Reporting Process

The following information is to help you gain an understanding of the process of reporting rape or sexual assault/abuse to the police.

*This process may be subject to changes subject to Police Personnel availability and process.

Initial Statement

  • A police officer will take a survivor’s Initial Statement (sometimes referred to as an initial account)
  • During this initial statement, please be aware questions will be asked and a comfort suit may be available.  These are dedicated rooms in some police stations for survivors to report crime in a less intimidating environment.
  • Once an initial account of what happened has been given, a Sexual Offence Investigative Technique (SOIT) officer is assigned to the case.
  • The survivor will also be allocated an Officer in the Case (OIC)

Officer in the Case (OIC)

  • An officer in the case (OIC) is a plain clothes constable who has specialist training in the investigation of rape and serious sexual offences.
  • An OIC will be assigned to the survivor’s case with the responsibility of investigating and securing all the evidence via a Forensic Medical Examination (FME)
  • The first task of many will be to take a statement from ‘first complainant’. This is the first person to whom the survivor first disclosed what happened to them – usually a friend, colleague, police officer or someone else that they trust.
  • The OIC will liaise closely with the survivor’s SOIT officer to make sure they are kept updated throughout the investigation.


  • A Sexual Offence Investigative Technique (SOIT) officer is assigned to a survivor’s case and will be single point of contact throughout the investigation. These officers are specially trained to provide help and support throughout the investigation and any subsequent judicial process.
  • They will explain what is happening at each step, answer any questions and, with consent, refer victims to specialist support advocacy services, such as Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVA).
  • One of the SOIT officer’s first tasks will be to take a detailed account. This can be in the form of a written statement or a visually recorded interview. They’ll talk through both of these options with the survivor beforehand.
  • As a general rule, a SOIT officer will keep the survivor informed of how the investigation is going at least every 28 days or sooner if there are any updates.


  • The role of the ISVA is to provide ongoing support for survivors up to, and including any pending or potential court case. This support includes liaising with others on your behalf and keeping you regularly updated on any developments. This can include speaking to the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, health professionals, housing associations, employers etc.  The aim of doing this is to take as much pressure as possible off the survivor’s shoulders and enable them to concentrate on self care.
  • ISVAs are able to accompany survivors to any appointments and they will offer to support survivors during a court case. They will also arrange a pre court visit so that survivors can have a look at the court room before the case and get an understanding of what will happen and where a survivor will have to sit and give evidence etc or can arrange special measure i.e giving evidence behind a screen or via video link. Survivors always find this really helpful as it helps to reduce their anxiety prior to the court hearing.
  • Our ISVAs are not counsellors however they are highly competent and skilled support workers. As such they are able to talk to survivors about their emotional wellbeing, provide them with positive coping strategies and allow survivors a Safe Space where they can talk about how they are feeling. Support is provided either face to face or by telephone (or usually both) and it will be at a level and frequency that is appropriate for the survivors needs.


  • Based on the survivor’s individual needs, the police makes referrals on their behalf to a whole host of agencies working independently of the police. One example is a SARC or police station’s allocated FME site. 
  • Either the uniformed officer the survivor first speaks to or their SOIT officer can take the survivor to a FME site and wait with them while they’re there.
  • Depending on the circumstances of the assault, a sexual offence examiner may take swabs from both intimate and non-intimate parts of the body. They will also document any physical injuries and may photograph non-intimate injuries. The staff may also ask for the clothes they were wearing, in order to gather any forensic evidence./ Screen for HIV/ STIs.
  • Once the examination is complete, the SOIT or uniformed officer will take the survivor home or to a place of safety.

 Please remember this is the process of an FME if you report to the police. You can have your FME complete and not report to the police, you can do this by contacting your local SARC.

What is SARC?

  • Sexual Assault Referral Centres are specialist independent centres for survivors of rape or serious sexual assault. Their role is first and foremost to help the survivor both physically and emotionally.
  • To be seen by a SARC you will need to call to make a self-referral
  • They will complete a survivor’s Forensic Medical Examination (FME)
  • Following the forensic medical examination  (FME) the survivor will be able to have a shower in a private bathroom and will be given their own personal toiletries kit. They will also be provided with a brand new set of clothes which will consist of underwear, t-shirt, fleece joggers and a fleece sweatshirt. 
  • They will be able to signpost the survivor to an ISVA to address any needs the survivor may disclose.
  • Survivors of  rape or sexual assault can attend a SARC if they have been subjected to Sexual Violence within the last 10 days.

They are Open 24/7/365 days a year. Anything post 10 days, each  SARC will have an individual policy for process of FME. If you call them, they will let you know.

  • It can take a long time for a survivor to have the strength and courage to report to the police therefore a SARC can keep a survivor’s forensic evidence for a long time (some up to 10 years) whilst the survivor decides whether or not they want to report to the police.
  • All SARCs have a police interview suite if the survivor wishes to report.

What is CPS?

  • Once the perpetrator has been arrested, interviewed and all of the evidence has been collated, 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.
  • The OIC will update the SOIT and  ISVA  of that decision and then the survivor will be notified of the outcome.
  • If declined from CPS, the survivor has the right to appeal.

Court Process

  • 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.
  • The survivor won’t need to attend at this stage. The  ISVA,  SOIT  Officer or CPS can apply to the court for ‘special measures’ that can assist the survivor when giving evidence in court. Special measures can include giving evidence behind a screen or via a video link from another room.
  • Giving evidence will be the survivor, professionals involved, the perpetrator and other relevant individuals.
  • If the perpetrator pleads ‘not guilty’ to the crime, the survivor will need to go to the Crown Court and appear as a witness. In this case, they will be referred to as a ‘witness for the prosecution’. Special measures can still be put in place for the survivor.
  • Evidence is then given. This can take multiple days and sometimes court dates may be rearranged or cancelled.  
  • During this time, witnesses and relevant bodies are questioned by defence and prosecution.
  • Closing statements are given from defence and prosecution.
  • Jury is asked to come to conclusion and deliver a verdict.

It is important to remember that just because a perpetrator is found not guilty does not mean it did not happen.

Court preparation

It’s natural to feel a nervous about going to court, but a survivor’s SOIT officer and/or their ISVA will be on hand to support throughout the trial.

  • They can arrange a court visit before the day so survivors can familiarise themselves with the layout of the courtroom- if they don’t have special measures.
  • If a survivor does have special measures, they can visit the room before and see the camera set up or what a screen would look like in court.
  • They can ensure your anonymity is protected from media for example.  
  • If you attend court as a witness, it is against the law for the media to use your name or give details that would make it clear who you are.


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