

Sentencing
If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty after a trial, the judge will impose a sentence. A sentence may include a probation term, time in jail, or a combination of both. In many cases, sentencing will also require the defendant to participate in a sex offender treatment program. You may be present in the courtroom during the sentencing if you want. As a victim you have the right to make a “Victim Impact Statement” to the court. This is your time to describe the impact that the crime had upon you and your family. An advocate or family member may read your Victim Impact Statement for you.

Department of Corrections
Once the defendant has been sentenced, the Department of Corrections (DOC) will supervise the defendant for the duration of the sentence. DOC is responsible for ensuring that the offender is following the terms of the sentence. DOC’s Victim Services Program is available to provide information about the status of an offender and support to victims of crime whose offenders are in the custody of Vermont DOC. You can also register to receive automatic notifications by phone or email about the offender’s status. For more information, you can contact DOC’s Victim Services at 802-241-2302 or online at www.doc.state.vt.us/victim-services.

Source: Legal Options for Victims of Sexual Violence in Vermont: www.vtnetwork.org