Victim Advocacy Services

Crime Information

An advocate is a professional who is trained to respond with compassion and expertise to the victims of crime, violence and abuse. This includes crisis intervention, advocacy and accompaniment, and nonjudgmental support to victims to help them get through the experience and regain control of their lives.

Victim'S Bill of rights

Crimes can occur in a multitude of ways but some of the most common are domestic violence, relationship/dating violence, sexual violence, sexual harassment, and stalking. Sometimes you may not know the exact crime you are experiencing but that's why our advocate is here to help. You have rights as a victim, which are:

  • To be free from intimidation
  • To receive notification of court proceedings.
  • To be present at court hearings accompanied by a victim advocate.
  • To have emotional and physical support.
  • To be told of services within the community.
  • To be aware of compensation/ restitution.
  • To complete a victim impact statement.
  • To be treated with respect and dignity.

Not sure what to do?

Contact the Victim Advocate at (727) 873-4432 to confidentially explore your options.


Relationship Violence

Due to the increased risk of danger, victims of dating or domestic violence are encouraged to consult confidentially with a victim advocate for an individualized risk assessment, safety planning, and exploration of options. The advocate will help you pursue any options, as safely as possible. 

DATING VIOLENCE

FL Statute 784.046: "Dating violence" means violence between individuals who have of have had a continuing and significant relationship of a romantic or intimate nature. The existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on the consideration of the following factors. 

  1. A dating relationship must have existed within the past 6 months.
  2. The nature of the relationship must have been characterized by the expectation of affection or sexual involvement between the parties; and
  3. The frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship must have included that the persons have been involved over time and on a continuous basis during the course of the relationship."
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

FL Statute 741.28: "Domestic violence" means any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member."

Preserving Evidence

In the case of dating violence and domestic violence, the resource you choose to report the crime to (a doctor, the police, an advocate, etc.) may recommend ways to preserve evidence such as logging incidents, photographing injuries, seeking medical care, etc.

Additional steps in preserving evidence could include:

  • Leave damage to property or dwelling as is for law enforcement to document
  • Avoid changing or washing clothing that may be torn or contain blood evidence
  • Make sure that bruises and other injuries are photographed by policy, medical caregivers, or, as a last resort, a friend or relative
  • Save communications to or form the offender or witnesses via voicemail, text, social media or email about the incident.

Sexual Violence

If a sexual battery has occurred within 120 hours, a victim advocate can assist the client in receiving a forensic medical exam. 

SEXUAL BATTERY

FL Statute 794: Oral, anal or vaginal penetration by, or union with a sexual organ of another or anal/vaginal penetration of another by another object

  • The sexual act(s) is/are performed without the victim's consent.
  • An individual who is mentally incapacitated, asleep, physically helpless or unconscious due to alcohol or other drug consumption is considered unable to give consent.
  • The same definition applies regardless of whether the assailant is a stranger or a non-stranger.
  • The type of force employed may involve physical violence, coercion or threat of harm to the victim. The victim is not required to physically fight back. 

Forensic medical exams ("rape kits"): 

  • Not performed at hospitals in Hillsborough County/Tampa except in cases of serious injuries requiring medical attention
  • Performed at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay by specially trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners
  • Can be performed up to 120 hours after the sexual battery
  • You may choose to have a forensic medical exam even if you choose to not report to the police -- contact the Victim Advocate for an advocate to arrange the exam for you and accompany you if you wish
  • Even if you did not preserve evidence, you may still report the crime

Preserving Evidence

  1. Forensic evidence collection is best done within 72 hours of the assault and best collected immediately following an assault. The state of Florida will collect evidence up to 120 hours following an assault; however, it is important to remember that the more time passes between the sexual assault and collecting the evidence, the less likely it will be to collect physical evidence that may be very important to the prosecution of a criminal case.
  2. To preserve evidence in the case of sexual assault, it is recommended that you do not shower or bathe, wash your hands, use the toilet, douche, eat, drink, smoke, brush your teeth, change clothing, or wash clothing or bedding before a medical exam. Even if you have already taken any of these actions, evidence may still be collected, and you are encouraged to have prompt medical care.
  3. It is preferred that a police department facilitates the collection of forensic evidence on site. However, if you are not sure if you would like to report to the police or if it has been longer than 72 hours after the assault, you may wish to gather all clothing and bedding that may be used for evidence and place them into a clean paper bag or clean sheet. Items should be stored at room temperature that will not damage evidence.

CONSENT

FL Statute 794.011: "Means intelligent, knowing, and voluntary consent and does not include coerced submission or submission out of fear. "Consent" shall not be deemed or construed to mean the failure by the alleged victim to offer physical resistance to the offender."

Preserving Evidence

  1. Forensic evidence collection is best done within 72 hours of the assault and best collected immediately following an assault. The state of Florida will collect evidence up to 120 hours following an assault; however, it is important to remember that the more time passes between the sexual assault and collecting the evidence, the less likely it will be to collect physical evidence that may be very important to the prosecution of a criminal case.
  2. To preserve evidence in the case of sexual assault, it is recommended that you do not shower or bathe, wash your hands, use the toilet, douche, eat, drink, smoke, brush your teeth, change clothing, or wash clothing or bedding before a medical exam. Even if you have already taken any of these actions, evidence may still be collected, and you are encouraged to have prompt medical care.
  3. It is preferred that a police department facilitates the collection of forensic evidence on site. However, if you are not sure if you would like to report to the police or if it has been longer than 72 hours after the assault, you may wish to gather all clothing and bedding that may be used for evidence and place them into a clean paper bag or clean sheet. Items should be stored at room temperature that will not damage evidence.

Stalking

If you are experiencing a stalking situation, an advocate can explore reporting options, assist in developing a safety plan, and provide advocacy as needed. 

FL Statute 784.048: 

  1. A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person commits the offence of stalking, a misdemeanor.
  2. A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person makes a credible threat to that person commits the offense of aggravated stalking, a felony in the third degree. 
  • "Harass" means to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose.
  •  "Course of Conduct" means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, which evidences a continuity or purpose.
  • "Credible Threat" means a verbal or nonverbal threat, or a combination of the two, including threats delivered by electronic communication or implied by a pattern of conduct, which places the person who is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family members or individuals closely associated with the person, and which is made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat to cause such harm.
  • "Cyberstalk" means to engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose. 

Preserving Evidence

Stalking is demonstrated through a pattern of unwanted contact. Students can work with the victim advocate to create a stalking log to keep track of each incident for future reporting, peace of mind, or to use as evidence when filing an injunction for protection. 

  • Save every unwanted contact or communication to or from the stalker via voicemail, text, social media or email, letters and gifts, and store them in a secure location.
  • Keep a dated log of every incident and contact with the stalker; note any witnesses
  • Photograph any items (notes, gifts, etc.) left by the stalker on your car, at your door, in your mailbox, etc., while the items are still in place.

Violent Crimes

If you become the victim of violent crime an advocate can assist you with exploring reporting options, safety planning, and advocacy as needed.

  • Aggravated Assault
  • Aggravated Battery
  • Battery
  • Attempted Sexual Battery
  • Child Abuse
  • Hazing
  • Secondary Homicide Survivor
  • Human Trafficking
  • Incest
  • Kidnapping
  • Armed Robbery
  • Armed Burglary
  • Secondary Suicide Survivor

Non-Violent Crimes

If you become the victim of a non-violent crime an advocate can assist you with exploring reporting options, safety planning, and advocacy as needed.

  • Assault
  • Cybercrime
  • Harassment
  • Hazing
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Theft

Evidence information adapted from Boise State's Gender Equity Center