Sexual assault

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is a crime under the ACT Crimes Act and is taken very seriously by ACT Policing. The term sexual assault is used when a sexual act is committed against a person without that person’s consent.

Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim, and in most cases the offender is known to them.

Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault including women, men, children, seniors, disabled people, culturally and linguistically diverse people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the homeless.

If you have been a victim of a sexual assault

You can report any incident of sexual assault to police regardless of how long ago it happened. However, if you have been sexually assaulted we encourage you to call police on 131 444, visit a police station or hospital as soon as possible so your safety and health can be assessed.

Both the Canberra and Calvary Hospital provide support for all victims of sexual assault and provide emergency treatment. They will also connect you with support services such as Forensic and Medical Sexual Assault Care (FAMSAC) who can administer preventative medical care against Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) and unwanted pregnancies. 

If you can, don’t shower, drink liquids, smoke or change your clothes following a sexual assault. This will assist police and medical staff to collect forensic evidence that may belong to the offender and be used if the matter goes to court.

Critical evidence can be lost or deteriorate if not collected in a timely manner. Contacting police as soon as possible ensures the best chance of this evidence being captured. 

How to report sexual assault

Reporting sexual assault can be a daunting and traumatic experience and we recognise the emotional hardship and courage involved in coming forward.

ACT Policing’s Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Team (SACAT) are a specialist team dedicated to investigating sexual assault committed against adults and children in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Their priority is ensuring the safety and wellbeing, both mentally and physically, of victims and survivors of sexual assault.

ACT Policing work closely with the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre (CRCC) who provide confidential counselling services free of charge and can assist you with attending hospital, provide advice and support through criminal justice proceedings and refer you to practitioners to assist in your recovery.

There are a number of ways you can report sexual assault to ACT Policing:

In person: Visit any of our five police stations in the ACT. An officer will be able to assist you immediately to discuss the incident and your options going forward.

By telephone: In an emergency, call Triple Zero (000) or for police assistance call 131 444. These calls are answered by ACT Policing’s Operations who will arrange for police to meet with you.

What happens when I report to police?

If you are reporting the sexual assault of a child, ACT Policing is obligated to report the incident to Child Youth Protection Services.

When you contact police, we can talk you through what is involved if you decide to proceed with a police investigation. We can also discuss alternate options, including making an Information Report.

Your safety and wellbeing is very important. Police can assist you in contacting support services to help you manage the trauma of sexual assault. Police can also put protective measures in place to ensure you have no further contact with the offender.

Making an Information report

You can make an Information Report to police for recording purposes only. Police will not investigate the incident but may use the information for intelligence purposes.

You can decide if you would like your case to progress through the court at a later date. Be assured criminal investigations will not commence without your consent.

Going through the criminal justice system

You set the pace at which your case progresses and can decide at any time to stop the investigation without judgement from police.

Police will allocate you a Victim Liaison Officer who will offer support through the court process.

Sexual assault victims are provided a level of protection in the courts. Police can conduct an Evidence-In-Chief Interview which is pre-recorded, then cross examined during a hearing. This is to prevent you having to re-tell your ordeal or face the offender in court.

The trial

There can be a considerable time delay from when you give your official statement and the start of court proceedings (one year or more).

If the accused (defendant) pleads guilty before or after the committal hearing, they can be sentenced by a Magistrate or Judge without the case proceeding to trial.

Two to three weeks prior to the trial, you will meet with a Prosecutor at the DPP who will present your evidence in court. You are also encouraged to visit the court prior to the trial so you are familiar with the rooms.

During the trial, you are protected from seeing the defendant through a remote witness facility. You will be able to see the room through a monitor and have a microphone to speak through. A camera will show your image in the court. The DPP can also request a closed court so no members of the public can attend.

At the trial, you will be required to give evidence. If there was a recorded statement made to police on video, this will be played to the court. The Prosecutor will ask you questions followed by the Defence lawyer, who can ask questions about the statement or matters not raised. The Prosecutor may ask you additional questions to help clarify any information provided.

After hearing all the evidence, the court will determine if the defendant is found guilty on any charges. If they are, a date will be set for sentencing. At this time, you can apply for compensation as part of the sentence.

You can also write a Victim Impact Statement which outlines how the offence has affected you. This will be given to the court by the DPP.

Who will see my report?

Your privacy is paramount and all reports of sexual assault are handled with full discretion. SACAT will discuss with you the option of contacting support services such as the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre who can provide counselling to assist in your recovery.

Your privacy

ACT Policing takes its privacy obligations seriously and all personal information collected to provide services to victims of sexual assault is handled in accordance with our obligations under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth). More information is available on our privacy policy page.

Can I bring a support person with me?

ACT Policing want you to be as comfortable as possible during your experience with us.

For this reason, we encourage you to take up the services of the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre who offer an impartial support person to accompany you while you speak to police.

Alternatively, you may bring your own support person such as a friend, family member or work colleague.

We can also offer translation services to assist if required.

Support Services

We acknowledge not everyone is comfortable coming to the police in the first instance, if this is the case we encourage you to visit or talk to one of the below services.

Canberra Rape Crisis Centre (CRCC)                         62472525
Domestic Violence Crisis Service   62800900
Child and Youth Protection Services        1300 556 729
Victims Support ACT                  1800 822 272
Lifeline           131114
Kids Helpline               1800 55 1800
Translation and interpreting service                       131 450

         

News laws to better protect children from abuse

From 1 September 2019, changes to ACT laws will mean that:

  • Adults who reasonably believe that a sexual offence has been committed against a child, must make a report to police. Failure to make a report is an offence.
  • Ministers of religion, religious leaders and members of the clergy of a church or religious denomination will be Mandated Reporters.
  • Certain information disclosed in a religious confession must be reported by religious bodies to the ACT Ombudsman under the Reportable Conduct Scheme.    

Read more here.