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What you can expect when reporting a sexual assault

When deciding whether or not to report a sexual assault to the police, it is important to know what will be involved in the process so you can make the decision that is best for you. Remember, the role of the police is to be impartial investigators. When a sexual assault has been reported to the police, officers are responsible for gathering, evaluating, and processing information and/or evidence. They must critically evaluate whether the evidence supports prosecuting the case regardless of their personal feelings. They must also rely on the Crown Prosecutor to concur that there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction before proceeding with laying charges. Part of being an impartial investigator is that the police officer may refer to you as the victim, as this is the term used to refer to anyone who has had a crime committed against them.

To help the police gather evidence, DO NOT:

  • shower or bathe;

  • change or throw away your clothes;

  • wash your hands or comb your hair;

  • take any drugs or alcohol

  • disturb the area of the occurrence

There is no time limit for reporting and/or laying charges for a sexual assault. But in any case, the sooner you call the police, the easier it is for them to collect the evidence needed to prove the charge.

For the preservation of evidence it is best if you do not disturb the area of the occurrence, change your clothes or wash before reporting to the police. However you can report the occurrence at any time.

SART KIT/SART NURSE:

If you report a sexual assault within 7 days (168 hrs.), police will ask you if you wish to consent to a SART exam.  This exam is conducted by the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) nurse at the local hospitals.  SART is a team of female registered nurses who have been trained specifically in the care of people who have been sexually assaulted.

If you choose to consent to a sexual assault kit, the SART nurse will exam you to document injuries and collect forensic evidence for the police investigation and court process (if charges are laid).

It should be noted that police are able to collect forensic touch evidence if the offence is reported within 3 days of the occurrence.  If you have been touched skin to skin OR oral to skin contact, there may be a chance to collect evidence. This is done at a police station by a specially trained police officer

Three General Ways to Report:

Phone police:

To report a sexual assault, you can call the Police Non-Emergency line: 423-4567 (for immediate emergency help, call 911). When you call you will reach a dispatch officer, who will send uniform police officers to you. When the police officers arrive they may offer to take you to the hospital to receive medical attention and have any evidence of the sexual assault on you documented. (As per SART Kit/SART Nurse).

The police officer will start a police report in which she/he gets personal information from you and information about the occurrence. The officer may ask you several things, including the name, address, and physical description of the suspect if you know the person. You will be asked to provide a statement about what happened.

Once the officer has completed his/her report and if there is no imminent safety risk to you, the officer will conclude their initial contact with you. In most cases you will be asked provide a record statement which will occur at a police station. The investigating officer will make arrangements with you either on the day of reporting or a few days after. These recorded statements allow you the opportunity to share more information with the investigating police officer.

Please note: The factors of the sexual assault will determine who the investigating officer will be after time of reporting.  Your file maybe forwarded to a divisional detective, a sexual assault detective OR remains with the initial uniform patrol member.  You will be kept informed at all times and notified if your file has been forwarded.

Go to the hospital

You may also report a sexual assault to the police by going to a hospital to get examined. At the emergency department of the hospital tell the triage nurse you have been sexually assaulted and/or you would like to see a SART (Sexual Assault Response Team) nurse. SART is a team of female Registered Nurses who have been trained specifically to care for people who have been sexually assaulted within the past 7 day (168 hours). SART nurses are available 24 hours a day, and usually arrive within an hour of being called.

By asking for a SART nurse, you are not automatically reporting the assault to the police. The SART nurse will ask you if you want to report to the police. If you do not want to report, the SART nurse will provide you with your options which can include a physical and genital exam to assess any injuries that may have occurred. She will also talk with you about sexually transmitted diseases, and for female victims, about pregnancy concerns. The SART nurse will discuss treatment options such as emergency contraception and medicines to combat sexually transmitted diseases. She will also give you information about follow-up medical care.

If you choose not to report to the police you can still receive medical attention at any hospital and counseling through the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, the Sexual Assault Centre - University of Alberta or the Saffron Centre Ltd in Strathcona County

If you do decide to report to police, the SART nurse will call a detective with the Sexual Assault Section. A police officer will attend the hospital to speak with you.  You may speak to a uniform police officer or a Sexual Assault detective who attends in plain clothes. The police officer will ask you what happened and may take a recorded statement while at the hospital. If you are not up to giving a full verbal statement at this time, the police officer will wait a few days to have you come into a police station to give a recorded statement. The police officer will give you her/his card and make arrangements to speak with you again about the sexual assault.

Go to a police station:

You may also report a sexual assault by going to a police station and reporting it to the officer at the desk.

At a police station you may be asked to write a witness statement while the police officer starts a report. You should be aware you may have to write your witness statement sitting at a table in the waiting room, standing at the counter, or in a private room, depending on the station. Your investigation will be turned over to a member working the street, as front counter members do not investigate sexual assaults.

Depending on the time frame between the sexual assault and reporting, you may be asked if you want to attend the hospital for a SART examination. (As per SART Exam/SART Nurse). If you consent to a SART exam, the SART nurse will contact a Sexual Assault Detective. The detective may attend the hospital to take over the investigation.

Depending on the circumstances, the initial investigating division may continue the investigation, or your file may be taken over by the Sexual Assault Section.

You will get a copy of your statement and file number for your records.

What to expect with a Recorded Interview:

Sexual Assault Section:

If the Sexual Assault Section is going to continue with the investigation, a detective from the Sexual Assault Section will call you within approximately two weeks to schedule a recorded interview with you. This normally takes place at the Edmonton Police Service Headquarters downtown (9620 103A ave). When you arrive, please speak to the commissioner at the front desk and let them know which detective you are scheduled to see. The detective will then come get you and take you to the Sexual Assault Section interview rooms.

Your interview will take place in a comfortable room with a small couch and chair where only you and the detective will discuss details of your case, however, the interview will be videotaped for court purposes. An interview can take anywhere from half an hour to six hours on rare occasions, but usually only about one to two hours.

In the interview you will be asked to describe everything you remember about the assault, and you will be asked to be very detailed and specific, even about parts of the sexual assault that make you uncomfortable. Being as honest and detailed as possible will help the detective in the investigation of your case.

After the interview, the detective will continue with her/his investigation, including contacting the suspect. Some will let you know when they have contacted the suspect, while others will not. If knowing when the suspect will be contacted is important to you, be sure to ask the detective to contact you after he/she has contacted the suspect.

Direction of your investigation:

The direction of the file depends on numerous factors. The police officer’s role is to collect the evidence and determine if there are reasonable probable grounds to lay charges. The police officer may request a crown prosecutor review the file to provide a legal opinion. The crown prosecutor will provide opinion about likelihood of conviction which plays a factor regarding if charges can be laid or not.

After the investigation is completed the police will let you know if charges can be laid. You will be asked if you wish to proceed with the court process. The decision is up to you.

If you decide you do not want to go through the court and legal process, you can still file a report with the police and a record of the sexual assault will remain on file in case you wish to pursue it at a later date.

If the police decide not to press charges, it does not mean they do not believe you. Officers often encounter a number of reasons for not being able to pursue your case like not having enough physical evidence to prove the charges in court. The criteria for criminal prosecutions is quite stringent and sometimes, despite a full and truthful disclosure by you, the required evidence may not meet the standard set forth by the courts and your complaint may not result in charges.

If the police do not lay charges, you can contact the crown prosecutors’ office to lay charges yourself. This process is often more difficult than having the police do it and you may still be told the case will not proceed to court. If the police do lay charges, the case continues on to the crown prosecutors’ office, and then to court.

In the end, the decision about whether or not to report the sexual assault to the police is up to you. The legal process can take up to two years from the initial report to the police to the court date. You will be the one going through the process, and therefore your wellbeing and comfort with the process are vital.

In all of these scenarios, the police use an extensive referral network and will provide a referral whenever possible to assist you during and after the investigation. One of the possible referrals is Victim Services who will most likely contact you. You can choose whether or not you would like to work with Victim Services.