If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, please seek help with a qualified counsellor or by calling 1800 RESPECT.
It’s an understatement to say reporting a sexual assault can be daunting.
After all, it’s unlikely a victim had ever thought about what to do before they were faced with the task. So now what?
Victoria Police Senior Sergeant Brett Meadows, who has worked in the Sexual Offence Child Abuse Investigation Team for 12 years, explains that it’s really up to you.
“The victim’s welfare is our number one priority. The victim needs to have a lot of control over the investigation,” Snr Sgt Meadows said.
What’s the best way to report it?
While it’s completely up to the individual, Snr Sgt Meadows says it can be easiest for women reporting sexual assault to phone ahead instead of walking straight into their local police station.
“Firstly, (victims) come to us in a number of ways. One would be coming to the station, one would be calling police, others go through emergency at the hospital and others will ring say a sexual assault counselling line. All of these end up coming through to us one way or another. ”
Snr Sgt Meadows advises people to first seek medical treatment if required and then to call either Triple Zero, their local police station or a direct number for a sexual offences investigation unit in their area.
“Say ‘I need to report that I’ve been sexually assaulted and I don’t know what to do’.”
On the phone, the police officer answering will first determine if they need to send an officer to them or put them through to the specialist unit, who will arrange a time for them to come in.
What to expect once you’re at the police station.
If you’ve called ahead you can expect to go up to the front desk and ask for the officer you spoke to, without need to reveal what it is about in front of others at the station, Snr Sgt Meadow assures.
He says there is almost always a private area at a police station where the discussion will take place. In Victoria, this might even take place at a Multi-Discipline Centres – where police, medical staff and counselling services are all under one roof- away from the regular police station.
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There, you’ll be asked to give a few details about the assault, such as how they were attacked, the time, the place and if the victim knew the offender or could describe them. Any “nitty gritty” details will be held off until they make a decision about pressing charged.
Snr Sgt Meadows says victims won’t have to make a decision on whether or not they want to press charges, but these initial details are enough for officers to launch the investigation.
After reporting the assault, you’ll be referred to counselling services, and know when you’ll be speaking to your investigator next.
You’ll have one police officer the entire time.
“Generally, you will meet the investigator on day one and stick with them right through the entire process.”
If for any reason you don’t feel comfortable with the first police officer you speak to – say you would like to speak to a woman rather than a man – you can ask for a different police officer.