Reporting the crime
If you have been sexually assaulted, it can seem overwhelming and harsh to have to go through a police investigation and perhaps a court case. The police and the prosecution service know this is an emotionally demanding process and will do their best to help you along the way.
The police will give you the name and telephone number of a contact person from the police service. You can call the contact person if you have any questions, or if you need to talk about the case. The contact person is either a police officer or a prosecutor.
You have the right to free legal counsel; an attorney who can help you with your case, who is known as a legal advocate. The court will find a legal advocate for you. If you know an attorney you would like to help you, you can tell the police.
Normally, you can talk to your legal advocate before the police interview you the first time. However, the police may also need to ask you some questions before your legal advocate arrives. Read more about what the legal advocate can help you with.
The police interview
The police are responsible for investigating your case. That means they need to find out:
- What happened
- Whether what happened is a criminal offence
- Who did it
The police usually start by talking to you. This is called an interview and takes place at the police station. Normally, only you and a police officer are in the room, but your legal advocate and a local authority representative may also be present. The police officer will take down what you say.
The police also interview other people with knowledge of the case. Read more about the criminal justice process.
Is it up to you whether to consent to an examination by a doctor, but in some cases one is necessary to secure evidence. The police will ask you and your parents for permission for a doctor to examine you if the police find it necessary. You will be examined at the hospital casualty department, the Centre for Victims of Rape, or the Centre for Victims of Sexual Abuse by people who are trained to examine victims of sexual assault.
Testimony in court
If your case goes to court, you will receive a summons to a court hearing. At the hearing, you will have to relate what happened. Your legal advocate will accompany you, and he or she will explain what is going to happen and what you have to do. You may also have other people accompany you unless they are also going to be heard in the case.
When the time comes for you to explain what happened, usually only the people connected with the case are allowed in the courtroom (the session will be closed). This means there are no spectators. It also means that anything said in court must not be made public. For example, no one may write about it in the newspaper or broadcast it on television.
It can be difficult for you to tell your story to strangers in the courtroom. Your legal advocate or contact person in the police service can explain how things can be made a bit easier for you.
If you have been sexually assaulted, you can claim compensation. The compensation will be paid out of public funds, and the offender may later be required to repay the amount. Your legal advocate can explain the procedure and help you ask for compensation in court. Read more about compensation.
Who can help?
If you need advice or guidance in addition to what the police, the prosecution service, or your legal advocate gives you, there are several places you can contact. Your local authority can often help if you need support after being sexually assaulted. In some cases, your own doctor can refer you to a psychologist.
Here you can read more about the other advice services available to you if you have been sexually assaulted.