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Reporting a sexual assault

3-minute read

Only you can decide whether to report a sexual offence to the police. It can be done at any time, for example, immediately after the incident or days later.

It's important to be aware that if you report the crime immediately after it has happened, the police have a better chance of collecting evidence.

If you report an attack later, it's likely that any physical evidence will be lost. Ideally, medical evidence should be collected within 72 hours (3 days) of the attack. Your clothes may also be needed as evidence, so remember to take spare clothing with you to change into if possible. If not, don't worry — the police can provide a spare set of clothes for you to change into.

The police are trained to deal with cases of rape and sexual assault. They are there to help you. They have set procedures that make sure you get the support you need, and ensure that where possible they get the evidence they need to identify and prosecute the attacker.

If you are unsure what to do, you can call a specialised support organisation in your state for advice and information.

Sexual assault reporting procedure

If you choose to report the rape or sexual assault, a police officer will start by taking your details.

If the attack occurred recently the police will arrange for you to have a medical examination. This is to make sure that you receive the necessary medical attention, but also to collect any physical evidence. They will also give you information about your rights and support services.

Once you feel ready, the police will continue to take a statement from you. This is different from what you told police if you called them at the time of the assault. This formal statement will be used as the main piece of evidence if the case goes to trial (court). This means your statement is not confidential. However, all your personal information, such as your name and address, will not be included in the statement.

If there is enough evidence, the police can still take the case to court even if you don't make a statement. In this case you will be called as a witness.

You have a right to have either a female or a male police officer take your statement. You may feel embarrassed or find it difficult, but try to tell them as much information as you can. If you cannot remember certain details, tell them that you cannot remember. You will be asked if you have washed or not since the assault. Also, let them know whether you drank any alcohol or took any recreational drugs before the assault.

Make sure you are given a copy of your statement. You will need it if the case comes to court. It is also a good idea for the first person you saw after the assault to also make a statement to the police.

If you're worried you might forget some of the details, write notes beforehand to remind yourself later.

For example:

  • at around what time the assault happened
  • the sequence of events that led up to the assault
  • any conversations that could be relevant
  • how you tried to resist the assault
  • details about the appearance of the attacker
  • threats that were used against you
  • weapons that were mentioned or seen during the assault
  • injuries that you received
  • injuries that the attacker received

If the police arrest the person who assaulted you, you may be asked to identify them.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your reporting a sexual assault, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2019

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