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 crime of violence. It aims to humiliate and degrade the victim and can occur within marriage and relationships. 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.  Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim.

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).

In the period after, a sexual assault victim may experience a wide range of feelings including but not limited to fear, numbness, shame, anger, guilt, powerlessness and/or confusion.

It is normal to experience these feelings.

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.

Reporting Historical Sexual Assault

Reporting Historical Sexual Abuse to the NSW Police Force

Historical sexual abuse is a term used to describe child and/or adult sexual abuse that has happened in the past. This could mean months, years or decades ago.

Deciding to report to police is a big decision. Experienced investigators can explain all available options, so that you can make an informed decision about what you want to do. The NSW Police Force understand that not all people want the incident to be formally investigated, however, police strongly encourage victims and witnesses to report all sexual abuse.

The NSW Police Force also recognises that deciding to report historical sexual abuse can be  a stressful and overwhelming experience. We hope it can also be a helpful one

This information is designed for you to understand the different reporting methods and what to expect from them.

Being well informed about what is involved in the reporting process can help you make the decision that is best for your situation.

It is your right to choose to report. No one can take that away from you.

Timeframes

There are no time limitations on reporting sexual abuse to the NSW Police Force. It can be reported years after the offence and the investigation process can also be suspended and re-opened.

It is common for victims/survivors of historical offences to report to police many years and often decades after the abuse took place.

Reporting Options

Speaking with the police

You can attend the police station and make a report of sexual assault without having that report investigated or making a formal statement.

If you would like to discuss whether to make a formal report to police, you can contact your local police station by phone or face to face. If you decide to attend in person it is a good idea to telephone your local police station and make an appointment. The duty officer will speak with the detective’s office and arrange for you to speak to a detective. If attending in person, you do not need to tell your whole story but will need to provide some details about what occurred at this time to be able to arrange for a detective to speak with you. You can discuss with the detective what is involved in making a formal statement and what will happen after. You can ask to speak to a male or female detective and police will attempt to accommodate your request. Many, but not all NSW Police Area Commands and Police Districts have specialist officers who can also provide support for you to report, such as Aboriginal Community Liaison Officers, Multicultural Community Liaison Officers and Gay and Lesbian Officers.

Sometimes police can meet you at other locations to take a report or obtain a formal statement (for example: a counsellor's office).

Making the formal statement to police

If you decide to make a formal statement, you can give an initial  overview of what occurred, and then complete a formal statement. The statement process can take a long time and will involve remembering and recounting, as best as possible, the abuse in detail.

Police know that this can be difficult and traumatic, but it is important to tell them everything that you remember that took place. You can have a support person with you while you are making your statement, however this person cannot join in or assist with the interview itself. You can also take a break during the interview, whenever you need to. If you happen to remember something else later on, you can contact the officer who took your statement, so this can be added to your evidence. This can occur over multiple appointments and depends on the individual circumstances of each case. You should tell the investigating detective of any information you think is relevant to the case.

You should be aware that at any time in an investigation, you can choose not to proceed.

After reporting to police

By providing the information you have helped police record the crime. This may assist with future investigations. However, if you or other family members hold fears for your current safety, a final apprehended violence order (AVO) can be made by the court. This is a separate issue to a sexual abuse investigation.   Police can also make a referral for counselling to a specialised sexual assault service, who can provide additional support, particularly when  proceeding with a criminal investigation.

Investigation

After you make a formal statement, the detectives will investigate the complaint. Detectives may obtain further statements and collect further information about the case. Once all information has been obtained, the detectives will make an assessment about whether there is sufficient evidence to bring the matter before the courts.

Sometimes, the length of the investigation may be impacted by police having to prioritise some aspects of a recent report over an historical report, due to current community safety concerns and investigations.

During the investigation, detectives will maintain contact with you and keep you updated.

The length of an investigation varies for each case. It will usually be a lengthy process if the investigation progresses towards an arrest and criminal proceedings.

Regular communication with the detective should occur at all times during the process. You should feel you are able to contact the detective investigating your matter and have your questions or concerns responded to in a sensitive manner.

  • Sexual Assault Report Option (SARO)

You can also report anonymously through the SARO

A SARO is an on-line questionnaire that you can complete if you have decided you do not want to make a formal report to police. The SARO is a record only and no further investigation will occur.

If  you decide later that you would like to make a formal  complaint, you can contact your local Police Station.

The SARO questionnaire can be completed by you on your own, or with your counsellor or advocate and forwarded via email or mailed to the NSW Police Force.

The questionnaire contains a series of questions, to obtain specific information from you about the offence. There is a section where you can provide a summary in your own words about what happened. The more accurate detail recorded on the questionnaire the better. You can choose how much information you want to provide in the SARO.

A SARO report also allows the NSW Police Force to gather information about other victims, offences or persons at current or future risk of harm.

A SARO questionnaire should not be completed if a victim attends a police station to report a sexual assault.

To find out more information about reporting historical sexual abuse and SARO reporting, please visit: https://www.police.nsw.gov.au/crime/sex_crimes/adult_sexual_assault

Complaints

Complaints about the police response can be made in the following ways:

NSW Police Force

In NSW, the treatment of victims of crime is governed by the Charter of Victims Rights (the Charter). There are 18 rights included in the Charter which describe how victims of crime will be treated.

If you think that your rights under the Charter are not being met, you can tell the officer in charge of your matter about your concerns. If they are unable to address the problem, you can ask to speak to their Supervisor or Commander. Once all of these avenues have been exhausted at a local level and you are still not satisfied you have the rights to make a complaint to the NSW Police Force via: www.police.nsw.gov.au/online_services/providing_feedback/feedback_compliments_complaints_and_suggestions

Phone: 1800 622 571

If you are still not satisfied with the response or you do not feel comfortable contacting the agency, Victims Services can discuss with you your concerns and provide you with further information about lodging a Charter Complaint.

The contact details for Victims Services are: www.victimsservices.justice.nsw.gov.au (click on Victims Rights) or call 1800 633 063

You can also complete the Charter of Victims Rights Complaint form. This is available from the Victims Services website or if you call, the form can be posted or emailed to you.

Your Rights as a Victim of Crime

Charter of Victims Rights

1. Courtesy, compassion and respect

2. Information about services and remedies

3. Access to services

4. Information about investigation of the crime

5. Information about prosecution of accused

6. Information about trial process and role as witness

7. Protection from contact with accused

8. Protection of identity of victim

9. Attendance at preliminary hearings

10. Return of property of victim held by State

11. Protection from accused

12. Information about special bail conditions

13. Information about outcome of bail application

14. Victim impact statement

15. Information about impending release, escape or eligibility for absence from custody

16. Submissions on parole and eligibility for absence from custody of serious offenders

17. Financial assistance for victims of personal violence

18. Information about complaint procedure where Charter is breached

Support Services & Recovery

You do not need to have reported the sexual abuse to police to receive help from sexual assault services in NSW.

There is help available from people who understand and can assist you, especially if you do not want to tell friends or family about the abuse or about reporting it to police. These services include:

  • NSW Victims Services

Victims Services provides support to victims of violent crime in NSW including victims of historical sexual abuse. This support includes access to free counselling. You may also be eligible for financial assistance and a recognition payment.

For more information call Victims Services on 1800 063 633 or the Aboriginal Contact Line on 1800 019 123, Monday – Friday between 9am to 5pm.

Or visit the Victims Services website:

www.victimsservices.justice.nsw.gov.au

  • Survivors & Mates Support Network (SAMSN)

SAMSN provides individual support and counselling, eight-week support groups for adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse and support to family and friends of survivors.

SAMSN can support you in considering your reporting options, find you the right police person to speak to and where possible accompany you if you choose to go in person to speak with police.

To contact SAMSN visit their website: https://www.samsn.org.au/

or call 1800 472676.

  • NSW Health Sexual Assault Services

Located in all local health districts across NSW, these specialist services provide information, advocacy and support, counselling, medical care and forensic examinations, for adult and child survivors of sexual assault. Sexual assault services can provide you with information and counselling to help you decide whether you want to report to police, assist you to find the right police person to talk to, and support you if you do decide to make a report. Sexual assault services are free and are available for children, young people, men and women.

To find the contact details of your local service please visit: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/parvan/sexualassault/Pages/health-sas-services.aspx

  • Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia

This service supports people affected by sexual, domestic & family violence. They offer telephone, online and face to face counselling to people of all genders who have experienced sexual domestic or family violence, and their supporters.

To contact Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia visit their website:https://www.rape-dvservices.org.au/ or call NSW Rape Crisis: 1800 424 017

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 https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/parvan/sexualassault/Pages/health-sas-services.aspx
  • 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)
  • Survivors & Mates Support Network (SAMSN) – support adult male survivors of childhood sexual abuse: https://www.samsn.org.au/ or call 1800 472676.