Rape and sexual assault

Rape and sexual assault can happen to anybody and can affect victims in many different ways. They can result in a variety of overwhelming feelings that can be confusing–fear, anger, confusion, numbness, difficulty in making decisions, shock, rage, disbelief, panic.

Trauma can affect people in different ways–some people may become withdrawn, depressed, want to be alone, isolate themselves, others may have panic attacks and be full of fear not wanting to go out, some may carry on with normal everyday life, seemingly as if nothing has happened, others may display anger and aggression. All this is normal, there is no right way or wrong way to be after rape, you behave how you need to in order to get through and you need to do what feels right for you.

According to the British Crime Survey there are an estimated 47,000 rapes every year, around 40,000 attempted rapes and over 300,000 sexual assaults. The maximum sentence possible for rape is life imprisonment.

Reporting rape or sexual assault

First step: If you decide to report this crime, try to take someone you trust with you to the police station. It is a good idea as well to take with you a change of clothes. You will be asked to make a statement but the police at this stage will not expect you to talk in detail and you will be allocated a police officer who will act as chaperone and be the contact person to keep you advised of the progress of the case. You can request a female or male police officer to talk to.

Then: The chaperone will then go with you to the Victim Examination Suite. You will need to be examined by a doctor for evidence. Samples will need to be taken which will include samples of saliva, urine, blood and pubic hair and swabs will need to be taken from the mouth, rectum and vagina. You can request a female doctor or your own GP if he or she is trained in forensic practice. The doctor will advise you on getting tested for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. If you have any injuries these may be photographed by a police photographer, again you can request a female photographer. More detailed statements will then be taken from you.

The police will do their very best to make you feel as comfortable as possible. Again, try and stay in control of the situation. Request a break whenever you need one, you need to do whatever feels best for you to get through this.

Taking the case to court

The CPS have to decide whether they feel they will get a conviction in order to take the case to court.

Many cases do not get taken to court due to lack of evidence. This does not mean nobody believes you, it means the CPS don’t feel there is enough evidence to get a conviction. You will still have done everything you possibly could to show the abuser that they have no right to abuse a person and get away with it.

If the CPS decide to go ahead and the abuser pleads guilty you will not have to attend court but if he pleads not guilty you will need to intend the court. The Victim support service can accompany victims to court as for many this can be a daunting experience. The police will go through everything with you and the set up and working of the court will be fully explained to you before you need to attend.