PAAR is here 24/7, at 1-866-END-RAPE
(1-866-363-7273). Interpreters available.
Sexual violence can affect anyone. If you are the victim of rape or sexual assault, or want to help someone who has been, Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR) is here to help.
Victim Response Services
PAAR is here for you, 24/7.
Support and services for sexual assault victims and survivors of exploitation and sex trafficking.
Support through the 24-Hour Helpline
Confidential support and information, 24 hours a day at 1-866-END-RAPE. Helpline counselors and staff are available to talk with survivors, their families and friends, and providers about sexual violence.
What a Helpline counselor can do for you:
- Support you in the healing process
- Help you understand your options
- Connect you with available resources and PAAR services
The helpline can also connect you to in-person support at emergency departments and police stations 24/7.
Support in Emergency Departments
In-person support is available 24 hours a day in emergency departments throughout Allegheny County. PAAR provides in-person support and information during the sexual assault exam. To request that an advocate meet you at the hospital, contact PAAR’s Helpline at 1-866-END-RAPE.
In-person support is also provided to children and adolescents in emergency departments.
Support at the Child Advocacy Centers
In-person support is also provided to children, adolescents and families at both Child Advocacy Centers in Allegheny County: A Child’s Place and the Child Advocacy Center at UPMC Children’s Hospital. PAAR provides in-person support, information and connection to services for families when there is a concern of child abuse. To request an in-person advocate, contact our Helpline.
Support within Systems
Advocates provide in-person support to victims through civil, criminal justice systems and campus processes. Our advocates provide in-person support and information about victims’ legal rights and options in multiple settings including:
- Police interviews
- Preliminary hearings
- Hearings and meetings in both Juvenile and Criminal Court
- Options for staying safe and pursuing a civil protection order
- Information and support regarding college, university and elementary and secondary schools policies
Support with Victim Compensation & Notification
Compensation is available to victims and their families to help cover out-of-pocket expenses related to a crime. Learn more about what the Pennsylvania Office of the Victim Advocate says about your rights. Contact PAAR at 412-431-5665 to request an application and to receive assistance filing a claim.
In Pennsylvania, victims have access to free information that allows you to track and receive notifications about the status of offenders. To request assistance with jail notification through PA SAVIN, contact PAAR at 412-431-5665.
Support at the Police Station
In-person support and information is available to survivors who choose to report a sexual assault. Our advocates will meet you at police stations in the City of Pittsburgh and all municipalities in Allegheny County, 24 hours a day.
Our advocates also assist survivors as they navigate the civil and criminal justice systems, including the judicial process on college and university campuses.
Our advocates can help you understand your options and provide information and support related to:
- Reporting to the police (24/7)
- The criminal justice system (criminal & juvenile court)
- Options for staying safe
- Pursuing a case in civil court
- Your school’s policies
- Your rights as an immigrant or refugee
To be connected to an advocate, contact our Helpline.
What will happen at the hospital?
What options do I have if I choose to go to the hospital?
You have the option to receive immediate attention and care including checking for injuries. You could also choose to complete a sexual assault exam for the collection of evidence. You have the option to report to the police – You can receive care and complete the evidence collection whether you report to police or not.
Medical personnel might ask a few questions in order to provide the best possible care. It is important to mention any pain, injuries, or other concerns you might have. You have the right to choose what care you receive and the right to refuse care, including the sexual assault exam, when you go to the hospital.
What is a ‘rape kit’?
A sexual assault exam (sometimes called the “kit”) is a medical exam and collection of forensic evidence. It attempts to collect evidence to use in the prosecution of a sexual assault. You can complete the exam/(have evidence collected) without reporting the incident to police.
The sooner you get to the hospital after an assault, the more options are available to you. It is recommended that you go to the hospital within 7 days of the incident. Try not to bathe, shower, brush your teeth, or go to the bathroom. This is important for preserving evidence. If you already have, it is still possible to collect evidence.
If possible, do not change your clothes. If you already have, put your clothes in a clean paper bag and bring them with you to the hospital.
What if I think my child has been sexually abused?
What will happen at the police station?
Can I report the assault to the police without prosecution?
Yes. Most local law enforcement will take information without requiring the victim to press charges.
What happens if I want to report an assault?
- Go to the police in the area where the assault took place or call 911. The police will take a report and you have the option to pursue charges/prosecute. You will probably have a follow-up interview with a detective in a few days.
- In cases with a child victim, the interview is held at a Child Advocacy Center in collaboration with the police (this is a “Forensic Interview”).
- Police conduct the investigation. The alleged perpetrator will be arrested if probable cause can be determined.
Will I be identified in the news on TV or in the newspaper?
In Allegheny County, television and print media have agreed not to identify the victim of a sexual assault. Children, or people who experienced sexual abuse as a child, are identified as Jane/John Doe in all official court proceedings.
What will happen at court?
What happens if my assault charges proceed to criminal court?
- A Preliminary Hearing is held 3 to 10 days following an arrest. You will be asked to testify in front of a local magistrate. You become a witness for the commonwealth and an Assistant District Attorney (ADA) is assigned to the case.
- At the Preliminary Hearing, the magistrate can send the case to the Allegheny County Court for trial OR dismiss the charges.
- Cases sent to the Allegheny County Court will have a trial date set. The trial could be set 6 to 12 months after the Preliminary Hearing date. About one month before the trial date, you will meet the ADA at a Pre-Trial Interview.
- The case could have continuances and postponements, which lengthen the court process. The defendant has the option to choose a plea bargain or request a trial, which could be held with a jury or just the judge. You will testify in the case along with witnesses as needed. The defendant is found guilty or not guilty of all or some of the charges.
- A sentencing date is set about 60 to 90 days following the trial. You have the option to read a Victim Impact Statement and to tell the judge how the crime has impacted your life. You can also tell the court what you think should be included in the sentence.
What happens if my child’s assault charges proceed to Juvenile Court?
As a juvenile, the perpetrator may be sent to a detention facility (Shuman Center) until the hearing date or he/she could be released to a parent or guardian with court supervision.
- The victim becomes a witness for the Commonwealth and an Assistant District Attorney (ADA) is assigned to the case. About one month before the hearing date, you will meet the ADA at a Pre-Hearing Conference.
- The case could have continuances and postponements, which lengthen the court process. Juvenile Court cases are held in front of a judge, with no jury. The victim will testify in the case along with witnesses as needed. The defendant is adjudicated delinquent or found not delinquent of all or some of the charges.
- A disposition date is set 60 to 90 days following the hearing. The victim and his/her family have the option to read a Victim Impact Statement and to tell the judge how the crime has impacted their life. You can also tell the court what you think should be included in the disposition.
What happens if I think I need a Protection From Abuse Order?
You may be eligible to file a protection order, which can help ensure your safety if you have experienced sexual violence. Advocates are available to provide support and accompaniment to victims as they navigate this process. To request an advocate or to learn more about protection order options, contact PAAR at (412) 431-5665.Types of orders:
- Sexual Violence Protection Order (SVPO)
Available to people who have experienced sexual violence. It is not required that the incident be reported to police in order to seek this protection. To be eligible, the plaintiff must not have a “family or household member” relationship with the defendant and should be able to indicate a continued risk of harm.
- Protection from Intimidation Order (PFI)
Available to minor children who have experienced intimidation, including harassment and stalking. To be eligible the incident must involve a victim less than 18 years of age and an adult defendant. The minor child must not have a “family or household member” relationship with the defendant. A parent, adult household member, or guardian may seek relief on behalf of minor children.
- Protection from Abuse Order (PFA)
Available to people who have experienced violence and have a “family or household member” relationship with the defendant including spouses; ex-spouses; current or former sexual/intimate partners; parents and children; siblings; other people related by blood or marriage.