There are many people who decide not to report to police for a range of reasons, not least because it can be very difficult to come forward and talk about what has happened, particularly when the person who committed the offence is someone who is known. It is important to know however, that it is a person’s right to report any experience of sexual assault to police if and when they are ready, and they can have support from a trusted friend, family member or another person, such as a counsellor / advocate from the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre.
Below we look at People who Investigate Sexual Offences, Meet and Greet with the Police, Making a Police Statement and Making an Informal Report.
Police who Investigate Sexual Offences
In the ACT there are special police detectives in the AFP Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Team (SACAT) who are specially trained in taking statements from and understanding the specific issues faced by victims of sexual assault and child abuse. SACAT officers investigate all sexual offences against children in the ACT which are reported to police. They also investigate sexual assaults and a range of other sexual offences against adults, particularly those which carry the heaviest penalties upon conviction. There are, however, a number of sexual offences – such as acts of indecency – which are often investigated by General Duties Police.
Meet and Greet With The Police
If you have experienced any form of sexual assault in the ACT and you are considering making a report but are unsure, you can meet with police to discuss the reporting process before deciding on whether you would like to proceed with making a formal statement. You can have support from someone at this meeting – if you wish a counsellor from CRCC can support and advocacy and help explain the processes during your meeting. You can call us on 6247 2525.
Making a Police Statement
Some people who make a report to police do so within a few hours or days of experiencing sexual assault and others report weeks, months or years after the event(s). There is no statute of limitations in the ACT regarding sexual offences, which means it does not matter how long ago a sexual assault took place, it can still be reported to police.
During a police statement, victims will asked to describe in as much detail as possible what happened to them, including information about the person who sexually assaulted them, anything the perpetrator said at the time of the incident(s) and when and where the incident(s) took place. Police questions are designed to obtain as much information from you as possible at the time so no important details are left out, and the need for supplementary statements is minimized.
The police will also require sufficient details to help establish the nature of the incidents and the number of charges. It is important that the victims tell the police in their own words as much about the events leading up to and surrounding the incident(s) as well as the fine detail of the actual incident(s). Even details which might seem unimportant at the time may in fact be important in the investigation.
Talking about what happened in detail can be a difficult experience. If you are considering making a statement it is important to know that unless you would prefer to make the statement alone, you have the option of having a support person there with you, someone who believes you and is aware of your feelings and needs. As part of CRCC’s memorandum of understanding with police, a CRCC counsellor/advocate will be contacted to offer support to all victims of sexual assault before, during and after they make a statement, unless the victim prefers to make the statement without CRCC support.
As a victim of crime it is important to know that you are not responsible for the offences perpetrated against you and you have the right to phone someone for support, leave the premises at any time and if you need to, you are able to take breaks during the statement. You are also able to take an extended break and complete the statement later in the day, the following day or sometime thereafter if you are unable to complete it at the time.
Making An Informal Report
Some people do not wish to make a formal statement to police as they do not wish to engage with any court proceedings, but would still like to report what has happened to them so the incident(s) can be recorded by police. Whilst police do not investigate informal reports, the information provided to them may be used for police intelligence purposes. Making an informal report does not mean that a person is unable to make a formal statement at a later date.