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Reporting to the police

Some people report what's happened to them to the police and some don't. It's entirely your decision.

Here's some information about what to expect if you do.

Should I report to the police?

Whether or not you go to the police should always be your choice.

No-one should ever put pressure on you to speak to the police. And many people don't speak to the police for a range of different reasons.

If you do want to report, you might want to first speak to your local Rape Crisis centre about your rights and options.

They may have specialist workers called advocates or ISVAs who can give you information and support throughout the process.

We have more information about this below.

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Sexual violence or abuse is always the fault of the perpetrator

Some people feel worried that, if they don’t report what happened to them to the police, the person who carried it out (the perpetrator) will be free to do it again.

But, whatever you decide to do, please remember that it's never your responsibility if they do something to someone else.

Illustration of two women chatting on the phone to each other.

If you want to talk through your options, we are here for you.

Getting support from Rape Crisis

Many Rape Crisis centres have specialist workers called advocates or Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVAs).

They can provide impartial information about reporting to the police. This includes information about your rights and options, and what to expect.

If you do decide you would like to report to the police, or you're not sure, they can help.

They can support you if and when you make the report, and give you ongoing support with what happens next.

Find your local Rape Crisis centre

How do I report to the police?

If you want to report sexual violence or abuse to the police, contact 101 (or 999 if you are in danger or it’s an emergency).

You can also go to a police station in person.

It happened recently

If you experienced a rape or sexual assault in the past week, the police will want to check that you are safe and see whether you need any medical help.

There might also be forensic evidence that the police can use in their investigation.

So if you want to report, or you’re not sure, try not to:

  • Eat or drink.
  • Smoke.
  • Wash yourself.
  • Brush or comb your hair.
  • Brush your teeth.
  • Change your clothes.
  • Go to the toilet. If you have to go to the toilet, you can do this into a clean container.
  • Move or clean anything where the rape or sexual assault took place.

But, if you do one or more of these things, it’s OK – you can still make a report.

If you report to the police, they may use an early evidence kit. This means they might ask you to take a urine sample or take a swab from your mouth. Once they have done this, you will be able to have a drink and go to the toilet.

They will also ask if you want to do a forensic medical examination. This usually takes place at a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).


Don’t want to report to the police right now or you haven’t made your mind up yet?

You can also go to a SARC without talking to the police first. At a SARC, they can store any forensic evidence that they collect. If you do choose to report to the police in the future, they will be able to use this evidence.

Find out more about SARCs

It happened a while ago

There is no time limit on when you can report to the police. So, even if it happened a long time ago, you can still go to the police if you want to.

If it happened more than a week ago, you won’t need to visit a SARC for a forensic medical examination.

You might be worried that there isn’t enough evidence now for the police to make a case. But your account of what happened is also evidence.

The police should still investigate what you report, no matter how long ago it happened.

What happens after I report?

The following information is just a quick overview and isn’t legal advice. If you want more information about what might happen, and your rights and options, please contact your local Rape Crisis centre.

After you make a report:

  1. The police will take an initial account. They won’t ask you detailed questions about the incident but will get enough information to start an investigation.
  2. If possible, the police should assign you a specialist police officer with training in sexual offences.
  3. The police will ask you for an official statement. This will be usually recorded on video that can be used in court. This should take place in private and you can choose whether to speak to male or female police officers. You can also ask to have someone with you – for example someone from a Rape Crisis centre.
  4. The police will start their investigation. This will involve looking at evidence, speaking to witnesses, and potentially interviewing or arresting the perpetrator.

Will my case go to court?

There is no guarantee that if you report something to the police, the perpetrator will go to court and get a prison sentence.

Once the police have finished their investigation, the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) might decide there is enough evidence and it is 'in the public interest' to charge the suspect. This means that the case may go to court.

But, this doesn’t happen in all cases. If the police and the CPS think there isn't enough evidence, or it isn't in the public interest, they may not charge the suspect. This means that they close the case and it doesn't go to court. Or, sometimes the case is dropped before it gets to court.

Either way, it means that the suspect doesn't go to court or get a criminal conviction.

Contact your local Rape Crisis centre for unbiased information about the process and what might happen. They will also be able to give you lots of support, both during and after the process, no matter what happens.

How long does it take?

The process from first speaking to the police to the final decision can take a long time. Sometimes it can take two years or more.

Thinking about reporting to the police?

We know this can be a hard decision to make.

If you do get in touch with one of our helplines or your local Rape Crisis centre, we can help.

We will never judge you or tell you what to do. You can take it at your own pace.

Talk to us
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