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