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

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.





Counseling

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.





Advocacy

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?


A VSC advocate can provide you with a general understanding of how the criminal justice process works. They are not lawyers but they are specially trained to help you understand legal proceedings before, during and after a case has resolved. Advocates can talk to you about reporting to the police and can accompany you to the police station. They can also provide support and accompany you to criminal court proceedings for events like preliminary hearings, trial, and parole board hearings. Advocates can assist with filing for Victims Compensation for crime-related expenses.




What if I do not want to make a police report?


There are many reasons why someone may choose not to make a police report. Options to consider instead of reporting to police are:

  • 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?


In most cases you will initially speak with a person at the front desk. Some smaller police deptartments may have a notice on a wall nearby with instructions on who to call to reach an officer. Next, an available officer will likely meet with you in a private room. Officers will ask general questions about the crime such as who, what, and where. This can take about an hour to complete. Officers ask these questions to get information necessary to determine if the investigation should continue. For more information please contact our hotline at 1-888-521-0983.




Do I have to complete a police interview alone?


No, you may call our 24-hour hotline at 1-888-521-0983 to request a VSC advocate to accompany you to any police department in Montgomery County. If you need assistance outside of the county, you may call us and request another local resource.




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?


Yes, you can make a police report regardless of how much time has passed.




What happens after a police report is made?


Typically, in Pennsylvania, after the reporting officer/detective has obtained the initial information you provided, the police may further investigate. You may be asked to return to the police for a formal statement which is a more detailed interview with an officer or detective. Police may seek additional interviews with others, request surveillance, or await lab results. After any investigation is completed it is submitted to the District Attorney’s (DA's) office. It is up to the DA’s office to decide if there will be criminal charges filed. If the DA’s office decides to not charge, the case is closed and no criminal charges are filed. For more information please contact our hotline at 1-888-521-0983, as situations may vary.




My criminal case was closed. What are my options?


If the DA’s office decides not to prosecute, you may have options including filing for a restraining order, filing for a no contact order, or consulting a lawyer of your own choosing about possible civil legal claims you may have. If you would like to learn more about any of these options please call our hotline at 888-521-0983.




An arrest has been made. Will someone contact me when they get out?


Yes, however you must visit PA SAVIN website or call them at (866) 972-7284 to register. For those arrested with longer state sentences you may call the Office of Victim Advocate at 1-800-563-6399.




I am worried about my immigration status. Can I make a police report?


Normally, when making a police report, their main priority is public safety and focused on the crime/incident details. You do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with police. For more information please contact our hotline, as situations may vary. Visit the ACLU website for more information about immigration and rights.




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. 如果您需要帮助但不会英语,请致电888-521-0983,我们将回答您的任何问题。 Wenn Sie Hilfe benötigen, aber kein Englisch sprechen, rufen Sie bitte unsere Hotline unter 888-521-0983 an, um alle Ihre Fragen zu beantworten. Se hai bisogno di assistenza ma non parli inglese, chiama il nostro numero verde 888-521-0983 e risponderemo a tutte le tue domande. 도움이 필요하지만 영어로 대화하기 어려운 분은 상담전화 888-521-0983으로 연락 주시면 답변해 드리겠습니다. Если вам нужна помощь, но вы не говорите по-английски, позвоните на нашу горячую линию 888-521-0983, чтобы получить ответы на все вопросы. Якщо вам потрібна допомога, але ви не володієте англійською мовою, зателефонуйте на нашу гарячу лінію за номером 888-521-0983, щоб отримати відповідь на будь-які запитання.




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?


Restitution is money ordered by the judge that the defendant is to pay back to you for expenses you had as a result of the crime. For example: medical bills, stolen cash or property and/or insurance deductibles. The District Attorney’s Office is responsible for giving you a form about these kinds of expenses before a sentencing hearing in your case. This form must be returned before the sentencing date. It is typically ordered when the defendant is sentenced. Victim advocates are available to assist you in filling out this paperwork. For more information please call our hotline at 1-888-521-0983.





Our mission is to provide advocacy and counseling for all who have been affected by sexual violence and other crimes against the person and to promote sensitivity and awareness in the community through education. Founded in 1974 as Women Against Rape, we have been supporting survivors and their families for more than 40 years. Victim Services of Montgomery County, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Call our free, 24-hour hotline at 1-888-521-0983.

CONTACT >

T: 610-277-0932

F: 610-277-6386

E: vscmontcopa@vscmontcopa.org

325 Swede St., 2nd Floor 

Norristown, PA 19401

© 2020 by Victim Services of Montgomery County, Inc.