Sexual assault is a serious crime that can impact anybody. New South Wales Police Force understand that reporting sexual assault can be distressing and traumatic. Experienced investigators can explain all available options to you then take your statement if you wish to formally report the matter. NSW Police understand that not all people want the incident to be formally investigated, however, police strongly encourage victims and witnesses to report sexual assault. The police can also organise extra support including medical care and counselling for victims, using a range of government and non-government agencies.

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 for victims

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

  1. Report To Police: 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. In most circumstances to make a report of sexual assault, you will need to travel to your local police station. You can find your police station here.
  2. However, if the offence has just happened, or in an emergency, call Triple Zero (000) and police will come to you.

  3. Complete a sexual assault reporting option (SARO), where vital information on the assault is provided to police, without the matter being formally investigated.
  4. Engage a support service: 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 in Useful Contacts.

Report To Police

1. Report To Police

It’s never too late to report a sexual crime. Generally speaking, there is no time limit for reporting sexual crimes. Some people choose to report immediately after the assault happens, others may report days, months or  years later. Obviously the sooner you report the better chance Police have of locating and securing vital evidence.

Depending on the circumstances, in most cases you should attend your local police station to report what happened.  If unsure, please call your local police station and ask to speak to the detectives or a duty officer.  (A duty officer is a senior and experienced Police Officer).  The duty officer can let you know the name of the Detective you will be talking to so that when you come to the Police Station you can ask for the Detective. This means you won’t have to explain at the front desk why you are there.

A person who has been sexually assaulted will need to give an overview of what happened, make a statement, or they can discuss these options with detectives. A forensic medical examination may be required again depending on the circumstances.  Victims can have a support person with them while they are at the station.

Police will be respectful and supportive during the entire process, across the State the NSW Police Force has officers who are specially trained in matters  of sexual assault, with most adult sexual assault investigations carried out by local detectives attached to Police Area Commands (PACs) and Police Districts (PDs). The Child Abuse & Sex Crimes Squad (CA&SCS) also provides a specialist investigative response to some sexual assault matters.

Victims will be offered access to counselling support.

Visit the What Happens To Your Information section to find out how the information is handled.

Sexual Assault Reporting Option (Online Questionnaire)

Complete a ‘Sexual Assault Reporting Option’ questionnaire

An overview:
A Sexual Assault Reporting Option (SARO) is an on-line form that people can complete if they have decided not to make a formal report to police or have their matter investigated.

A SARO questionnaire is not the same as making a formal report to police and will not initiate a criminal investigation. The primary purposes of a SARO is to make a record of what occurred, in addition to allowing the NSW Police Force to gather information on sexual offences and offending. SARO can also be used as a therapeutic tool during counselling programs.

SARO is a questionnaire that can be accessed online here

This can be done anonymously. You can also choose how much information you put in your SARO.

Visit the What Happens To Your Information section to find out how the information is handled

What Happens To Your Report?

What Happens To Your Report - Formal Report

In most circumstances to make a report of sexual assault, you will need to travel to your local police station. When you arrive at the police station you should ask to speak to the Detectives or a Duty Officer in private You can give your story in a room away from the public.  If you’re not comfortable in the area where you’re speaking with the officer, its ok to tell them so they can try and find an alternate location.

You can find your police station here.

However, if the offence has just happened, or in an emergency, police will come to you.

We understand that approaching a police station can be an intimidating and upsetting experience. When someone reports a sexual assault, they will be dealt with by police officers who will be respectful, non-judgemental, supportive and understanding. If they think a government agency has not helped them they can contact the Victims Services for help on 1800 633 063.

You can decide after you report to police that you don’t want any further action taken,. This is OK. By providing the information you have helped police record the crime. This may assist with future investigations. It may also help prevent someone else being harmed .

When a report of a sexual assault is made to police, the victim will be asked to make a statement. This will be done in a private area at the Police station, away from other members of the public and day to day police operations. (Please note that Police Stations can sometimes be noisy and crowded, depending on the location and time of day).

The process will involve remembering and recounting, as best as possible, the assault in detail. Police know that this can be difficult and traumatic, but it is important to tell them everything that took place. If some details are withheld, it may negatively affect the case. Victims can have a support person with them while they are making their statement, however this person cannot join in or assist with the interview itself. If you happen to remember something else later on, please call the officer who took your statement so this can be added to your evidence.

Police may also request that a Sexual Assault Investigation Kit (SAIK) forensic medical examination be undertaken. This will be completed at a Hospital by a specially trained medical practitioner and involves swabs and other physical evidence being collected. The SAIK process may be critical in assisting police to identify the person responsible and/or corroborating what has taken place. Once completed, the victim will be asked to sign a consent form to enable the SAIK to be released to police so the samples taken can be analysed. The evidence obtained may be used in future court proceedings.

NSW Health have trained and experienced counsellors who are available to assist you.

Alternatively, there are the highly experienced counsellors at the NSW Rape Crisis Service  who you may wish to speak with privately.  This service is available 24/7 and may be contacted on 1800 424 017, or through the online service at www.nswrapecrisis.com.au.

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.

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 must also notify the Department of Family & Community Services (FaCS) Child Protection (CP) Helpline. This is however entirely separate to any subsequent NSW Police Force criminal investigation response.

It is important to know that the NSW Police Command closest to where the incident occurred will have carriage to investigate this crime.  If this has occurred in another state in Australia, this information can be forwarded to that Police Force.   Additionally, if you were assaulted in another country, it is important to report it to the Police in that country as soon as possible. If you are unsure what to do, please speak to NSW Police who will be able to advise you on your options.


What Happens To Your Report - SARO

It is an easy questionnaire containing a series of questions written to obtain specific information from the victim about the offence and the offender. You can access SARO here.

There is a section where you can provide a summary in your own words about what happened.

The questionnaire is easy to complete and contains a series of questions designed to obtain specific information from you about the offence. There is also a section where you can provide a summary in your own words about what happened The more accurate detail recorded on the form the better .

The questionnaire can be completed in writing or typed using a computer and sent to the Child Abuse & Sex Crimes Squad by either mail or email. Victims can choose to provide their contact details or make the report anonymously.

There is also an option on the questionnaire to authorise, where applicable, the release to Police of any forensic evidence obtained from you during the SAIK.  Doing so may provide information capable of identifying the offender, and/or linking them to other offending.

Police understand that completing the questionnaire may be difficult, because it requires you to recall, in some detail, what happened.  If the services of a counsellor are being utilised, it may be useful to talk with them before doing so.  It is also recommended that the form be completed in a private place where you feel safe.

All information received will be treated with the utmost confidentiality and recorded on a secure and restricted NSW Police Force data base

Importantly, the submission of a SARO questionnaire is not the same as making a formal report to police and will not automatically result in a criminal investigation being commenced.  The primary purposes of a SARO is to make a record of what occurred, in addition to allowing the NSW Police Force to gather information on sexual offences and offending.

If you decide, after completing a questionnaire, that you wish to make a formal complaint to police, you still can at your nearest Police Station.

Call a support service
You can call the NSW Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 424 017. A list of other support services can be found here.

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: http://www.victimsservices.justice.nsw.gov.au/sexualassault
  • 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)