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police procedures

Reporting to the Police

For a detailed booklet on Reporting to the Police and the Criminal Justice Process - please contact your nearest Rape Crisis Centre for a copy of 'Report to Court A Handbook for Adult Survivors of Sexual Violence'. This booklet is provided by Rights of Women or you can visit their website or you can contact them directly 020 7251 8887

Rights of Women is a women's voluntary sector organisation which provides free legal advice and information to women affected by sexual violence.

Find information about their sexual violence legal advice line at:

Rights of Women also publish a range of free information on areas of sexual violence law to support women through the criminal justice process, including From Report to Court: a handbook for adult survivors of sexual violence.

Download From Report to Court and other free information.

Some advantages of reporting

  • It is an opportunity for you to present your side regarding the rape / incident.
  • It is the only chance you have of getting your attacker punished.
  • If your attacker is known to you or has power over you; it may be a way of stopping a future situation in which you are likely to be raped again by him.

Some disadvantages

  • Reporting does not necessarily mean the rapist will be convicted neither does a conviction necessarily result in a prison sentence.
  • You will set in motion a process over which you have little or no control and which is difficult, although not impossible, to stop.

Police Procedures

If you have been recently raped nearly all police investigations begin with forensic evidence collection. This is needed to prove that sexual intercourse took place and it is additional collaborative evidence in prosecution. In cases of stranger rape it can also provide a profile of the attacker. These tests are swabs taken from any area that the assailant came in contact with so:

  • Do not wash
  • Do not brush your teeth
  • Do not have a cigarette
  • Do not eat or drink
  • Do not change your clothes (or keep them safely to one side)
  • Try not go to the toilet
  • Do not clear up anything from the area of the incident

Don't worry if you have already done some of these things. It is quite possible that there is still evidence to collect as well as injuries that can be documented.

When you give your statement to the police, do not leave anything out, however embarrassing you think it may be. If you really can't remember, tell them you don't remember, rather than imagining what may have happened. Tell them the truth about how much you had to drink, or if you took any recreational drugs because if the police find out any conflicting evidence later, it will not help the prosecution and may look like you are trying to cover something up.

Deciding whether or not to report to the police is a very difficult decision and unfortunately one which needs to be made as soon as possible. There are many points of view about whether or not to report - whichever decision you make it is up to you and no one should make you feel guilty whatever you decide. If you decide to report do it as soon as possible. Any delay will lessen the chance of forensic evidence being gathered. Tell someone what has happened as soon as you feel able because the person who has seen you after the attack will be a useful witness. Even though your first reaction may be to wash and change your clothes do not do this or tidy yourself up as you may destroy valuable forensic evidence.

If you have changed, take your clothes with you when you report and try writing down what happened. Important things to remember are in what order things happened, what was said and, if it was a stranger, what the attacker looked like. Take a change of warm clothing with you as the police may want to keep some or all of your clothes for tests and evidence. Do not take any alcohol or drugs apart from medication prescribed by your Doctor for a medical condition.

Be prepared to stay at the police Rape Suite or station for several hours. You can ask for a woman police officer to deal with your case. You will be asked intimate and often embarrassing questions. You do not need to talk to any other officer other than the one in charge of your case. You will be asked to make a statement about what has happened. A police officer will write it down for you but you can ask to write it yourself. The police will want it to be very accurate as it is used by the Crown Prosecution Service to prepare any court case. You can ask for a copy of your statement. A medical forensic examination will be carried out by a police surgeon. This examination is not a medical check-up it is solely for forensic evidence purposes. This will involve both an internal and external examination to collect evidence and photographs may be taken of injuries. You can request a female doctor, although you may have to wait longer for one to be found.

After the first interview and examinations are complete, the police may wish to talk to you again. If you do not want them to come to your home ask them to phone or write to arrange a meeting at the police station or somewhere else. Once you have told them all you know it is up to the police to find the attacker and decide whether to arrest and charge him. If you wish to find out more you can ring the police and ask to speak to the officer in charge of your case, who will have been specially trained in sexual offences.

Many rape crisis centres have an Advocacy Service that will support you and give you information about the criminal justice process. They will also accompany you to a SARC and to court and ensure that you understand what is happening and help you with anything that is troubling you while you are waiting for the trial. If your case does not go to court or you have already reported you can still contact Rape Crisis.