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A Legal Resource About Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault

This article provides information on survivors’ rights, non-report sexual assault exams, sexual assault protective orders, and filing a civil suit.

Here, learn about your rights as a survivor of sexual assault, how to get a sexual assault exam without reporting to police, protective orders, and filing a civil suit against an assailant.  

The information in this article was written by Texas Health and Human Services, the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA), and Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). It has been lightly edited for style. 

Revised by on February 18, 2023. 

What rights do I have as a survivor of sexual assault in Texas?

A sexual assault survivor has the legal right to:  

  • Make the decision whether to file a police report or information report.  

  • Be provided with written notice of crime victims’ rights and information and referrals, including a referral to a sexual assault program, at initial contact with law enforcement. 

  • Sensitive and skilled treatment in Texas emergency rooms.  

  • Refuse to take a lie detector test.  

  • Use a pseudonym and have her or his name, address, and phone number kept out of court files relating to their case.  

  • Reimbursement, through the Crime Victims’ Compensation Program, for financial losses resulting from the criminal conduct, including medical costs, moving costs, and lost wages.  

  • Have their attacker tested for HIV and receive notice of the test results after indictment. 

  • Have her or his safety considered when bail is set.  

  • Be notified of all legal proceedings, including parole proceedings, after making a written request for notification.  

  • A private waiting area, separate from other witnesses, before testifying in court. 

  • Write a victim impact statement and have the statement considered during punishment and parole proceedings.  

  • Upon meeting certain eligibility requirements, maintain a confidential address through the Texas Address Confidentiality Program

What is a sexual assault exam?

A sexual assault exam includes two parts: forensic evidence collection to be used in the investigation of the criminal case, and medical care for the evaluation and treatment of injuries.  

During the medical portion of the examination, injuries or other medical conditions are identified and treated. Results from medical testing will be available from the medical facility where you have the exam.   

During the forensic portion of the examination, evidence is collected. The evidence may be used in an investigation.   

Depending on the nature of the assault, the following items may be collected during the exam:  

  • hair combings,   

  • swabs from areas of the body with potential DNA deposits,   

  • swabs from areas of genital contact,   

  • fingernail swabs/clippings,   

  • debris items, and   

  • clothing.   

Photographs may be taken of body surface injuries or genital injuries during the examination.   

A sexual assault exam is usually performed within 120 hours after a sexual assault. 

Can I get a sexual assault exam in Texas without the police getting involved?

Yes. If you are at least 18 years old, you do not have to report the sexual assault to the police when you have a sexual assault exam.   

When a survivor has a sexual assault exam and does not make a police report it is called a “non-report sexual assault exam.”  

Why would I decide to have a sexual assault exam if I am not going to make a police report?

Sexual assault exams have benefits whether you make a police report or not. You may want to consider having a sexual assault exam because:   

  • Your health matters. Sexual assault can affect your physical health. You may have injuries and trauma related to the assaults that aren’t immediately visible. During an exam you can access treatment for these injuries, receive preventative treatment for STIs, and obtain emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy.  

  • You can have time to decide if you want to report. The decision to report the crime is entirely yours. It may take some time to decide what to do. Having a sexual assault forensic exam ensures that the forensic evidence will be safely preserved if you decide to report at a later time.   

  • If you decide to make a report at a later time, having the evidence preserved increases the likelihood of prosecution. The importance of DNA evidence in sexual assault cases cannot be overstated. Not only does DNA evidence carry weight in court, but it may prevent future sexual assaults from occurring. Even if the perpetrator is not prosecuted, their DNA may be added to the national database, making it easier to connect the perpetrator to a future crime.  

How do I get a non-report sexual assault exam?

Go to an emergency room and request a forensic medical exam. Notify the facility of your desire not to contact police. 

To learn more, visit Sexual Assault Examinations Without Police Involvement

What is a protective order?

A protective order is a civil court order that can have both civil and criminal consequences if it is violated. A person who has a protective order entered against him or her may be arrested and prosecuted if they violate the protective order.  

If granted, a protective order: 

  • Orders the person you filed against not to commit any violence against you. 

  • Orders the person you filed against not to come within a certain distance of where you live, work, and attend school. 

  • Orders the person you filed against not to communicate with you in any manner that is threatening or harassing, whether by phone, mail, or any electronic/online communication. 

  • Orders the person you filed against to refrain from any harassing, threatening, annoying, alarming, abusing, tormenting, or embarrassing behavior toward you. 

  • Orders that the person you filed against not commit any of the above acts towards you or your household members. 

Sexual assault victims may apply for a protective order no matter the relationship between themselves and the assailant. A survivor or the parent/guardian of a child survivor may apply for a protective order by using specific forms and following the instructions found in the Protective Orders section of, or with help from a lawyer or prosecutor's office.

Do I have to press criminal charges to get a protective order?

No, it is not necessary for criminal charges to be pressed in order to apply for and receive a protective order.  

How long do protective orders last for?

Sexual assault protective orders are typically valid for two years, but lifetime orders are also available. 

A magistrate’s order for emergency protection (emergency protective order) may be issued at a defendant’s appearance before a magistrate after arrest for an offense involving family violence, sexual assault or stalking. They last from 31–91 days and provide protection while a victim follows the lengthier process of seeking a long-term protective order. 

What if I need to move after a sexual assault?

Texas has special laws that allow victims of sexual assault, stalking, attempted sexual assault, and parents of child sexual abuse victims to break their lease early without being penalized if the assault occurred on the leased premises. Visit Sexual Assault and Early Lease Termination to learn more.  

Visit the Texas Attorney General’s Crime Victims’ Compensation fund to learn how you may be able to get reimbursed for some of your moving expenses.  

Can I file a civil suit against the person who sexually assaulted me?

Survivors may want to consult with a civil attorney to decide whether to sue the perpetrator or a negligent third party. If the perpetrator does not have that much money, the lawsuit might not be worthwhile. Therefore, civil lawsuits are usually most appropriate against employers or other parties whose negligence contributed to a sexual assault or other subsequent injury to the survivor.

More information

Contact the statewide Legal Aid for Survivors of Sexual Assault hotline for free and confidential legal services. Callers speak directly with an attorney, who will explain your rights, the justice system, and legal options.

To locate a crisis center near you, visit the Crisis Center Locator, provided by Texas Association Against Sexual Assault

For information on safety plans, visit Sexual Assault Safety Planning

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