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Rape and sexual assault

Reporting rape or a serious sexual offence is a big decision to make but your welfare is our priority. We have specially trained officers who will be assigned from the point of the initial report through to the conclusion of the case. Don’t forget, both men and women can be offenders and victims of sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been raped or sexually assaulted, we encourage you to speak to someone who can help and report it to the police or a support agency so you can get the support you need.

Northumbria Police is committed to the professional, ethical and compassionate investigation of such offences in order to help victims move their lives forward and bring offenders to justice. The force’s proactive stance on the improvement of all aspects of sexual assault investigations has been recognised nationally.

If you have been a victim of rape or sexual assault

Remember that what has happened is not your fault. We understand that you may feel upset or frightened and may be afraid to report what has happened. We assure you that we will investigate your incident and handle it with care and sensitivity.

FAQ

How do you report a rape or sexual assault?

If the incident has just happened or someone is in immediate danger call us on 999. If possible, keep the clothes the victim was wearing and don’t wash them. Also try not to shower as there may be evidence we can use.

Alternatively, if there’s no immediate risk to yourself or others and the offence happened in the past, you can report it to us by calling 101 or in person at one of our police stations. You can make the report yourself or via a third party such as a trusted friend or health care professional if you would prefer them to speak on your behalf.

Or you can use our online reporting form.

We work in partnership with other agencies who offer support to victims of sexual offences. You can talk to them, even if you don’t want to report the incident to the police. Take a look at our list of partners at the bottom of this page.

What happens next?

When police receive a report of rape the first priority is the safety of the victim. The first person to attend will be a uniformed officer who will assess the situation while a Sexual Offence Liaison Officer (SOLO) travels to the scene. They are specially trained police officers who support victims of rape.

You may already know the identity of the offender, but if not, every effort will be made to identify those responsible.

If your report is made initially over the telephone, depending on how recently it occurred, you may be asked to retain and not wash the clothing you wore at the time of the assault. The reason for this is to preserve potentially vital forensic evidence.

You may be asked (depending on how recently the incident occurred) to provide some ‘early evidence’ samples that may include a urine sample and a mouth swab. You may also be asked to agree to a forensic medical examination. The purpose of this is to assist in corroborating the report and to provide forensic evidence.

The SOLO will accompany you to the forensic medical examination. Adult victims will be seen by a trained forensic medical practitioner at one of the REACH centres which are not attached to police stations. The REACH centre offers counselling services, and an appointment can be made for you by the SOLO to attend an initial session. You will also be given an information pack detailing other services available.

Next, the SOLO will explain how a statement can be taken – either a written statement or video interview depending on which is best for the victim and the investigation.

SOLOs will liaise with detectives on the Rape Investigation Team or in the Child Protection Unit who will have responsibility for conducting a thorough investigation and seeking to bring the offender to justice.

The SOLO will also arrange for timely information on the progress of the investigation to be provided the victim and refer them to appropriate support agencies.

The force also has Sexual Violence Advisers who can help victims with everything from housing, benefits, childcare and medical issues.

What is consent?

Consent is when someone agrees, gives permission, or says “yes” to sexual activity. Consent is always freely given and all people in a sexual situation must feel that they are able to stop the sexual activity at any point.

Consent isn’t given when

  • The person is incapable of consenting because of the effect of alcohol or any other substance.
  • The victim is asleep or unconscious.
  • The victim agrees because of violence or threats of violence used against them. 

The age of consent to any form of sexual activity is 16 for both men and women. It is an offence for anyone to have any sexual activity with a person under 16. There is a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for rape, assault by penetration and causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

Can I change my mind about giving consent?

The law says that if you've said yes to sex, but then change your mind, you can still say no. Consent to one type of activity does not mean that you’ve consented to anything else.  You can change your mind at any point – before or during the activity. 

How do you know if consent has been given?

Consent should always be clear, so you must ensure you have it or have given it. If you are not sure - ask. They might tell you directly, or show you with their actions. If the person says things like ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I feel worried’ or something similar - stop. No matter what the circumstances are, sex without consent is rape. 

Can men be sexually assaulted?

Anyone can be the victim of a sexual assault. In fact, 1 in 10 victims of rape or sexual assault are male. 

I was sexually assaulted years ago. Is it too late to report to the police?

It is never too late to report a historic rape or sexual assault. Police take all reports of rape and sexual assault very seriously. Our specially trained officers are ready to support and advise you when you are ready to talk.

Is it rape even if you are in a relationship with the offender?

Just because you have previously given your consent to that person previously, consent should be given every time you engage in sexual activity, no matter who they are and whether you are in a relationship.

Was it my fault?

Rape and sexual assault is never the fault of the victim. The fault and responsibility lies solely with the offender, no matter what the circumstances. It doesn’t matter if the victim was drinking alcohol, on a date, in a relationship or engaging in sexual activity with the offender. The victim has the right to refuse or withdraw consent at any point. 

What happens if the victim is under 16?

Any victim under the age of 16 will be seen by a specially trained forensic paediatrician in a comfortable and confidential setting within the RVI at Newcastle.

A SOLO will liaise with detectives in the Child Protection Unit who will have responsibility for conducting a thorough investigation and seeking to bring the offender to justice.

Will the case go to court?

Northumbria Police work in partnership with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who ultimately decide whether a case will be taken to court, based on various factors. One of these factors is whether there is sufficient evidence to provide a ‘realistic prospect of conviction’.

If your case is brought to court then you will be fully supported throughout by the SOLO, the investigating Officer in Charge (OIC) and in some cases the Sexual Violence Advisor. You will be told about court dates and what is happening each time.

If you are required to give evidence there are measures which may be taken, depending on individual circumstances, to make this process more comfortable.

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