How to report Sexual Assault (and Who to Report it to)

This post is a part of our guide series to support anyone who may have been sexually assaulted or has questions around the topic:

What is Sexual Assault? Definitions & Meanings of Rape
Who Commits Sexual Assault & Why?
What are the Signs of Sexual Assault?
Date Rape & Staying Safe
What Impacts Does Sexual Assault Have on Victims and Their Family/Friends?
Coping, Healing & Recovering From Sexual Assault & Rape
How to Help Someone Who has Been a Victim of Sexual Assault
How to report Sexual Assault (and Who to Report it to)
How is Sexual Assault & Rape Proven in Court?
Punishment and Sentencing for Sexual Assault
How can Sexual Assault and Rape be Prevented?
Sexual Assault Data & Statistics
Sexual Assault Helplines, Support & Further Reading

Reporting a sexual assault can be very difficult for the victim, some victims will be too scared to come forward and others don’t want to relive the experience by talking about it. There will also be those who are unsure of how and where to report the assault.  It will not be easy and it may help to have a trusted family member or friend to help you with this. There are various organisations who can also offer to support you with this. 

In this guide, we will discuss who to report the assault to and how this can be done.

Who can or should I report sexual assault too?

You can report the sexual assault to the police or other organisations that are willing to help.  Remember whether you decide to report it to the police or not is a choice that you have a right to make, no one should pressurise you to do this.

You may wish to contact your nearest Sexual assault referral centres (SARCs). SARCs offer a range of services including medical, practical and emotional support for anyone who has experienced sexual assault or abuse. SARCs can also arrange for you to speak to the police should you decide to report the abuse and support you through the criminal justice system.

How do I report sexual assault that happened to me?

You may wish to report the assault to the police or other organisations by telephone, or you may want to speak to someone face to face at the police station. Alternatively, you might find it easier to report online, whichever way you decide it might be helpful if you asked a close family member or friend to help you with this. Talking about the abuse can be difficult and having someone there to support you through this can make all the difference.

How do I report the sexual assault of someone else?

If you are worried about the safety and welfare of any individual and unsure about what to do, you may wish to contact the police on the non-emergency number 101. They will be able to guide you further on the best course of action, however, If there is a risk of immediate danger dial 999.

Alternatively, you may wish to report the assault but wish to remain anonymous in which case you can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Remember you need to ensure the safety of the victim and yourself, for example, calling the police may risk more harm to the victim as they may not be in a position to speak truthfully about what has happened.   It is better to approach the victim and arrange a safety plan in which you know when to contact the police.

What happens after sexual assault is reported?

Depending on the severity of the sexual assault and how recently it occurred, the police may do the following;

  • They may attempt to gather further evidence– you may be asked to retain and not wash the clothing you were wearing at the time. Depending on when the assault occurred, you might be asked to take part in a forensic examination.
  • Ask you to provide details of any other witnesses who can corroborate your report- this could be family members, friends, your GP or anyone who witnessed or knew about the assault.
  • Ask you to provide a detailed statement- this can be taken either as a written statement or video interview, the officers will discuss these options with you.
  • May arrest and interview the offender (if you are wanting to prosecute) – if the identity of the offender is not known then the police will make every effort to identify the person or people responsible for the assault.

After completing their investigation, the police normally pass the file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who will decide whether there is enough evidence and if it is in the public interest to charge and convict the offender. This may involve a court process in which you will be required to give evidence.

Why are sexual assault and rape underreported?

For victims of these awful crimes reporting the incident/s is not easy, it’s almost like reliving the trauma again. Research suggests over the past four years, rape prosecutions in England and Wales have fallen to 70%. The average custodial sentence for sexual offences in the UK is between 5 and 10 years, whether this is long enough for those found guilty of a such horrendous crime is questionable.

Many people are of the view that the minimum and maximum sentencing for sexual offenders should be increased to reflect the seriousness of the crime and that victims deserve better justice. There is now an increase in the amount of evidence to consider, normally from phones and social media. The overall process takes a long time and the chances of securing a conviction can be slim, these hurdles can make it very difficult for victims to come forward and report sexual assault and rape. There will also be victims who are too scared to come forward because they fear the perpetrator may cause them further harm, other victims may not report as they don’t think anyone will believe them.

We understand how difficult it is to see someone you know or love experiencing abuse, sometimes trying to help a victim is not easy. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and the first step that you should take is to talk to someone. No one should have to deal with abuse alone.

Here at the Criminal Injuries Helpline, we help victims of violent crime and abuse recover compensation. You may want to help the victim gain some justice, get in touch with us today to see if the victim would qualify.

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