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Reporting 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 an assault has been reported to the police, officers are responsible for gathering, evaluating, and processing information 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 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.

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 officers to you. When the officers arrive, and depending on how recent the assault was, they may offer to take you to the hospital to receive medical attention and have any evidence of the sexual assault on your body documented - you may also meet the police at the hospital. If you do go to the hospital on your own, the case will usually be taken over by a detective with the Sexual Assault Section who will meet you there. Please be aware the officer will be in plain clothes.

The officer will start a 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 also be asked to write out what happened.  You will be given a copy of your witness statement and your file number which you should retain for your records.

Once the officer has completed his/her report and if there is no imminent safety risk to you, the officer will leave. The officer will contact you anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks later to tell you if the case will be investigated further and/or if charges will be laid. In some cases you may have to do a second interview, or look at a photo line-up. If the police do lay charges, the case continues on to the crown prosecutors’ office, and then to court.

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 a hospital, be sure to 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 72 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 do a physical and genital exam to assess any injuries that may have occurred. She will also talk with you and help to determine your risk for sexually transmitted diseases, and if you are female, for pregnancy. If these issues are a concern, the 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 do decide to report, the nurse will call the police for you, and a detective with the Sexual Assault Section will come to the hospital in plain clothes to speak with you. When the detective arrives, he/she will ask you what happened; if you are not up to giving a full verbal statement at this time, the officer will usually wait until the next day. He/she may also give you witness statement forms and ask you to complete a written statement at home. At this point you can also choose whether or not to have a sexual assault kit (or rape kit as it is sometimes  called) completed by a doctor and nurse. The sexual assault kit is used to gather medical-legal evidence for court purposes. If you decide not to get the sexual assault kit done, the SART nurse will examine you as discussed above.

After you have been examined, the detective will usually give you her/his card and make arrangements to speak with you again about the assault.

Go to a police station

You may also report a sexual assault by going to a police station or community station and report it to the officer at the desk. The procedure in this case can vary greatly due to differences between stations.

When you come into a police station to report, you will write a witness statement and the officer will start a report, just as if you had phoned the police. However, you may be asked 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. You may also have to wait for another officer to come back to the station to do the report, if the desk officer is the only one there.

After starting your report and writing your witness statement, you will get a copy of your statement and file number and you can go home or depending on the time frame between the sexual assault and reporting, you may be asked if you want to attend the hospital for an examination. It is important to keep the statement and file number for your records. Depending on the circumstances, the initial investigating officer may continue to investigate the case, or the file may be forwarded to the Sexual Assault Section. After the investigation is completed it is up to the police and the crown prosecutors’ office as to whether or not charges will be laid, and once a decision has been made, the officer will contact you.

After starting your report and writing your witness statement, you will get a copy of your statement and file number and you can go home. Depending on the time frame between the sexual assault and reporting, you may be asked if you want to attend the hospital for an examination. It is important to keep the statement and file number for your records. Depending on the circumstances, the initial investigating officer may continue to investigate the case, or the file may be forwarded to the Sexual Assault Section. After the investigation is completed it is up to the police and the crown prosecutors’ office as to whether or not charges will be laid, and once a decision has been made, the officer will contact you.