If you've been raped or sexually assaulted, it is entirely up to you whether or not you choose to report it to the police. No-one else can or should make that decision for you.
If you do choose to report to the police, a forensic medical examination will be carried out so that forensic evidence can be collected.
If you’re not sure yet whether you want to report to the police but think you might want to at some point, you can have a forensic medical examination carried out at your nearest Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), where forensic evidence can be stored for a future date.
Either way, if you want forensic evidence to be collected, time is an important factor; you should try and go to the SARC or report to the police straight away if you can, or at least within 72 hours of the rape or assault.
Also, if possible, try to take these steps:
- Do not wash
- Do not brush your teeth
- Do not have a cigarette
- Do not eat or drink
- Do not change your clothes
- If you do change your clothes, do not wash them but put them in a clean plastic bag
- Try not to go to the toilet
- Do not clear up anything from the area of the incident
Don't worry if you have already done some of these things. It's possible that there is still forensic evidence to collect.
If you report to the police, you will also be asked to make a statement. It's important not to leave any information or details out of your statement, even if you find them upsetting or embarrassing. If there are things you can't remember, tell the police that, rather than trying to imagine or speculate about what might have happened. And be honest with the police even about things that you might be worried will reflect badly on you, like how much alcohol you'd had to drink or if you'd taken illegal drugs; remember that none of these factors make what happened to you your fault and you are not to blame.
If you're unsure whether or not to report to the police, your local Rape Crisis Centre will listen and support you to reach your own decision. Many Rape Crisis Centres also offer specialist advocacy or Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) services that can support you throughout and beyond the criminal justice process.
Your local Rape Crisis should also be able to give / send you a copy of a detailed booklet on reporting to the police and the criminal justice process called From Report to Court: A Handbook for Adult Survivors of Sexual Violence or you can download it here. This booklet is provided by Rights of Women.