Reporting to police

If you think you have experienced sexual violence, you can make a report to the police. The decision whether to report sexual violence to the police is up to you.

Making an informal report

If you want to make a report but do not want the police to take any action, you could consider completing a Sexual Assault Reporting Options Questionnaire (SARO).

Unlike making a formal report, police will not take any action in relation to a SARO. The primary purpose of a SARO is to make a record of what occurred. It also allows police to gather information on sexual offences and offending.

You can complete a SARO online, or by downloading, completing, and emailing the SARO to police. You can complete the SARO anonymously. You can also choose how much information you put in your SARO. Police will let you know they have received it and send you an Event number. You can use this to apply for victims support. See Other information and support for more information about victims support.

If you decide to make a formal report in the future, the information in your SARO can be used to create a formal report.

Deciding whether to make a formal report

Making a formal report to the police can be hard and scary. It is common for people to experience increased anxiety as a result. Remember your recovery is your main priority.

Some reasons for making a formal report may be:

  • you want the police to charge the perpetrator;
  • you want to tell your story officially and have it recorded;
  • you don’t want the perpetrator to do it to someone else;
  • you were injured physically or psychologically and want to apply for Victims Support;
  • you want the perpetrator to know you are going to tell people about it.

Many people find they feel better just for having made a formal report to the police, especially if the perpetrator has threatened them not to go to the police.

Making a formal report to the police may show the perpetrator that you cannot be intimidated by threats and that what they did was wrong.

If you are considering reporting a sexual assault to the police:

  • keep the clothes you were wearing (including underwear) and do not wash them;
  • place the clothes in a plastic bag and seal the bag;
  • do not have a shower or bath; and
  • go to your nearest hospital for a forensic examination. See Getting medical help for more information.

You can also report sexual violence that occurred a long time ago.

It is up to the police to decide what they do with the information you give them. The police may decide to do things you do not want them to do, like charge the perpetrator, even though you said you don’t want them charged. Or police may decide not to charge the perpetrator, even though you want charges laid. They may also talk with other witnesses, even though you may have asked them not to. It is important you understand what the police can do before you reporting sexual violence so you can make an informed decision about whether to report.

If you make a report, police can:

  • do nothing further;
  • investigate;
  • ask you to make a more detailed statement;
  • apply for an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO);
  • charge the perpetrator.

Making a formal report

No action

If the police do not take any action after you have made a report, you can ask them to explain their reasons for this decision. If they do not give you a reason, you can get legal advice about making a complaint. See Other information and support for more information about complaining about police.

You should still ask police for the Event number for your report about the sexual assault. It is important to keep a record of the Event number as it proves that you reported the incident to the police.


Detectives may investigate 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.

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

If you were sexually assaulted recently, and you have not already had a SAIK, then the police may arrange for this to happen by taking you to a sexual assault service or doctor who can perform the SAIK. See Getting medical help for more information about SAIKs.

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 (ODPP) to decide whether the evidence they have will be enough to let the case proceed to trial.

Detailed statement

After you have reported the sexual violence to police, they may ask you to make a more detailed statement. In most cases, a specially trained detective will take and record your statement. They will ask very detailed information about what happened.

If English is not your first language, ask the police to arrange an interpreter to assist you.

Giving a statement can be a challenging process. You might feel like you are reliving the sexual violence. It might assist you to write down what happened and take it with you to help guide you. 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 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. 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. Ask to add information to your statement that might be missing. If there is information in there which is not quite correct or not clear enough, ask for it to be amended. You may need to rely on that statement in court.

Ask for a copy of your statement.

If you later realise you forgot to tell the police something in the first statement, 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.

You may be pressured by the perpetrator, or someone who knows them, to tell the police that what you said in your statement was not true.

There is a risk that if you tell police that the statement you made was not true, that you will be charged with making a false statement. If you are found guilty you may be given a penalty and you will have a criminal record.

If someone is pressuring you to withdraw your statement you should tell the police and get legal advice. You may also decide that you do not want the police to take the matter any further. You can tell the police or the ODPP solicitor this, but despite this, the case might still go to trial.

Applying for an AVO

If the police hold fears for your safety, they may apply for an AVO to protect you from the perpetrator. An AVO is not a criminal offence, but it is a criminal offence to breach an AVO.

If the police hold immediate fears for your safety, they can make an on-the-spot (provisional) AVO. It comes into effect when it is given to the perpetrator, referred to on the AVO as the defendant.

The AVO will prohibit the defendant from assaulting, threatening, stalking, harassing, or intimidating you or intentionally or recklessly destroying or damaging any property that belongs to you (including animals). This order also protects anyone in a domestic relationship with you. This order is on every AVO.

Some other orders that can be included on an AVO are that the defendant:

  • must not try to find you;
  • must not approach you or be in your company within 12 hours of consuming illicit drugs or alcohol;
  • must not live with you;
  • must not come to your home, place of work, place of study or school;
  • must not contact you or come near you if they see you out and about;
  • must not try to approach or contact you unless that contact is:
    • through a lawyer;
    • or to attend accredited or court approved counselling, mediation and/or conciliation;
    • as ordered by a court about contact with children;
    • as agreed in writing between you and the parent(s) about contact with children; or
    • as agreed in writing between you and the parent(s) and the person with parental responsibility for a child about contact with the child.

If the defendant does, or tries to do, any of these things, you can report it to the police and the defendant can be charged with breaching (not following) the orders.

If the police do not apply for an AVO and you fear the perpetrator, you can apply for an AVO yourself through the local court. You should get legal advice before you do this.

Charging the perpetrator

If the detectives decide that there is enough evidence to satisfy a court beyond all reasonable doubt that the perpetrator committed an offence, then they will charge the perpetrator. Once the perpetrator has been charged, they will be referred to as the defendant. The defendant may be taken into custody and might apply for bail. See Reporting to police for more information about bail.

If you really emphasise to the police that you do not want to press charges early on, they may decide not to proceed but, it depends on the crime and what other evidence they have. Ultimately the decision to go to court is for the police and prosecutor but as you are the main witness it helps the police if you are willing to go to court.

If the police detectives tell you they cannot charge the perpetrator, it does not necessarily mean they do not believe you, or that the sexual violence did not occur. It just means that at the current time there is not enough evidence to charge the perpetrator. Sometimes other information comes to them later. People can be charged years after sexual violence was committed. Police may still to apply for an AVO to protect you from the perpetrator even where they don’t lay charges.

Sometimes the police may tell you they do not believe you. They may choose to believe the perpetrator’s version of events rather than yours. This could be very difficult to hear.

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 Other information and support for more information about making a complaint.


Bail is where a defendant can apply to the court to be at liberty (meaning not in prison) until their matter is decided at court.

In some cases where the defendant is charged with a very serious offence, they will be refused bail and will have to wait in prison (on remand) until their case is heard at court.

Depending on the risk of the defendant doing the wrong thing while on bail, the court can either refuse bail or impose conditions on the defendant. Where the court finds there is no unacceptable risk, the defendant may be released on bail without conditions.

The court must consider whether there is an unacceptable risk that while on bail the defendant will:

  • not attend court;
  • commit a serious offence;
  • pose a threat to or endanger the community; or
  • interfere with a witness or evidence.

Instead of being for a set period of time, like 6 months or 2 years, bail conditions are in place only until the defendant is either found guilty or not guilty. The bail conditions of the defendant can be changed by application to the court any time before the final hearing has finished.

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