Sexual Assault

If you have been sexually assaulted, it is important to know there is help and a range of support options available. Nobody asks or deserves to be a victim of sexual violence. It is not your fault and you are not to blame.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is a crime under the Crimes Act 1900 (ACT) and is taken very seriously by ACT Policing. Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault.

The term sexual assault is used when a sexual act is committed against a person without that person’s consent.

Often sexual assault is committed by someone known to, and trusted by, the victim. It may be experienced as a one-off event or repeatedly over a longer period.

Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim.

What to do if you have been sexually assaulted

Your health and safety is paramount.

If you are in immediate danger or seriously injured, call Triple Zero (000) and request an ambulance. If you do not require urgent assistance, call police on 131 444, visit a police station or hospital as soon as possible so your safety and health can be assessed.

We know that it might be difficult, but if you can, don’t shower, drink liquids, smoke or change your clothes following a sexual assault. Also do not clean up, move or otherwise disturb anything at the place where the assault happened.

Critical evidence can be lost or deteriorate if not collected in a timely manner. Contacting police or attending a hospital as soon as possible ensures the best chance of this evidence being captured.

If you haven’t done some of these things, that’s ok. It is still possible for evidence to be collected.  Again, your safety and health is our paramount concern.

Both the Canberra and Calvary hospitals provide support for all victims of sexual assault, and can provide emergency treatment. They will also connect you with support services such as Forensic and Medical Sexual Assault Care (FAMSAC) who can administer preventative medical care against Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancies. 

How to report sexual assault

You can report any incident of sexual assault to police. Reporting sexual assault can be a daunting and traumatic experience, and we recognise the courage involved in coming forward.

ACT Policing’s Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Team is a specialist team dedicated to investigating this type of crime.

ACT Policing work closely with the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre who provide confidential counselling services free of charge and can assist you with attending hospital, provide advice and support through criminal justice proceedings and refer you to practitioners to assist in your recovery.

There are a number of ways you can report a sexual assault to ACT Policing:

In person: Visit any of our five police stations in the ACT. An officer will be able to assist you immediately to discuss the incident and your options going forward.

By telephone: In an emergency, call Triple Zero (000) or for police assistance call 131 444. These calls are answered by ACT Policing’s Operations who will arrange for police to meet with you.

Reporting historic sexual assault

**Historic sexual assault refers to an assault that occurred more than six months ago.

It’s never too late to report sexual assault. We understand that many people who experience sexual assault don’t tell anyone at first and reporting sexual assault years later is quite common.

It doesn’t matter whether the offence occurred months, years or decades ago. ACT Policing will investigate if you ask us to.

Historic sexual assault refers to an assault that occurred more than six months ago. You can report historic sexual assault online via our online forms section. These reports can be made with the intention of having the incident investigated by police or for information purposes only. You can choose how you would like to proceed.

If you would prefer to speak to someone, you can report in person at any of the ACT’s five police stations or over the phone by calling Police Assistance on 131 444.

What happens when I report to police?

When you contact ACT Policing, we will talk you through the process so that you can make a fully informed choice about how you wish to proceed with a police investigation. We can also discuss alternate options, including having the matter recorded but not investigated.

Your safety and wellbeing is very important. Police can assist in connecting you with support services, such as the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre, to help you manage the trauma of sexual assault and assist in your recovery.

If you are reporting the sexual assault of a child, ACT Policing is obligated to report the incident to Child Youth Protection Services..

What happens during an investigation

An investigator will be your main point of contact and lead the investigation. As your case progresses you can decide at any time to stop the investigation without pressure from police.

As part of the investigation, police will generally take your statement via an audio/video recording, collect evidence, interview witnesses and possibly interview the alleged offender. Police will then review all of the available evidence and determine if there it is enough to proceed with a criminal charge. Part of this process may include liaising with the Director of Public Prosecutions who will run the prosecution if the matter progresses to court.

We will take your statement early in the investigation in a private place. Your statement records what you can recall about your experience in as much detail as possible. You will be asked to provide details about everything you can remember. It’s important not to leave anything out. Even small details that you might not think are important can help us with the investigation.

We know remembering the details of sexual assault can be distressing. Our investigators will treat you with dignity and respect. They are trained to understand the impacts of sexual offences and will support you through the investigation.

You will also be offered support by one of our Victims Liaison Officers, who are there to help you through the investigation and court process.

Proceeding to court

There can be a considerable time delay from when you give your formal statement and the start of court proceedings (sometimes one year or more).

If the accused (defendant) pleads guilty, they can be sentenced by a Magistrate or Judge without the case proceeding to trial. If a not guilty plea is maintained, the matter will proceed to a trial.

Two to three weeks prior to the trial, you will meet with a Prosecutor at the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who will present your evidence in court. You are also encouraged to visit the court prior to the trial so you are familiar with the rooms.

During the trial, you can be protected from seeing the defendant through a remote witness facility. You will be able to see the room through a monitor and have a microphone to speak through. A camera will show your image in the court. The DPP can also request a closed court so no members of the public can attend.

At the trial, you may be required to give evidence. If there was a recorded statement made to police on video, this can be played to the court. The Prosecutor will ask you questions followed by the Defence lawyer, who can ask questions about your statement or matters not raised. The Prosecutor may ask you additional questions to help clarify any information provided.

After hearing all the evidence, the court will determine if the defendant is found guilty on any charges. If they are, a date will be set for sentencing. At this time, you can apply for compensation as part of the sentence.

You can also write a Victim Impact Statement which outlines how the offence has affected you. This will be given to the court by the DPP.

Not all investigations proceed to court. This does not mean we don’t believe you. It simply means we do not have enough evidence to meet the required level for criminal prosecution. If this happens, we will talk to you about it and explain the reasons why.

Who will see my report

All reports of sexual assault are handled with care. The alleged offender will not see the report during the investigation but it may be tendered in court as part of court proceedings.

Making an Information Report

You can choose to make an Information Report to police for recording purposes only. Police will not investigate but may use the information for intelligence purposes.

You can decide if you would like your case to progress through the court at a later date. Be assured criminal investigations will not begin without your consent.

Can I bring a support person with me?

ACT Policing want you to be as comfortable as possible during your experience with us.

For this reason, we encourage you to take up the services of the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre who offer an impartial support person to accompany you while you speak to police.

Alternatively, you may bring your own support person such as a friend, family member or work colleague.

We can also offer translation services to assist if required.

Your privacy

ACT Policing takes its privacy obligations seriously and all personal information collected to provide services to victims of sexual assault is handled in accordance with our obligations under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth). More information is available on our privacy policy page.

Support Services

We acknowledge not everyone is comfortable coming to the police in the first instance or you may find it hard to cope with the trauma. Counselling and psychological support is available. We encourage you to visit or talk to one of the below services.

Service Contact Phone Number
Canberra Rape Crisis Centre (CRCC)  6247 2525
Domestic Violence Crisis Service  6280 0900
Child and Youth Protection Services 1300 556 729
Victims Support ACT  1800 822 272
Lifeline  131 114
Kids Helpline  1800 55 1800
Translation and interpreting service 131 450

 

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