If you have been sexually-assaulted it can be difficult to know what to do. But the first and most important thing is keeping safe. Get away from your attacker, go to a safe place and contact someone you trust.
What do I do now?
If you are in immediate danger or have been injured, call the police and emergency services on 999 (or 112 from a mobile phone). If immediate assistance is not required, call 101.
Reporting the assault
You can formally report the crime to the police. Specially-trained officers will respond and, if appropriate, a forensic medical examination can be arranged as quickly as possible, but only if you give your consent. This allows forensic evidence to be obtained and stored which can be crucial in the prosecution of your attacker.
If you are reporting something that happened some time ago, a medical examination may not be necessary; the police will advise you on this.
In either case, you will be allocated a specially-trained police officer who will be your contact throughout the investigation process and for any future court hearings.
The earlier there is a report to the police the better, in terms of gathering evidence. Advice to victims:
- Don't brush your teeth
- Don't wash any part of your body
- Don't brush your hair
- Keep all clothes you are wearing or were wearing when the incident occurred
- If you were using a panty liner or tampon at the time of the attack you should also keep this for the police. Put it in a paper bag if possible
- Keep a urine sample. This is really important if you think you have been drugged
- Keep or store any used condoms, chewing gum or cigarette butts discarded by the person who attacked you
I’m not sure what to do
Being raped or sexually-assaulted is a traumatic experience and you may feel unsure about reporting the crime to the police. There are a number of options you can take:
- You can receive advice and support from the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) or Gloucestershire Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (GRASAC). The SARC is based at Hope House, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital and can be contacted on 01452 754390. The GRASAC helpline number is 01452 526770. Both offer confidential services and you can remain anonymous if you wish
- You can also contact the police anonymously and be advised on what action they would take should you wish to make a formal report. This may help you decide what you want to do next. For example, you may know the person who assaulted you but do not wish to give either your name or the offender’s name. Or maybe the only information you wish to pass on is the date, time and location of the assault
Any information you pass on directly to the police, or through the SARC, could help the police to track patterns of crime and help them gain a profile on an attacker that may assist other similar investigations.
You may still be undecided about reporting the incident to the police or you may even have decided not to. If appropriate to your circumstances, you may still have the option of having a forensic medical examination during SARC opening hours for recovery of evidence which is then stored whilst you consider your options. In any event and, if necessary, the staff at the SARC will follow up your sexual health needs and give you information about ongoing support that is available in Gloucestershire such as counselling, advice and after-care.
Alternatively, as with any criminal matter, you can provide information anonymously through the Crimestoppers website or call 0800 555 111.
What happens next?
During a police investigation and throughout the criminal justice process the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) will allocate an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) to support you.
Concerns about sexually-transmitted infections & pregnancy
You may be worried that you have an infection from the assault. Ten days following the assault, testing can be carried out to identify any infections and provide the appropriate treatment for you.
There may be a risk of pregnancy following the assault, even if full vaginal penetration did not take place. The SARC can provide emergency contraception (‘morning after’ pill) up to 7 days after the assault and a pregnancy test on the day your next period is due.
Concerns about going to court
The decision to report sexual violence is often very difficult and you may be worried about doing so, especially if it leads to a court hearing. It is your right to choose whether to bring a case against the offender or not. The Crown Prosecution Service will decide if there is sufficient evidence or that it is in the public interest to go to court. The Witness Care Unit, along with specially-trained staff, will help support you through the court process and hearings.
For legal information specifically for adult survivors of sexual violence go to: Rights of Women
What else can I do?
The traumatic experience of being raped or sexually-assaulted can leave emotional, psychological and sometimes physical scars. Dealing with these effects can be very difficult, but counselling, help and support is widely available:
- Gloucestershire’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) is based at Hope House SARC, Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, Great Western Road, Gloucester, GL1 3NN. It is open between Mon and Fri, from 9am to 5pm and can be contacted on 01452 754390 (outside of these hours call 101 or 999 in an emergency)
- GRASAC offers support services for women and girls over the telephone, or face-to-face at the centre or a pre-arranged setting. The service can be contacted on 01452 526770
- Information, advice and support on all types of violence and abuse can be found at Glos Take a Stand
- You can also receive help and advice on sexual health at Sexual Health in Gloucestershire or on 0300 421 6500.