Adult Sexual Assault

Police Contact Numbers

  • Police, Fire, Ambulance 000 (In an emergency)
  • Police Assistance Line 131 444 (For non emergencies)

Sexual Assault is a serious crime for which there is no excuse. It can happen to anyone. Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim.

The NSW Police Force is committed to providing a professional, sensitive and prompt response to all sexual assault reports. Looking after the victim is the highest priority in sexual assault investigations.

What Is Sexual Assault?

Sexual Assault is a general term used to describe a broad range of sexual crimes committed against a person.

These crimes include sexual intercourse without consent, aggravated sexual assault, indecent assault and acts of indecency (these offences generally involve inappropriate touching, including genitals or other intimate areas or forcing a person to touch the genitals or intimate areas of another person). An offence is aggravated if there is a threat, whether actual or implied, or it is done in the company of other people, or is committed upon a person under a certain age or under authority of a person (teacher/relative/carer) or involves the use of a weapon, force or threat. Sexual Assault is a crime of violence. It aims to humiliate and degrade the victim and can occur within marriage. It can be a frightening experience that may have long term effects. These effects occur regardless of a person's age, gender, status, culture, ability or sexuality.

Although women are primarily the victims of sexual assault, men and transgender people can also be victims. According to the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, one in five women in Australia will be sexually assaulted at some stage during their life. The great majority of victims will know the person who assaulted them.

In the period after a sexual assault victims may experience a wide range of feelings including:

  • fear
  • anxiety
  • numbness
  • disbelief
  • panic
  • anger
  • shame
  • loneliness
  • embarrassment
  • irritability
  • guilt
  • powerlessness
  • loss of control
  • vulnerability
  • distress
  • confusion

It is a normal reaction to experience these feelings.

Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim. When a victim reports sexual assault to police they will be offered access to a NSW Health sexual assault counsellor. With the victim's consent, police will contact one of these services on their behalf and arrange transport there if the matter is urgent. These services provide free and confidential counselling. If the sexual assault was recent and the victim agrees, the counsellor will arrange for a forensic medical examination. This examination will gather evidence for court if the victim decides to proceed with criminal action.

If the local sexual assault service is not available police will, for adult victims and if the victim agrees, phone the NSW Rape Crisis Service so the victim can speak privately with a counsellor. If victims wish to contact the Rape Crisis Centre themselves, they can call 1800 424 017, or through the online service at www.nswrapecrisis.com.au. This service is available 24/7.

The useful contacts section of this fact sheet outlines a list of other counselling, support and resource centres to assist both adult and child victims.

Anyone can talk to police about reporting a sexual assault. When victims formally report a sexual assault, police officers will be respectful, non judgemental, supportive and understanding. Even if a victim decides they do not want any further action to be taken, by reporting the sexual assault this helps the police to record the crime which may assist with future investigations.

It is never too late to report a sexual assault. Some victims choose to report immediately after the assault happens, others may report days, months and even years later.

Options

There are several options a victim of sexual assault can take and these include;

  • Engaging police and having the matter formally investigated. This process will involve providing police with a statement and an offender may be arrested and charged. The victim may have to attend court.
  • Completing the sexual assault reporting option (SARO) questionnaire, where vital information on the assault is provided to police, without the matter being formally investigated.
  • Engaging any of the support services, including the NSW Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 424 017. A list of other support services can be found at the end of this document.
  • Engaging no external services.

How can I make a report to the Police?

The New South Wales Police Force (NSWPF) provides victims of sexual assault two options in making a report. The first and preferred option is to contact the nearest Police Station and make a formal complaint. The second option is to complete the Sexual Assault Reporting Options (SARO) questionnaire. By reporting the assault to police vital information can be obtained about this type of crime. The information gathered can be used to prosecute an offender and to develop strategies to reduce this crime type.

Formal Complaint to Police

With the first option a specially trained detective will be the officer in charge and will be responsible for carrying out the investigation. He or she will be involved throughout the investigation and court proceedings.

Across the state the NSW Police Force has officers who are specially trained in dealing with victims of sexual assault. Most adult sexual assault investigations will be carried out by local detectives. The Sex Crimes Squad will provide a specialist investigative response to some sexual assault matters, including complex or serial sexual assaults. The Joint Investigation Response Squad (JIRS) has 23 teams that conduct investigations into child victims of sexual assault.

The victim may contact their local police station directly, or if the victim attended a NSW Health Sexual Assault Service, the counsellor can contact police on behalf of the victim.

When reporting a sexual assault the victim will be asked to make a statement. This is done in a private area at the Police station. This will involve remembering the assault in clear detail and being open and honest about these details. Police know it is not easy for victims to tell everything and that it can be embarrassing, but it is important to tell the investigator everything. If some details are left out, this can badly affect the case in the future.

Victims are allowed to have a support person with them while making their statement, but this person cannot join in the interview. A victim of sexual assault has a right to a copy of their statement and, if asked for, it will be provided to them. A victim's preference of speaking with a female or male officer will be met wherever possible.

If a victim attended a Sexual Assault Service a Sexual Assault Investigation Kit (SAIK) may have been taken. This is a medical examination, undertaken by a specially trained medical practitioner, where swabs and other physical evidence is collected. The SAIK may contain important evidence that could assist police in identifying the person/s that committed the assault. After the SAIK is taken, the victim can sign a consent form to release the SAIK to police to enable the samples to be analysed. Details of the evidence obtained from the SAIK during analysis could be used for future legal processes.

If there is enough evidence police investigate the sexual assault and the Director of Public Prosecutions prosecutes offenders. This service is free for the victim.

Family and friends may also be interviewed and asked to give evidence in court. The procedure from reporting to court can take an extended period of time and can be very difficult for victims but there are support services which can help. The Witness Assistance Service provides information, referral and support for victims of violent crime. They can help to reduce the trauma of going to court.

The welfare and safety of victims is the main concern to police and strict confidentiality will be kept at all times. Police officers will provide victims with relevant information on a range of issues including counselling, forensic and medical services, victim compensation and criminal proceedings.

Police may also make an application on behalf of a victim for an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO), to protect them from future threats and/or violence. An AVO is a court order that bans a person from doing certain things, like ringing the victim up or coming to their house or workplace.

Generally, no action will be taken to investigate the sexual assault without the permission of the victim. However, some times it may be in the interest of the general public to proceed with the investigation.

Sexual Assault Reporting Option (SARO)

The second option, for victims that decide not to formally report the assault to police, is to complete the SARO questionnaire.

The questionnaire is easy to complete containing a series of questions written to obtain specific information from the victim about the offence. There is a section where the victim can provide a summary in their own words about what happened to them. The more accurate detail recorded on the form the better.

The questionnaire can be neatly handwritten or the information typed into the questionnaire and sent back to the Sex Crimes Squad, State Crime Command by either mail or email. Victims can choose to provide personal details or report anonymously.

It is important to note that with the second option it is not a formal complaint to police to initiate a criminal investigation. The form will be used by NSW Police to gather information on sexual offences and offending. Although, if at any stage a victim wishes to make a formal complaint they can by contacting their nearest Police Station.

Police are mandatory reporters under section 27 of the Children and Young Persons (Care & Protection) Act. If a report is received concerning the sexual assault of a child or young person police will notify Family & Community Services through the Child Protection Helpline.

There is also the option to sign a section of the form to release the Sexual Assault Investigation Kit (SAIK) if a forensic examination, at a NSW Health Sexual Assault Service, was conducted. The analysis of SAIK samples may provide information helping Police to identify the offender.

Police understand that completing this form may be difficult. The victim is being asked to remember, in some detail, what happened. If the services of a counsellor are being utilised, it may be useful to talk with them before filling in the form to enable a few helpful strategies to be prepared. When planning to complete the form it is recommended it is done in a place where the victim feels safe and has some privacy.

It is important that the SARO questionnaire is completed with as much detail and information as can be remembered. All information received, will be treated with the utmost confidentiality and will be entered into a secure and restricted NSW Police Force data base. The completed forms will be kept securely at the office of the NSW Police Sex Crimes Squad.

Charter of Victims' Rights

Victims of crime in New South Wales have a Charter to protect and promote their rights. The Charter outlines 18 rights, including the rights of victims to:

  • Be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect
  • Information about, and access to, welfare, health and counselling services
  • Privacy and protection
  • Information about the criminal justice system.

If a victim thinks a government agency has not helped them under the Charter, they can contact the Victims Services for help.

Useful Contacts

  • NSW Rape Crisis Centre 1800 424 017 - www.nswrapecrisis.com.au
  • Bravehearts on 1800 272 831 or www.bravehearts.org.au
  • Victim Services website: www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/vs
    • Victims Support Line (Victims Access Line 1800 633 063)
    • Aboriginal Contact Line 1800 019 123
  • Helping Victims of Sexual Assault: www.sexualassault.nsw.gov.au
  • Sexual Assault Services
    Contact via your local hospital or go to www.health.nsw.gov.au/publichealth/sexualassault
  • Child Sexual Assault Counselling and support services
    • CASAC (Child & Adolescent Sexual Assault Counsellors) on (02) 9601 3790 or www.casac.org.au
    • Kids Helpline 1800 551800
  • Victims Register
    • Department of Corrective Services Victims Register: (02) 9289 1374
    • Department of Juvenile Justice Victims Register: (02) 9219 9400
    • NSW Health Forensic Patients Victims Register: (02) 9391 9302
  • Indigenous Women's Legal Contact Line 1800 639 784
  • Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women's Legal Centre 1800 686 587
  • Women's Legal Services NSW
    • Contact Line 1800 801 501
    • Telephone Interpreter Service 13 14 50
  • Immigrant Women's Speakout 9635 8022 - www.speakout.org.au
  • Criminal Justice Support Network 1300 665 908 (for people with an intellectual disability)