Should I report what happened?
It's entirely your decision to report a rape or sexual assault, some people report what's happened to them and some don't.
How do I report to the Police
If you want to report something to the police, contact 101 (or 999 if you are in danger or it’s an emergency).
You can also go to a police station in person.
The Police will take an initial account to start an investigation and assign you a specialist Officer with sexual offences training.
What if I don’t want to report?
No one should pressure you to speak to the Police. It is still possible to access some of these services if you are unsure about reporting it.
Happened in the Last 7 Days?
If the sexual assault took place in the last week the main concern is making sure you are safe and getting help for any medical needs.
There may be Forensic Evidence that can be helpful in an investigation, there is a better chance of collecting evidence if this is done as soon as possible.
If you think you want to collect this evidence, try not to:
- Eat or drink.
- Wash yourself.
- Brush or comb your hair.
- Brush your teeth.
- Change your clothes.
- Go to the toilet. If you must go to the toilet, you can do this into a clean container.
- Move or clean anything where the rape or sexual assault took place.
If you have already done some of these things, don’t worry it’s not too late to collect evidence.
The Police may use an Early Evidence Kit (EEK) which consists of a mouth swab and or a urine sample. Once this is done, you can have a drink and use the toilet.
A forensic medical examination can be carried out to collect any evidence to help an investigation. This will usually take place at a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).
The clothes and underwear that you were wearing during and sometimes after the assault, may need to be kept as evidence and sent for examination (if the case goes to court).
You can still attend a SARC if you are unsure about reporting to the Police. Any collected evidence is stored and used if you decide to report at a later date.
Happened more than 7 days ago?
There is no time limit on when you can report to the police, can still go to the police, even if it happened a long time ago. The police should still investigate what you report, no matter how long ago it happened.
If the assault happened more than 7 days ago it may not be appropriate to offer you a forensic medical examination. Treetops and other services are still here to help you, this may include making a sexual health appointment for you, organise testing for sexually transmitted infections, make referrals for counselling or refer you to an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) service.
Forensic Medical Examination
The examination must be done within 48 hours to 7 days depending on the type of assault. At Treetops SARC, you will be supported by a Crisis Worker and a Sexual Offences Examiner. Your appointment at Treetops may last three to four hours.
When you arrive
When you arrive at Treetops SARC you will be met by one of our specially trained Crisis Workers. They will take you into a private lounge so that you can speak to them about what has happened and discuss options available to you. We understand that you have been through a major trauma and realise how hard it can be to speak about. If you decide to have a forensic medical examination, then the Crisis Worker will stay with you throughout the process.
Whatever you decide, we will always put your needs first and help facilitate the choices you make about your care.
Assessment and Consent
You will be introduced to the Sexual Offence Examiner (SOE) who is a qualified Doctor or Nurse with further training to specialise in the collection of forensic evidence following a sexual offence. They will ask you questions about your health, and medical history, details about the assault and assess any further care you may need.
They will explain what the medical examination will involve, and you will always be in control of what happens. You will be asked a series of questions about consent as the SOE explains the process to you. You can say no at any point, even if you have previously said yes. We take everything at your pace, in a way that makes you feel most comfortable in such an unsettling time.
The SOE conducts the Forensic Medical Examination, their job is to look for evidence that supports your report of sexual assault and may help to identify the assailant.
You will have the examination in a private medical room. Your Crisis Worker will also stay with you and explain everything that is happening.
You might be feeling anxious or worried about the thought of having a medical examination, but our Crisis Workers and SOEs are there to put you at ease.
The SOE will explain what they are going to do before and during the examination. They won’t do anything without your consent. You are able to consent to some parts of the examination and not others, and if you change your mind, your consent can be withdrawn.
The forensic examination is different to a normal doctor’s examination. The SOE collects evidence by taking swabs and documenting any injuries. They will be able to give you advice and answer any questions you have regarding risk of pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections. We can complete a pregnancy test and give you emergency contraception if required.
You are in control of the examination and stop at any time.
With your consent, your SOE will check you from top to toe, looking for any injuries such as cuts and bruises, making detailed notes of where they are and what they look like. If you consent to it the SOE will take samples, using cotton wool swabs, from your skin and from the areas involved in the assault. This may include your genital area (private parts). Your SOE may also ask you to give samples of your blood and urine. They might also take photographs of any injuries. These can all be used as evidence if you do decide to report a rape or sexual assault to the police, now or in the future. The SOE will explain any findings to you, and you can ask any questions you have.
What happens to my samples?
Any samples or photos taken are carefully collected, labelled anonymously, and safely and securely stored. They may be used in court as evidence.
If you are attending Treetops with the police, these samples are given to them. They may send these samples to be tested for DNA or other evidence. Any information or results obtained from the samples is police evidence and does not come back to Treetops.
If you are attending without Police involvement and are not sure what to do, we can store the samples for two years until you have decided what you want to do. You will be able to discuss this with your Crisis Worker and Sexual Offenses Examiner.
Your Crisis Worker and SOE will assess what onward support will be appropriate for you. We can refer or signpost to services that can help with therapeutic support, counselling, mental health issues, domestic abuse, and alcohol and substance abuse. We work in partnership with ISVA and advocacy services that can support you with the next steps. If we feel yourself or anyone is in danger, we have a duty of care to share this with Social Services so they can support you and those around you in the best way possible.
You may also need follow up appointments for any medication or vaccinations started, or for contraception. This will be booked or referred to a sexual health clinic. The clinicians there will be able to support you and can also signpost to any other services you may need.
If you have reported to the Police they will continue with their investigation and may gather other evidence, if the offender has been apprehended, they may take evidence from them or any other relevant people or places such as the location of the assault.
The police may also want to interview you to take a full account of what happened. This is an official statement it is usually recorded on video so that it can be used in court. This should take place in private, but you can request to have someone with you. If it is local to you, your video interview may happen at Treetops, but can also happen at a police station or other interview suite.
If you are yet to involve the Police, this won’t happen until you decide to report. Which you can do at any time, any samples and evidence taken at SARC are kept for 2 years. To report, you can either go straight to the Police and let them know you attended the SARC, or you can come to us. This starts the police investigation process.
If you decide you never want to report, you can contact us to request your samples are destroyed.
Will it go to court?
There is no way to guarantee if a report will go to Court. There is also no timeframe for how quickly investigations can happen.
Once the investigation is finished, the Police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decide if there is enough evidence and whether it is 'in the public interest' to charge the suspect.
If they decide there is enough evidence and or it is in the public interest, the case may go to court. But this doesn’t always happen, if they decide there isn't enough evidence, or it isn't in the public interest, they may not charge the suspect. Which means that they close the case, and it doesn't go to court. Sometimes the case is dropped before it gets to court. Either way, it means that the suspect doesn't go to court or get a criminal conviction.
If your case does go to court, you can be supported via your ISVA throughout. There are several different services to help you understand what might happen at court and support you to give evidence during the trial.
Information on what happens during and after the trial process can be found here.