What happens when? The legal process and you


If you have reported the sexual assault to the police they will need to take a detailed statement. In most cases a specially trained detective will take and record your statement. They will ask for very detailed information about what happened.

Giving a statement can be really tiring. You might feel like you are re-living the sexual assaults. Have a good support person with you if possible, take breaks when you need them and if necessary come back another day to finish if you are really too exhausted or unable to continue.

When your statement is complete, the police will ask you to read it and sign it to say it is correct.

Why do I need to read it and sign it when I just finished talking about it?

It is really important that you take your time to read your statement and make sure everything you needed them to know is there, and that they took the facts down

correctly. You may need to rely on that statement in court.

Ask for help if you have problems reading or do not speak English.

MAKE SURE IT IS CORRECT BEFORE SIGNING! Ask for a copy of your statement.

What if I think of something else that happened after the police have taken my statement?

If you realise you forgot to tell the police something in the first statement, you need to make a time to give another statement to the detective. Try not to be put off if you have difficulties trying to make a time to talk to the detective again. The police work in shift rosters and urgent matters come up. It is really important that you keep asking the police officer in charge of your matter to take a further statement so they have the best evidence with which to charge the perpetrator.

The investigation

As well as your statement, the police detectives will take statements from other witnesses including the person at the police station that you first spoke with.

Detectives will conduct an investigation and gather evidence relevant to the case. The investigation may include examining the crime scene and talking to any other people or witnesses who may be able to give information about what occurred.

If the sexual assault was recent and you have not already had a SAIK then the police will arrange for this to happen by taking you to a sexual assault service or doctor who can perform the SAIK.

The detective in charge of the investigation decides whether to charge the perpetrator based on the evidence. Sometimes, the police may seek legal advice from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to decide whether the evidence they have will be enough to let the case proceed to court.

Charging the perpetrator

If the detectives decide that there is enough evidence to take the matter to court then they will charge the perpetrator. The perpetrator is then known as the defendant.

The defendant may be taken into custody and then apply for bail. Depending on the seriousness of the crime they may or may not be allowed to leave on bail. See the ‘Staying Safe’ page for more on bail.

The police told me they can’t charge the perpetrator. Don’t they believe me?

If the police detectives tell you they are unable to charge the perpetrator it does not necessarily mean they do not believe you or that the sexual assault did not occur. It just means that at the current time they cannot find enough evidence to charge the perpetrator. Sometimes other information comes to them at a later date and people can be charged years after a sexual assault crime was committed. Make sure you still ask the police about staying safe (see ‘Staying Safe’).

Rarely, the police may tell you they do not believe you. They may choose to believe the perpetrator’s version of events rather than yours.

Police may also warn parents of young children or some victims with cognitive impairments that there is insufficient evidence or they doubt the victim’s capacity to stand up to the difficulties of being a witness at court.

If you are unsure about the police decision not to proceed and they are unable or unwilling to discuss the matter with you further you can seek legal advice about making a complaint. See Contacts for contact information of some legal services you can speak to.

What happens when in the legal process

What happens When it happens
Contact a sexual assault service or police You can contact a sexual assault service or the police any time after a sexual assault, even if it happened a long time ago.

If the sexual assault happened in the last few days or you have any injuries, you should go to the sexual assault service at your local hospital as soon as possible.

Medical examination and forensic medical examination (SAIK – Sexual Assault Investigation Kit) If the sexual assault happened in the last 3 days (sometimes longer) then the SAIK forensic medical examination can be done to look for evidence of the sexual assault. If it’s been a longer time but you still have injuries from the sexual assault or other violence you should let the sexual assault workers know so they can make a record of those injuries.
Tell the police what happened (Reporting to the police) The same day or soon after you have made contact with the sexual assault service and you have decided to report to police. Initial information is taken and police arrange a time to take your statement.
Police take your statement Police will either take your statement the same day you report or at a later date, depending on when you and the police can make time.
Victims Support Scheme You can start the process for Victims Support as soon as you have either a police statement or a medical report about the sexual assault. Strict time limits apply to this scheme – see p33 for more detail. You can apply for counselling through Victims Support immediately after the incident.
Police investigate Can take days or months – depends how much evidence is needed.
Police arrest perpetrator Usually they will do this soon after you make your statement, although it could be months or years later depending on how long the investigation takes and how complicated the matter is.
Police (sometimes with help from the Office of Director of Public Prosecution (DPP)) make decision whether to charge the perpetrator This is decided after they have looked at the evidence gathered during the investigation.
Victim told whether or not perpetrator was charged Usually same day as they charge or don’t charge the perpetrator.
Perpetrator (now defendant) has to attend court for first time A week or two after defendant is charged or next day if they have been kept overnight by police.
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