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How to Report Rape and Sexual Assault

Sexual violence is a crime in the United Kingdom. But, very few of the victims choose to report a rape or a sexual assault to the police or at a SARC.

REPORTING SEXUAL ASSAULT: It would mean having to confront what happened all over again. But, it is the only way the legal system brings sexual offenders to justice.

Being the victim of rape or sexual abuse can happen to anyone. It is a sad fact, but the advances of unwanted sexual contact have few boundaries on age or on gender.

The number of reported rapes has taken a sharp rise in recent years.

In some ways, it shows there is more confidence and willingness to file a report to the police.

But, statistics still suggest that only a small number of victims actually report rapes and sexual offences.

Most rape victims find it too difficult and traumatic to speak up about the ordeal and report the crime. But, there is no shortage of organisations that offer medical help, support, and advice.

Reporting Sexual Offences to the Police

Note: The optimum time to report a rape or an attempted sexual assault is soon after the crime. Call the police emergency number 999 to contact your nearest police station.

If you are reporting rape soon after the incident happened:

  • Avoid washing the clothes you were wearing and do not throw them away. As a rule, the police will try to gather evidence from clothing during their investigation.
  • The police might get vital evidence about the perpetrator from body fluid. Try to avoid taking a shower until after you receive a medical examination.

Note: You can also use the secure and confidential police online crime reporting service if you prefer. The Child Protection Unit at the police station deals with cases for victims who are under 17 years old.

Report a Rape to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre

SARCs in England and Wales

What if you would rather not report a non consensual sex offence to the police? You can provide crucial evidence at one of the Sexual Assault Referral Centres instead.

The NHS Choices tool is an easy way to find and locate your nearest rape and SARC services for medical support. Other support organisations include:

Note: If you contact an organisation they will not force you into reporting the assault to the police. But, they will help you file a report if you decide to contact the police.

What Happens at a Sexual Assault Referral Centre?

SARCs offer a full range of support for people who suffer any kind of sexual harassment. Trained staff combine together to make teams of doctors, nurses and support workers. They excel in providing practical, medical, and emotional support.

They will not force anyone to report the rape or assault to the police. But, they can arrange for specialist medical care and a forensic medical examination.

In this case, you can still go ahead and refer yourself at a Sexual Assault Referral Centre. You get an assessment and any relevant medical treatment. SARCs can also help to prevent an unwanted pregnancy and certain types of Sexually Transmitted Infections.


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Many of the organisations have independent sexual violence advisers. ISVAs specialise in getting victims access to other support services that they may need.

Independent Sexual Violence Adviser (ISVA)

There are several advantages of getting an ISVA. They can support your case when it goes through the criminal justice system. Of course, that only happens if you report the rape to the police. But, they can also support you through the trial proceedings if it goes to court.

It is often easier to confide in someone that you trust – first of all. You will usually get the comfort and support you need from a close friend, a relative, or a teacher. Even so the ISVA and SARC services are free to everyone, even non residents of the United Kingdom.

The role of an Independent Sexual Violence Adviser includes:

  • Providing emotional and practical support with extra guidance on the British judicial system.
  • Accompanying victims at the time they give a witness statement (often given by video).
  • Explaining the legal process from start to finish. They also try to ensure the survivor makes decisions that best suit themselves.

Note: The ISVA role was first created in 2005 and is not yet available in some regions. But, highly trained ISVAs work with survivors of all cultures, gender, and toddlers from tender age of three (3) years old. Read more about the NSPCC PANTS Rule.

Support Organisations in Scotland

The ‘Victims’ Code’ differs somewhat outside England and Wales. Thus, you should try to contact different support organisations if reporting rape and sexual assault in Scotland.

Filing a Rape Report to the Police

The police will use specialist teams – trained in dealing with sexual harassment – to ask you some questions. Even so, you can ask to speak to a staff member who is the same sex as you.

The priority will be checking on your welfare. Then they will determine whether you need any emergency medical assistance.

How to Report a Rape or Sexual Assault to the Police or SARC in the United KingdomThe next step will be trying to make you comfortable enough to talk about what happened.

The police will want to ask you four main questions:

  1. Do you know who carried out the attack?
  2. When did the incident happen?
  3. Where did the incident take place?
  4. Can you describe exactly what happened?

Note: The more information you can give them means they will have a better chance of identifying the suspect.

Frequently Asked Questions about Rape

What is Rape and Sexual Assault?

The definition of sexual assault and rape is any type of sexual act that occurs without consent. Even so, there are many different legal definitions relating to sexual offences.

Who Gets Raped or Sexually Assaulted?

People of all ages, background, culture, and class get raped. Often, the assailant, or rapist, is a person known to the victim. It may be a partner, a relative, or a complete a stranger who force themselves upon a victim.

Where Do Most Rapes Take Place?

Rape attacks happen indoors as well as outdoors. It is not uncommon for the assailant, or assailants, to break in to the home of the victim.

Getting a Police Check

You can ask the police to check the background of someone involved with a child by visiting your local police station. They will check whether the person has a record of committing sexual offences.

There is no need to be a relative of the child if you have concerns about their safety. Staff at the police station will need:

  • To see some identification (e.g. your driving licence or passport).
  • To know what your relationship is to the child.
  • To know why you want to have someone’s background checked.

Note: You should call the police emergency number [999] if you feel the child is in immediate danger.

New Approach to Rape Investigations

The Ministry of Justice released plans for an overhaul of the way police authorities respond to rape cases in England and Wales [June 2021].

Besides bolstering support for the victims, the new reforms also include:

  • A new Action Plan to try and increase the number of rape cases that reach court.
  • Not allowing victims to be left without access to a ‘swap-out’ phone for more than twenty four hours.
  • Placing greater emphasis on the behaviour of suspects.
  • Regular ratings (every 6 months) about the performance of entire criminal justice system.

Note: You can read more about the ‘end-to-end rape review report on findings and actions‘ according to official documents available on the GOV.UK website.

What Advice is there for Partners, Families, and Friends

People will feel distressed and find it difficult to cope after they get sexual attacked. Likewise, it can also be very distressing trying to support someone who got assaulted. You may find it hard to know what to say and how to help. Never be afraid to reach out and get professional help.

Sexual Violence Statistics UK

  • Around 85,000 adult women and 12,000 adult men get raped each year in England and Wales. You could also state that as more than ten (10) rapes every hour. Note that the figures include assaults by attempts and by actual penetration.
  • Each year, close to half a million adults are sexually assaulted in England and Wales.
  • Around 20% of women aged 16 to 59 have experienced some kind of sexual violence since turning 16.
  • Approximately 15% of those who experience it actually go ahead and report sexual violence to the police.
  • Around 90% of people raped know the perpetrator before the offence occurs.

Note: The figures and statistics come from the original information released by the Ministry of Justice in the UK.

How to Report a Rape or Sexual Assault to the Police or SARC in United Kingdom