When deciding whether or not to file a sexual complaint to the police, it’s important to know that you need a very strong support system around you. Some victims (people who have had a crime committed against them) decide to sit in silence to avoid the shame that comes with going public. It’s best that you consider the legal process not just for you but for others who might have suffered the same fate.
In Sydney, there are many legal practitioners who are more than ready to help you get closure. A competent sexual assault lawyer Sydney will work with an impartial investigator in gathering, evaluating, and processing the evidence that’s collected.
What should you expect when filing a sexual assault case?
Stories of sexual assault are everywhere we turn. When someone shares their story, another person has their “me too” story and it’s really sad because these things shouldn’t happen that often. Another sad thing is that very few people report these cases due to several reasons such as distrust of law enforcers, corruption, or lack of access to resources such as victim centers.
If you’re a sexual assault survivor who’s considering taking the legal process and aren’t sure of what to expect when filing a case, we have put together a summary of the process and some of the things you should be keen on:
- Call the police
Call the police and share your physical address. The sooner you call the police the easier it is for them to collect the evidence needed to prove your case. Before they get there, you should NOT:
- Take a shower, wash your hands, or comb your hair
- Change or dispose the clothes you had on
- Take any drugs or alcohol
- Disturb the crime scene. This is the best way to preserve the evidence – just leave things as they are.
After calling the police, a uniformed officer will be sent to you to assess the crime scene and have any evidence of the sexual assault documented. The officer of the law starts a police report in which you’ll be asked to give information about the occurrence. The officer will ask for your personal information and the description of the suspect.
You will also be asked to provide a statement about what happened. The statement allows you to share more information that might have been missed with the investigation officer. This will occur at the police station. This can be done either on the same day or a couple of days later depending on your condition.
Afterward, he/she will offer to take you to the hospital. In emergency cases, the police officers are accompanied by medical officers
- Go to the hospital
After reporting the sexual assault to the police, you should then go to the hospital to get examined. Do this at least within a week after the ordeal. Upon arrival at the hospital, go to the triage and tell the nurse there that you were sexually assaulted.
A female SART (Sexual Assault Response Team) nurse will be assigned to you to conduct a SART examination on you. After you consent to the examination, the SART nurse will conduct a physical and genital assessment to document the injuries as well as collect forensic evidence.
The nurses are specifically trained to care for people who have been sexually assaulted. They’ll also talk to you about the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Thereafter give you the treatment options available, details about follow-up medical care, and counseling.
- Go to the police station
At the police station, you’re requested to write a witness statement while the police officer at the desk starts a report if this wasn’t already done at the scene of the crime. Depending on the police station you go to, you may be required to write the statement while sitting at a table in the writing room, standing at the counter, or in a private room.
You will be given a copy of your statement as well as the file number for your records.
- Go to court
The investigating officer collects information that will be presented in a court of law. After the investigation is done the police officer will consult with you to see if you wish to proceed with the court process.
If you decide to file a case, the legal process will take approximately two years but since all cases are different, yours might take longer or otherwise. It’s hard to generalize what the legal process looks like. The trial which is the last process takes a few weeks or months and ends in a guilty or not guilty verdict.
Remember that as a victim, dealing with a sexual assault case in court could change you. You will be standing against something so big and scary. Additionally, it’s not a guarantee that your assailant will be put behind bars. Whether or not you speak up is a personal decision and there’s no one-size-fits-all formula to heal. But at the end of the day coming forward with your story will make you stronger – you don’t have to hide what happened.
You are not alone!