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How reporting sexual violence to the police works

It is your decision about whether or not you report what has happened to the police.

It can be helpful to speak to an advocacy worker while you’re deciding if you want to report. We won’t tell you what to do, but we can answer any questions so you can make the choice that’s right for you.

Some organisations have a duty to report to the police if they’re aware of an incident. They should let you know if they need to take any action. It’s still important to involve you in this process as much as possible. They should explain why this has to happen, and ensure you’re offered support.

Unless there’s a statutory duty to report, it should be your decision whether to report to the police or not. We are not an organisation with a duty to report, and we will never put pressure on you.

If you decide not to report to the police

If you don’t want to report to the police, one option you have is intelligence sharing.

Intelligence sharing is an option for people who don’t want to formally report a rape or sexual assault. Instead you can give a specially trained Rape Crisis Scotland (RCS) worker an account of the attack(s) as well as information about the perpetrator.

RCS will give Police Scotland the information you’ve given them, but they won’t pass on your contact details. If anyone else reports the same perpetrator in future, the police will contact RCS, who will then contact you to see if you’d like to make a formal report. You won’t be pressured to do this.

Although you won’t need advocacy support going forward if you decide not to report, we can still talk to you about this decision, and you’ll be able to access emotional support if you choose.

If you decide to report to the police

1. You will give your initial statement

Once you’ve given an initial statement, it is hard to withdraw from the criminal justice process. This is because once the police are made aware of an incident, they have to investigate it. If you’re unsure about whether you want to continue, speak to an advocacy worker as soon as possible.

2. You will be assigned a Sexual Offences Liaison Officer (SOLO)

You can ask for an advocacy worker to be with you for this statement. You have the right to ask for a female SOLO but this will depend on availability. The statement is likely to take several hours. You’re allowed to ask for whatever breaks you need, including comfort breaks, or to continue another day if you wish. You are also able to choose where the statement takes place. This could be at Forth Valley Rape Crisis Centre (FVRCC) or at The Meadows (a specialist service in Larbert for survivors of sexual violence).

3. The police may take evidence, such as your phone

If any of your personal belongings are taken as evidence, they will be returned once the criminal justice process has concluded. This is likely to take months. If it goes to trial it will be over a year. Your mobile phone company may be able to provide a replacement handset, if you tell them that the police have your phone because you have been a victim of a crime, and it’s been taken as evidence. You are not legally obliged to give them your phone, but it may be important to the investigation.

4. If the assault took place within the last 7 days, you may be offered a forensic medical examination

Before your forensic exam you can read our advice on things you can do to preserve evidence. We know this can be a difficult experience after an assault, and you can talk to a worker afterwards or call the Rape Crisis Scotland helpline for support.

You have the right to decline a forensic medical examination, but it's worth bearing in mind this may have an impact on the case. Most forensic exams in Forth Valley will take place at The Meadows. You have the right to request a female forensic medical examiner although this will depend upon availability. A chaperone will always be present.

The lab will analyse the forensic material. This can take some months.

5. The police may take further statements from you and interview witnesses

The police may take additional statements from you. They will also obtain and analyse other evidence, such as CCTV footage, if possible. If there are relevant witnesses, the police will interview them.

The police will interview the perpetrator. This tends to be towards the end of their investigation. It is unusual for the perpetrator to be remanded in custody (put in jail) at this stage. Usually the perpetrator will be given certain conditions after they have been interviewed, such as not being allowed to contact you. The police have the power to arrest the perpetrator if they breach these conditions.

If you have questions or concerns about your privacy and safety at this stage, you may wish to talk to the police or to an advocacy worker.

6. What might happen to the perpetrator

Released without charge

The perpetrator could be released without charge after being interviewed, if there is insufficient evidence. The case would close, unless further evidence came to light in the future. A record of evidence is kept by the police.

‘The investigation is closed due to ‘No crime’

'No crime' is when the police aren't able to establish, from a technical point of view, that a law has been broken. This closes the investigation.

If there is not enough evidence or the outcome is 'no crime', it doesn’t mean that you weren’t believed. It can be hard to learn that the case has closed, so you might want to talk to an advocacy worker about this. You may also decide that you would like emotional support.

The perpetrator is arrested

The perpetrator could be arrested and charged, and a report sent to the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS or PF).

You can find out more about the criminal justice process in our guide to how the criminal justice system works, or watch this video.

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