If you have decided to report: Evidence
If you have been raped and want to have forensic evidence taken, you will need to make a decision very quickly about whether you want to report to the police. You can report at a later date but there may well be no forensic evidence.
If you have decided to report: Evidence
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 is used as additional evidence in prosecution. If you were attacked by a stranger, 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 to 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 after the attack. 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 do 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 SARC 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 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 the 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 SARC 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.
If you decide not to report…
If you decide that at this time you don’t want to report your rape or sexual assault to either the police or the SARC, there are some precautions you can take to retain evidence for a later date. Remember that evidence not gathered in a forensic environment or by professionals may not be suitable for use during legal proceedings.
- Place any clothes including underwear and shoes worn by you into a tightly sealed sheet or pillowcase. Do not wash these clothes.
- Take any other material that was within contact during the incident such as duvet covers, pillow cases, towels etc and enclose in a bag that can be sealed as tightly as possible
- Keep any sanitary products in a brown bag where possible.
- Tie any condoms used and put these in a bag.
- If you have any injuries, i.e. bruises, bite marks from the incident take pictures.
If you decide that you are not reporting the incident to a professional body, you must seek medical professional help, particularly if you have injuries as a result of the incident. Most importantly you must visit a sexual health clinic, particularly if there was no use of contraception and your risk of STI’s or pregnancy are high.
There is also always the option of contacting a counselling service to discuss your feelings and emotional responses to the incident. Details of local support groups can be found on our webpage which you can access without reporting to the police. These groups can then pass the details on anonymously to the police. This may help with future prevention of attacks.
If you feel that you are able to and it is safe to, it may also be worth documenting a few key facts, times, dates, addresses, car makes, descriptions etc, to ensure that such facts are not forgotten over the course of time.
Please note that if you choose not to report, you may be putting yourself at more risk both physically and emotionally. Regardless of when the incident happened, it is never too late to report.
For many people the courage to come forward can take many weeks, months and even years. Reporting at a later date can still mean that you can receive the emotional support you need and in some cases reporting can still result in a conviction against the offender.
How you may be feeling if you have been raped
You may have hundreds of different feelings about what has happened to you, or you may be experiencing no feelings at all, you may feel numb inside. You may be feeling guilty, that it was your fault in some way, you may be feeling confused, angry or alone. If you have any feelings that you cannot come to terms with there are specially trained people who can help you through this.
Effects of Abuse
Sometimes the horrible feelings and memories that some people experience as a result of being sexually abused or raped can be overwhelming. People learn to cope with these feelings in many different ways. To follow are a few commonly asked questions that we have answered.