Many people do not report sexual assaults to the police. There is no time limit for reporting a sexual assault; some people come forward years later. However, the sooner you report a crime, the easier it can be for the police to investigate and find Material presented to a court to prove or disprove a fact. It can include what witnesses say as well as documents and other objects. to support your case. Note that if you change your mind, you can withdraw your complaint to the police.
Speaking to the police
Victims have a number of reporting options to consider, including:
- notifying the police of the assault, to provide them with information about an A person who has committed a crime. or an A criminal act prohibited by state or commonwealth criminal law. An offence is either a summary offence (minor) or an indictable offence (serious).;
- notifying the police of the offence so that information may be recorded, in case a full statement might be made in future; and
- requesting that a Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) conduct a forensic medical examination to collect evidence; then the victim can defer their decision about whether or not to report the assault.
The first priority for police officers is to take care of the victim. If immediate medical attention is required, police officers should send the victim via ambulance to the nearest hospital emergency department and notify the forensic medical examiner and the nearest CASA. If a child is involved, police officers must notify the DHHS.
After any injuries have been tended to, a police officer from the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team (who is the same sex as the victim) A document that sets out what a person wants to happen to their money and other property after they die. ask the victim for some brief details about what happened (e.g. the time and place of the incident, the number of offenders, a description of the offender(s), and details of any weapons used or threats made).
If the sexual assault just occurred, the police officer should advise the victim about forensic evidence and how it might be affected if they touch things, change clothes, shower, eat or drink. If the victim can’t wait to do these things, the police officer may ask them if they can collect some preliminary evidence themselves.
When it is appropriate, the police officer will take a detailed statement of the assault. A copy will be given to the victim.
If the victim:
- does not speak English, the police must arrange for an interpreter;
- has a cognitive impairment, an A person, other than a friend or family member, who provides support to a person with an intellectual disability, brain injury or mental illness when they are being questioned by the police. must be with them when they are making their statement;
- is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, police officers from the Aboriginal Liaison Unit should be involved where possible;
- is under the age of 18 years, a parent or Someone who is legally responsible for taking care of another person or their property. should be present. If that isn’t appropriate (i.e. if they’re a A person who can provide direct information based on their own knowledge about a relevant fact, and appears in court to give evidence about it. In some cases a witness may provide an affidavit or deposition setting out their evidence if they are not able to attend court., A person who commits a crime. See also offender. or cannot be located within a reasonable amount of time), an Independent Third Person must be present while they’re making their statement.
In dealing with victims of sexual assault, police officers must abide by the Victoria Police Guidelines setting out proper practice in an industry or occupation. For example, the franchising code of practice sets out rules for businesses operating under a franchise. Codes can be voluntary or statutory (required by legislation). for the Investigation of Sexual Crime 2016 (available at www.police.vic.gov.au). If you have any concerns about how a police officer has treated a victim of sexual assault, see Chapter 12.6: Complaints against Victoria Police.
Investigating and laying charges
Police officers should maintain regular contact with the victim and ensure they are aware of support services, their right to apply for victims of crime compensation (see Chapter 10.6: Assistance for victims of crime) and what may occur at An independent body that hears legal claims brought by parties and decides between them. Serious cases are heard by a judge and jury, or just a judge. Less-serious cases are heard by a magistrate..
A police officer must tell the victim if the A person who has been charged with a crime. Also known as a defendant. has been found or charged. If the accused is held in Lawful control over a person which prevents them leaving. A person under arrest is in police custody and is not free to go. A person in prison is serving a custodial sentence that keeps them confined to the prison grounds. and then released (either on The procedure that allows a person who has been charged with an offence to be released from police control or prison until the hearing of the case. Courts can add conditions to bail. For example, they can require that people released on bail promise to come to the court on a set date, or put up an amount of money that they cannot get back if they do not appear as they promised. See also undertaking. or A formal document issued by a court which says someone must appear in court on the date stated in the document. See also service; writ.), a police officer must let the victim know.
If the police decide to not (1) A statement giving the details of a crime an accused person is claimed to have committed. (2) A personal property security. (3) A judge’s directions to a jury at the end of a case. the accused, they must tell the victim why. Just because the police decide to not charge the accused, this doesn’t mean that they don’t believe the victim was assaulted. Victims can ask for more information about the police’s decision.
The victim must tell the police if they do not want to be involved in a police investigation. The police will consider the victim’s wishes but will ultimately make the final decision about whether to proceed and charge the accused. The police will consider:
- the seriousness of the offence;
- whether the offence is one of a series (e.g. committed by a ‘serial’ rapist);
- whether the case is easy to solve; and
- the priority of the complaint and the availability of police resources.