Frequently Asked Questions
We are here to help. Please explore the FAQs below. If you would like more information about anything you see here or wish to speak with a crisis counselor immediately, please call our 24-hour hotline at 1-888-521-0983.
Changes due to COVID-19 concerns
Please call our hotline about changes in services and processes due to the pandemic. Depending on your needs, contact Montgomery County about court services, your local police department, or/and the hospital of your choice about services available during this time.
About Sexual Assault
What is sexual violence?
Sexual violence is the term for any type of unwanted sexual contact. This includes but is not limited to: sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape. Sexual violence can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, geography, ability, appearance, sexual orientation, and gender identity. It impacts everyone--the survivor, their families, significant others, and their community.
What is consent?
Consent is giving permission for something to happen or agreeing to do something. Consent is freely given. Sexual contact without consent is a type of sexual violence. Reasons why someone cannot consent includes: victim’s age, illness, mental or physical disability, being asleep or unconscious, or being too intoxicated through voluntary or involuntary use of alcohol or drugs. Also, someone may not be able to consent because the perpetrator uses or threatens with weapons or physical violence, intimidation, pressure, or misuse of authority.
What is the age of consent?
In Pennsylvania, a person less than 13 years old cannot grant consent to sexual activity. People between the ages of 13 and 15 cannot consent to sexual activity with anyone who is four or more years older than them; it would be considered statutory rape. People ages 16 and older can legally consent to sexual activity with anyone they choose, as long as the other person does not have authority over them. In Pennsylvania this is called Institutional sexual assault and happens when sexual activity occurs with an employee/agent of a: school (teacher/coach), state or county jail, personal care/group home, or other licensed residential facilities serving youth.
Forensic Rape Exams and Protection Orders
I was recently sexually assaulted. Should I go to the hospital?
While it is always your decision, VSC recommends that you go to the ER/hospital after a sexual assault to assess for and treat any injuries you may have, collect evidence of the crime as well as make sure you receive all the support and information you need to begin your healing process. VSC works with all hospitals in Montgomery County, including Abington, Einstein (Montgomery), Bryn Mawr, Lankenau and Pottstown Hospitals. If you are thinking about going to the hospital but have questions, please call our hotline at 1-888-521-0983 for more information.
What happens when I go to the hospital after a sexual assault?
After you are treated for any injuries, you will typically meet a Forensic Nurse, who is specially trained to work with victims of a sexual assault. They will ask you questions like what medications you may take, your previous medical history and also about the assault. Some of these questions may be difficult or seem invasive but this information is useful for any future investigations and to ensure your health and well being as they work with you. The nurse will then use a rape kit to collect evidence based on what you tell them about the assault. You will also be given information about pregnancy and offer options based on your needs. You have the right to skip any step of the exam that you are uncomfortable with.
Can someone come with me to the hospital?
You have the right to have a sexual assault counselor present during the exam. In Montgomery County, the hospital should contact a VSC advocate to come and offer services and support. If an advocate hasn’t arrived, you can request that the nurse calls one or contact one yourself by calling our hotline at 1-888-521-0983.
Will I be charged for the forensic rape exam?
The forensic rape exam will not cost you anything. The Violence Against Women Act requires states to provide exams free of charge.
The perpetrator is still contacting me. What options do I have?
You can apply for a protection order. A protection order is a document from the court barring the perpetrator from contacting you. There are three types of protection orders available in Pennsylvania. They are a Protection From Abuse order or PFA, a Sexual Violence Protection order or SVP and a Protection From Intimidation or PFI. If you have questions about what protection order is right for you, call our hotline at 1-888-521-0983.
How do I obtain a protection order?
In Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, a crime victim would go to the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, PA, to file for a civil protection order. You will need to go to the Court Administration office located on the second floor. They will give you paperwork to complete and will connect you with the appropriate victim services agency. VSC will be contacted to assist crime victims filing for SVPs and PFIs or you can call our hotline at 1-888-521-0983.
What are my rights as a victim?
In Pennsylvania, Victim Rights are the rights given to a victim or significant other impacted by a crime. (Visit Your Detailed Rights as a Crime Victim to learn more.)
What can a VSC advocate do for me?
What if I do not want to make a police report?
Calling our 24-hour hotline at 1-888-521-0983 to safety plan.
Filing a civil protection order (several types of orders in Montgomery County include: Protection from Abuse order, Sexual Violence Protection order, and Protection from Intimidation order).
Filling out a defiant trespass order.
Notifying the Office of Children and Youth by making a Child-Line report (by phone or online, anonymous reporting available).
Talking to a trusted adult.
What can I expect when I go to the police?
Do I have to complete a police interview alone?
Which police department do I go to if I wanted to make a report?
Normally, you visit the police department in the same area where the incident happened. (Example: if it happened in City A but you live in City B, you would report to the police department that serves City A). Please call our hotline for more guidance at 1-888-521-0983.
The crime happened in the past, can I still make a police report?
What happens after a police report is made?
My criminal case was closed. What are my options?
An arrest has been made. Will someone contact me when they get out?
I am worried about my immigration status. Can I make a police report?
What do I do at the police station if English is not my first or preferred language?
You have the right to meaningful language access for free. You may request an interpreter at the police department. Police departments, hospitals, and courts have language line/telephonic interpreter access. VSC also utilizes language access. For more information please contact our hotline at 1-888-521-0983, as situations vary.
What can I do if I have bills or expenses as a result of the crime I endured?
Victim’s Compensation is a program that offers crime victim’s financial assistance for a variety of expenses as a result of a crime. Some expenses that may qualify are: medical bills, counseling expenses, medication, relocation, loss wages, funeral expenses, stolen cash, or crime scene clean up. VSC advocates can answer any other eligibility questions and assist in completing an application for the program. Please call our hotline to learn more: 1-888-521-0983.
Do I need a lawyer if I am a victim/survivor of a crime?
No, you do not need a lawyer. For criminal matters, an assistant district attorney is appointed to represent the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Should a victim of crime want to pursue civil charges, they will need to hire their own attorney. For more information please contact our hotline, as situations may vary.
How do I know if/when I need to go to court?
You will receive a subpoena if you need to attend a court proceeding. If you are uncertain about this, you can request the assistance of a VSC advocate who can also accompany you to those proceedings. For more information please contact our hotline at 1-888-521-0983, as situations may vary.
What is a victim impact statement?
It is a written statement to the judge that you have the right to submit at the time of a sentencing hearing. An impact statement outlines the impact the crime has had on you or your loved one. You also are able to give in-person victim testimony during the sentencing as well. This informs the judge of the emotional, mental, physical, and financial implications the crime has had on you. Victim advocates are available to assist you with your victim impact statement. Please call our hotline at 1-888-521-0983 for more information.
What is restitution?
What kind of counseling does VSC offer?
Counseling at VSC involves symptom-based, trauma informed talk therapy. Counseling at VSC focuses on the symptoms one might be experiencing as a result of a traumatic incident that is considered a crime (For example: sexual assault or abuse, robbery, loss of a loved one to homicide, etc.) Anyone over 14 years old can consent to counseling services at VSC and request an intake. VSC’s child abuse treatment program provides therapy to child survivors of abuse ages 5-17. All counseling services at VSC are free.
Who can receive counseling at VSC?
Someone affected by a crime - this can include a direct victim/survivor and their significant-others (spouse, partner, relative or friend). This can also include the witness of a crime. VSC provides services for crime victims and their significant-others regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, geography, ability, appearance, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
Where do I go for counseling?
VSC offers in person counseling at our Norristown office and our satellite Jenkintown office. VSC also provides mobile counseling for children at their school for those who cannot come to counseling at one of our office locations, as we are able. For information on how to make an appointment, please submit a counseling request form or call our hotline at 1-888-521-0983.
Does VSC offer counseling online?
Yes. VSC offers online counseling through a confidential telehealth platform. For information on how to make an appointment, please submit a counseling request form or call our hotline at 1-888-521-0983.