What to do After a Rape or Assault
Women will react differently after sexual assault or rape. It is important to trust and validate your feelings and do what you need to do in order to recover. This may entail telling a friend, going to a place where you feel safe or having a bath or shower or crying.
In order to cope with the trauma of the event many women will just try to carry on as normal and not tell anyone for a long time. However, often distress can surface a considerable time after the event. No matter how much later, a woman can always seek help from counsellors, GPs etc. Do not feel you have to cope on your own simply because you did not report the incident soon after it happened.
Reporting to the Police
Sexual violence is a criminal offence and you can, if you wish your perpetrator to be prosecuted, report the crime to the police. It is your choice. You can do this later if you wish but the reason for reporting a sexual assault immediately is so that forensic evidence can be taken. Evidence will be collected by means of a medical examination by a police surgeon – who will be a GP employed part-time by the police.
If the attack was physically violent the police forensic team may also wish to visit the scene of the crime to collect more evidence.
When you go to the police station you can take someone with you, such as a friend or professional worker. Ask for an officer who has had special training (this would usually be a woman). An officer who has had special training with sexual offences will be called.
Today the police are trained to use tact and sensitivity. No one has the right to ask you to disclose any personal details about your previous relationships and sexual life.
If you have reported a sexual offence you have the right to withdraw the complaint at any time. The police may require clothing to be left for forensic examination. The police station can provide you with other clothing, but it is a good idea to take a change of clothes with you.
If you are very traumatised after the assault you may arrange another time for a statement to be made. If English is not your first language the police can arrange for an interpreter to be present. The police officer will explain police procedures to you and give you advice and information of the next stages including the court process.