These FAQs are intended to provide general information about the services that SCVAN can provide regarding the criminal justice process and other legal issues that can affect victims. This information is not intended as legal advice. If you have questions about a specific legal matter, contact an attorney.

What is rape or sexual assault called in South Carolina?

There are many different crimes that contain elements of rape or sexual assault in SC: Criminal Sexual Conduct – 1st Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct – 2nd Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct – 3rd Degree Assault & Battery – 1st Degree Assault & Battery – 2nd Degree Assault with Intent to Commit Criminal Sexual Conduct Spousal Sexual Battery

How long does a victim have to report a sexual assault?

For a Criminal Charge: South Carolina does not have a statute of limitations for sexual assault for a criminal charge. This means that a sexual assault can still be reported years after it is committed. However, as with most crimes, the closer in time to the offense that the offense is reported, the more likely the chance of a successful investigation and prosecution of the offense in general. Law enforcement is better able to collect available evidence shortly after the offense. For a Civil Lawsuit: An action to recover damages for injury to a person arising out of an act of sexual abuse or incest must be commenced within six years after the person becomes twenty-one years of age or within three years from the time of discovery by the person of the injury and the causal relationship between the injury and the sexual abuse or incest, whichever occurs later. SC Code Section 15-3-555 (A). For Title IX: Until the offender graduates/is no longer a student at the institution for a Title IX Complaint

Can it be sexual assault even if the victim and the offender have been intimately involved?

Absolutely! Criminal offenses are not limited to non-intimate partner sexual assault, or stranger or acquaintance sexual assault. A victim can be sexually assaulted by a spouse or someone he or she is dating or has dated.

I was sexually assaulted by my spouse. Can I report the assault?

South Carolina does recognize sexual assault between spouses. The law in South Carolina is called Spousal Sexual Battery. However, this is the one sexual assault law in South Carolina that does require the offense to be reported within a certain amount of time – if the spouses are living together and not estranged, then the sexual assault must be reported to law enforcement within thirty (30) days of the offense. In addition to this timeline requirement, the law requires that the offender must have accomplished the sexual battery through use of aggravated force. This means the offender either used or threatened the use of a weapon, or used or threatened the use of physical force or physical violence of a high and aggravated nature. Further, this law between spouses only applies to a “sexual battery.” Inappropriate touching or groping, absent some type of penetration, would not qualify as an offense under this particular law.

How does a victim report a sexual assault?

There are several options: Call 911, Call the non-emergency line, Walk-in at police agency, Ask medical personnel to contact law enforcement, Ask a community-based advocate to contact law enforcement.

Does a victim need proof/evidence of the sexual assault?

Yes, for a criminal charge to be brought, evidence will be needed. However, the victim’s statement to law enforcement of what occurred is considered evidence. So the victim’s statement is one piece of evidence that will be considered in determining whether there is enough evidence, or probable cause, for law enforcement to make an arrest of the offender. The victim’s statement could be compelling enough for an arrest. However, if there is other evidence available as well, this addition of what we call corroborating evidence will make a stronger case for prosecution of the offense. Evidence can be found in the form of photographs of injuries of the victim, clothing that she was wearing during the sexual assault, texts messages and voicemails from the offender, social media posts or messages by the offender or other people, medical treatment (records) the victim received, photographs of the location where the sexual assault occurred or actual items at the scene of the sexual assault, just to name a few…there are many pieces of evidence that can prove helpful. In addition, law enforcement needs to be made aware of anyone who may have witnessed the sexual assault – this is not limited to anyone who may have witnessed the act, but also anyone the victim came into contact with immediately after, or even before, the offense. These indirect witnesses could potentially give information regarding the victim’s distressed demeanor after the sexual assault, whether the victim was in a state to be able to give consent, and/or any statements she made to them about being sexually assaulted.

Can a victim have a sexual assault examination at the hospital even if they are unsure they will report to law enforcement?

Absolutely! Some victims aren’t sure if they want to go forward with a criminal investigation, but they want to make sure the evidence is available if they decide to report the sexual assault to police. A victim of sexual assault can undergo a Sexual Assault Forensic Examination, or what is frequently called a CSC Kit or Rape Kit, and ask that the kit remain anonymous. Hospitals are required to hold the kit for one year, for the victim to decide how he or she wants to proceed. While one major benefit of the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination is the collection of evidence, another very important part of the examination is the treatment and health component for the victim. A Sexual Assault Forensic Examination includes medicine for the victim to help prevent sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy as a result of the sexual assault.

Do I have to report the assault or abuse to my doctor in order to have criminal charges filed against the abuser?

No. However, if the victim suffered any injuries from the sexual assault or had a Sexual Assault Forensic Examination performed, this information can be important evidence…that “corroborating evidence”…again, the importance of medical treatment.