The You Have Options Program focuses on changing two fundamental elements in the law enforcement response to sexual violence:
You Have Options Program Participating Law Enforcement Agencies recognize the need for a victim-centered and offender-focused response to sexual violence. The traditional law enforcement response to sexual violence tends to discourage sexual assault victims from seeking assistance through the criminal justice system. As a result, often law enforcement doesn’t receive the information necessary to hold sexual offenders accountable, and those offenders go on to victimize additional persons.
By addressing the barriers victims face when reporting sexual assault, and thereby increasing the number of sexual assault reports, the YOU HAVE OPTIONS Program provides investigators with information they would otherwise never have received.
When a victim is given the ability to control certain aspects of a sexual assault investigation – such as who is contacted and if an arrest is made – law enforcement and the victim both benefit. Victims provide investigators with more accurate information, are more willing to identify their assailant and participate more fully in the investigative and judicial process. Victims are provided with the time they need to make a decision that is right for them, independent of the needs of the criminal justice system and are more likely to report a positive experience with law enforcement regardless of the judicial outcome.
Listen to Carrie Hull, founder of the You Have Options Program, speak with NPR about the program.
The You Have Options Program focuses on identifying serial sexual perpetration. Investigators move beyond traditional sexual assault investigative practices that too often rely solely on gathering information from the victim and the suspect. The program utilizes the Inquiry into Serial Sexual Assault (ISSA) to provide a clearer picture of the reported incident and the offender. A small percentage of the population commits a large number of sexual assault offenses. Utilizing the victim-centered and offender-focused strategies of the You Have Options Program allows law enforcement to work collaboratively and gather the information necessary to identify and successfully investigate serial sexual predators
We are a program, founded by law enforcement professionals, providing uniformity and accountability through training and technical assistance to a nationwide body of sworn law enforcement agencies committed to the highest standards of response to victims of sexual violence.
We envision a criminal justice system where victims of sexual violence view law enforcement as a viable route to justice.
The You Have Options Program has three primary goals:
Detective Carrie Hull began creating what would become the “You Have Options Program” (YHOP) in January of 2010. In late 2009 and early 2010, multiple sexual assaults by strangers were reported to the Ashland, Oregon, Police Department. It was rare to receive information about stranger sexual assault, let alone several within such a short period of time. Detective Hull noticed that the victims in many of these, and other sexual assault cases, had either withheld information that would identify the offender or provided false information about how the assault had happened. Investigators still believed that an assault had occurred, just not exactly in the manner that it had been reported.
This caused Detective Hull to begin asking people who were reporting sexual assault how they felt during their interactions with police, what they would change about the reporting process, and what they were most concerned about both during the investigation and when making the decision to report to law enforcement.
These conversations highlighted that traditional law enforcement methods of investigating sexual assaults were actually contributing to an environment that kept victims from feeling safe enough to report the details of their victimization. Additionally, it became clear that the method of questioning being used by law enforcement did not incorporate the most current information available on trauma and memory. In fact, almost all of the victims described the ability to keep what happened to them private or confidential and fear of not being believed as the most influential barriers to reporting their assault to law enforcement.
Over the next several years Detective Hull continued to seek out information directly from those who experienced victimization while increasing her collaboration with community based sexual assault advocacy organizations both at a local and national level. In April of 2011 Detective Hull organized the first of three annual Southern Oregon Sexual Assault Symposiums as a way to bring national experts into Southern Oregon to learn more about cutting edge criminal justice responses to sexual assault. Presenters at the Symposiums included David Lisak, PhD (former University of Massachusetts Professor), Patti Powers, JD (former Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney and Supervising Attorney for the Sexual Assault-Domestic Violence Unit in Yakima County, Washington), Anne Munch, JD (career prosecutor and victims’ advocate and subject matter expert for the United States Air Force, the United States Army and the United States Navy), as well as other leaders in the field.
In mid-2011 Detective Hull combined the knowledge and expertise being shared with her into the You Have Options Program (YHOP). Detective Hull was supported in her work by then-Ashland Police Department Lieutenant Corey Falls and Chief Terry Holderness. The leadership at the Ashland Police Department valued innovation and community-based problem solving, allowing Detective Hull the opportunity to test certain requests from victims. This included allowing victims to report in the way that was right for them and not moving forward with investigative steps until the victim was ready.
Detective Hull also began working closely with the Jackson County Sexual Assault Response Team (JCSART) and several key community-based advocates who volunteered endless support and time to further the goals of YHOP and provide feedback and honest critique of her work on the program. Two key community partners, Susan Moen, Executive Director JSCART, and Angela Fleischer of the Southern Oregon University (originally a community-based advocate during the creation of YHOP) continue to support the vision, mission and goals of the You Have Options Program.
Detective Hull was repeatedly told by victims that it would be important for them to have their options in writing so they could have assurance that what law enforcement was promising would actually be their experience when reporting. To better accomplish that request Detective Hull began creating a website for YHOP in 2012 that was unveiled to the public on January 1, 2013, a date that represents the official beginning of the You Have Options Program.
Watch founder, Carrie Hull, speak at Capital Hill in roundtable discussions on combating rape and sexual assaults on college campuses
YHOP was originally intended as a local program created solely for use by the Ashland Police Department. However, Detective Hull received an increasing number of requests for the program’s materials from law enforcement agencies across the nation, and it became clear to her that terms she had been using in the program materials such as “victim centered” and “offender focused” were being interpreted drastically differently from one law enforcement organization to another. Detective Hull became concerned when she realized that some personnel from law enforcement agencies saw the program as a way to increase reporting without actually understanding the necessity of a victim’s individual choice in the process.
To provide clarity and prevent outside law enforcement agencies from diluting the program’s focus and goals, Detective Hull expanded the program’s original “six key components” into what are now the 20 Elements of a YHOP Law Enforcement Response. Each element of the program was clearly defined to better support uniformity and accountability in those law enforcement agencies implementing the program.
Early in 2014 Detective Hull and the Ashland Police Department administration made the decision to offer YHOP as a national law enforcement program, so they could ensure that law enforcement using YHOP principles would be trained in and actually follow the program’s 20 Elements. The first Introductory Session for YHOP was held in October of 2014.
The City of Ashland supported the Ashland Police Department’s innovative approach to sexual assault response and funded Detective Hull’s position full time to further YHOP and share the program with other law enforcement agencies across the nation. The Jackson County Sexual Assault Response Team continued their support by collaborating with YHOP to receive funding from a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grant to support expansion of YHOP to other law enforcement agencies in Oregon.
In 2015 the Brighton Police Department in Colorado became the first national YHOP law enforcement agency, after the Ashland Police Department, followed in 2016 by the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office in Washington. Additional law enforcement agencies have obtained certification and are listed on the national website www.ReportingOptions.org
YHOP restricts participation to sworn law enforcement agencies. Any law enforcement organization that investigates reports of sexual violence may start the process of obtaining certification as a YHOP agency. Certification is not available to community partners such as offices of prosecution or advocacy organizations; however, many of the program elements are applicable to other professions, and community partners are encouraged to collaborate with their law enforcement colleagues. It is important to note that agencies who use similar terminology or labels to describe their programs and are not YHOP certified, may not be adhering to all or even most of the program elements espoused by YHOP.