Have you been raped or seriously sexually assaulted?

It takes a great deal of courage to disclose what has happened to you. You may already have reported it to the police or you may be thinking about it. You may be wondering what help is available to you and what will happen following an investigation.

If you decide to report the crime, the police will want to investigate it to identify and detain the person they believe to be responsible. If you visit the police station you will be interviewed by specially trained officers who are usually female.

Achieving best evidence by video

Your interview can be visually recorded or a written statement can be taken. If recorded, the interview can be played to the court to avoid you having to go through all of your account again.

Your interview will be conducted by specially trained police officers who will have carefully considered a number of factors before talking about what has happened with you. This may include your religion, race and culture, any special needs and your current emotional state.

The police will discuss the evidence with a lawyer from the Crown Prosecution Service’s Rape and Serious Sexual Offences team. They are specially trained in dealing with this type of crime. They will then decide if there is a realistic prospect of conviction based on the evidence that is presented to them.

What support is available during a prosecution?

The CPS lawyer will discuss the options available for you to give your evidence to the Court in a way that is comfortable for you.

The lawyer will then make an application to the court on your behalf in advance of the trial to enable this to happen.

Court visits

You can visit the court to see the courtroom and video link room before the trial to help you decide which option would be best for you. You can be shown around the court by the police officer assigned to be your contact and by a member of staff from the witness service who are based at the court. We would need to make arrangements for you to visit when the court is not sitting.

In addition, the CPS can apply to the court on your behalf to have the following facilities made available for you in court:

Video link

You can chose to give your evidence about what happened to you on a video link to the courtroom, or, if you have chosen to give your initial account to the police on a video, you can then answer any questions about that account on a video link to the courtroom.

A video link allows you to be in another room other than the courtroom so you do not have to see or hear the person on trial. You will only see the person asking you questions.
For example: the prosecutor, or the barrister representing the accused or the judge. The person on trial will not ask you questions directly.

An independent member of staff from Witness Support team can be present with you in the Video link room whilst you are being asked questions. You can choose to have a short break during questioning if you want to.

Screens

You can ask to give your evidence in the courtroom from behind a screen. Sometimes people report a crime to the police months or even years after they have been sexually assaulted or raped. They may have changed in appearance and not want the person on trial to know what they look like now.

Screens allow you to give your account to the court and be asked questions without being seen by the accused.

Witness Intermediary

Support is available for witnesses with different communication needs so that they can give their best evidence.

A trained witness intermediary will be available to assist when children and other vulnerable witnesses are interviewed by police and give their evidence in a criminal trial. The intermediary is selected for their specialist communication facilitation skills and experience, and may include speech and language therapists, psychologists, teachers, health professionals, children's guardians and social care workers.

Vulnerable witnesses whose communication difficulties mean that they could benefit from the assistance of an intermediary include children and young people under the age of 17 and people with physical, mental or learning disabilities or disorders.

Previous sexual history

Evidence of your previous sexual history cannot be put before a jury without an application being made in writing to the court. The court would need to be satisfied that it was in the interest of justice and relevant to the case to allow the evidence. Such applications and the granting of them are very rare.

The CPS lawyer will ensure that you are made aware of the outcome of any ruling made by the court in relation to evidence of your previous sexual behaviour.

Victim Support can supply a free, confidential, trained adviser to offer emotional and practical support whether you have reported it to the police or not.

You can contact them through their local branches:
Kent Victim Support: 0808 168 9276
Surrey: 0808 168 9274
Sussex: 0808 168 9274
Or through the Victim Supportline: 08 08 16 89 111