Rape or sexual assault is a serious crime. If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, it is important to remember that it is not your fault.
What separates sex or a gesture of affection, from rape and sexual assault is consent. Consent is both people agreeing to what's happening by choice and having the freedom and ability to make that choice.
The terms rape and 'sexual assault' are used simply to differentiate between two types of offence.
The legal definition of rape is when a person intentionally penetrates another's vagina, anus or mouth with a penis, without the other person's consent. Assault by penetration is when a person penetrates another person's vagina or anus with any part of the body other than a penis, or by using an object, without the person's consent.
The overall definition of sexual or indecent assault is an act of physical, psychological and emotional violation in the form of a sexual act, inflicted on someone without their consent. It can involve forcing or manipulating someone to witness or participate in any sexual acts.
Not all cases of sexual assault involve violence, cause physical injury or leave visible marks. Sexual assault can cause severe distress, emotional harm and injuries which can't be seen – all of which can take a long time to recover from. This is why we use the term 'assault', and treat reports just as seriously as those of violent, physical attacks.
If you’ve been the victim of rape or sexual assault, there are many different ways you can report it to the police. We understand it can be difficult. You might not be completely sure what happened or how to talk about it. Our trained officers and partner organisations are here to listen and work together to support you in any way we can. Importantly, your information could help us bring the offender to justice and make sure you, and other people in a similar situation, are kept safe.
Is it an emergency?
Is someone in immediate danger? Is a crime taking place or has one just happened? If so, call 999 now and ask for the police. If you have a hearing or speech impairment, use our textphone service 18000 or text us on 999 if you’ve pre-registered with the emergencySMS service.
If you’d like to talk to someone, our national non-emergency telephone number is staffed 24/7. Call us on 101 and report what happened or just get some advice.
If you’d like to report online, rather than speaking to an officer by telephone in the first instance, you can securely and confidentially report rape or sexual assault to us online.
All reports made using this service are reviewed by our 24/7 contact centre within a few hours and an officer will get back to you in a maximum of two days (although usually quicker).
Visit a police station
If you’d like to speak to an officer in person, we can provide a safe and comfortable environment at any of our police stations.
Report a crime on someone else’s behalf
If someone you know has been raped or sexually assaulted, and doesn’t feel able to speak to the police yet, please report it yourself using any of the methods above. We’ll record the incident and help you to support the victim if needed.
Provide information anonymously
Information provided anonymously via Crimestoppers is extremely valuable in helping us plan how we police each area.
You can contact them through their website or by calling 0800 555 111.
Other useful links
We understand that you may not be ready to talk to us about what has happened. The charities, groups and organisations on the support organisations page can offer support, advice and ways to report the incident without having to talk directly to the police.
The circumstances behind a rape or sexual assault are unique, so the way we investigate each one can vary. However, every investigation will start with the same steps to make sure we gather as much evidence as we can, as quickly as we can, while giving you all the support and advice you need. Find out below what happens after you report rape or sexual assault and the support available to you during the process.
Your initial account
After you report rape or sexual assault, we’ll arrange for someone to talk to you. Their first priority will be to check on your welfare and find out if you need any emergency medical assistance.
If you’re comfortable talking about what happened, the officer will have four main questions:
Who did this?
Where did it happen?
When did it happen?
We understand you may not be able to answer all of these. However, the more you can tell us, the better our chances of identifying the perpertrator.
If we can identify and locate the perpetrator/suspect, we may arrest them. Our decision to make the arrest will be based on both your wishes and what we feel is in the wider public interest. If we believe there is a continued threat, either to you or the public, we will act. We cannot risk anyone else getting hurt.
Your dedicated officer
You will have a specially trained officer from our Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) team dedicated to your case and will be a single point of contact throughout the investigation.
They will explain to you what is happening at each step, answer any questions you might have and, with your consent, refer you through to specialist support advocacy services, such as Independent Sexual Violence Advisors.
One of the officer’s first tasks will be to take a detailed account from you. This can be in the form of a written statement or a visually recorded interview. They’ll talk through both of these options with you beforehand.
As a general rule, your officer will keep you informed of how the investigation is going at least every 28 days or sooner if there are any updates.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
If a perpetrator is arrested, they will be interviewed and evidence collected. The OIC will pass all of the evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and will detail the circumstances surrounding the offence.
A specially trained lawyer at the CPS will review all of the evidence and, together with a second 'reviewing lawyer', decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed to a trial. The CPS will then notify the OIC of the decision.
Going to court
If the CPS recommend a trial, the first stage will be ‘heard’ at a Magistrates’ Court. The perpetrator, who will be referred to in court as ‘the defendant’, will have to attend court. You won’t need to attend at this stage. The police and CPS can apply to the court for ‘special measures’ that can assist you when you subsequently give your evidence in court. Special measures can include giving evidence behind a screen or via a video link from another room.
If the defendant pleads ‘not guilty’ to the crime, you will need to go to the Crown Court and appear as a witness. In this case, you will be referred to as a ‘witness for the prosecution’.
Preparing for the day
It’s natural to feel a little nervous about going to court, but we will be on hand to support you all the way through the trial. We can arrange a court visit before the day so that you can familiarise yourself with the layout of the courtroom.
If you’ve been the victim, please report rape or sexual assault as soon as possible. Even if you’re not 100 per cent sure, we’d sooner hear from you so that we can make sure you’re safe. If you’re not ready to talk to the police just yet, that’s OK. Below you can find a range of places to get support, advice and medical help.
You can speak to these organisations in confidence and what you tell them won't be shared with the police unless you ask for it to be.
Independent sexual violence advisors (ISVAs)
Independent sexual violence advisors (ISVAs) work with adults and children who have experienced sexual violence and their families to get them access to the services they need.
You can talk to an ISVA without talking to the police.
Survive Sexual Assault and Abuse Services (Staffordshire area)
Survive is a new sexual assault and abuse service for Staffordshire (not including Stoke-on-Trent), providing a free, non-judgmental and confidential service for adults, children over the age of 4, and close family members/significant others who have been affected by sexual assault or abuse at any point during their lives.
The Grange Park SARC is a centre providing services to men, women and children living in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, who have been raped or sexually assaulted. At Grange Park you can access a range of services that are free and confidential.