Deciding whether or not to report a rape 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.

Advantage of reporting

  • It is an opportunity for you to present your side regarding the sexual assault.
  • It is an opportunity to get your attacker prosecuted. 

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 your clothes, take them with you when you report and try writing down what happened. Important things to remember are the order in which 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 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, 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.

Sexual Abuse

If you feel you would like to report historical or current sexual abuse you can contact the police or your local SARC (Sexual Abuse Referral Centre) you can phone them and ask to talk to someone in confidence if you feel you cannot go in person. They have special units that deals with this type of abuse and are very supportive. They are experts in dealing with this type of crime and will give you all the help and support you need.

Do not be frightened or ashamed, you have done nothing wrong. The abuse may have happened many years ago but this makes no difference. Abuse is abuse and it is dealt with in the appropriate manner by people who have been extensively trained.


Anonymous Intelligence (without direct police involvement).

If you decide you just want to give details of the incident to someone; the SARC can take these details and pass them on anonymously to the police. This may help with future prevention of attacks.

More info


Sexual Abuse Referral Centres are specialist medical and forensic services for anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted. They aim to be a one-stop service, providing: medical care and forensic examination following assault/rape and, in some locations, sexual health services.

More info


The booklet “From Report to Court” is a publication from Rights of Women. It provides information and support to people who have experienced sexual violence as well as those who support them. It explains the law relating to sexual offences as well as different stages of the legal process.

More info

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