The term 'sexual offence' covers a number of sexual crimes. It is any sexual activity that a person has not consented to. Sexual assault is a crime that can happen anywhere and to anyone regardless of their age or gender. More information about sexual assault and getting help is available from the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre.
People report sexual assault and abuse to police for different reasons. Many people report because they are frightened and know the police can help protect them. Some people also choose to report because someone has harmed them and/or may harm others in the future.
Sometimes deciding whether to report sexual assault to police can be difficult. It can depend on who has committed the crime and your relationship to them. It may be that you don't want to get anyone into trouble, or you are worried how reporting might impact on your family and friends.
Often people hear about the difficulties in going through the court process. Some people may feel they would not be able to cope with the process in addition to coping with the impact of what has happened to them.
It can be a difficult decision to report the matter but there are services available to ensure that victims are fully supported and informed of the process.
If you decide to report the incident, you may want to take someone with you. This may be a friend or family member. Under an agreement with the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre (CRCC), police will, with your permission, ask one of their workers to support you while you are making your statement.
An initial report is usually taken by the police officer you first speak to. For sexual offences, officers from a specialist unit within ACT Policing will be called in to help. This unit is called the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Team (SACAT). Officers from SACAT will obtain a full version of events from you.
For some sexual offence victims, including children, the police will make a recording of the interview to be used in court as evidence.
Telling your story can be distressing. If it becomes too hard, ask for a break or to come back to finish the interview another day. However, if the offender needs to be found quickly, it is important to speak to the police as soon as possible.
Where the victim is a child, police must also report the incident to Care and Protection Services.
The police officer will offer you a referral to the Wraparound Program. Agencies involved in this program ensure that you are given access to counselling and support and that you receive information about the justice process, your rights and entitlements.
Sometimes people have reported incidents that happened when they were children or occurred some time ago. In these circumstances, the sort of evidence that police may need is confirmation from other witnesses who may know what happened to you. This will involve the police speaking to people you told at the time, or who knew you at the time, who can provide statements about what they saw or about changes in your behavior. In these circumstances an investigation may take longer as it is often difficult to find these witnesses.
Once police have completed the investigation they will consider whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to a prosecution, and if so the police will then decide what charges are to be laid. Sometimes police may consult with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions about this decision.
Within ACT Policing, the Case Officer is your main contact point for information. An AFP Victim Liaison Officer (VLO) can also assist victims with information and support as a secondary contact point. They work with investigating officers to ensure that you are kept up to date with the status of your investigation and to assist you through the criminal justice system. VLOs can also assist with referrals to other support agencies.