The circumstances behind any report of rape or sexual assault are unique, so the way we investigate each one can vary. However, every investigation will start with the same steps to make sure we gather as much evidence as we can, as quickly as we can, while giving you all the support and advice you need. Find out below what happens after you report rape or sexual assault and the support available to you during the process.

Is it an emergency?

Is someone in immediate danger? Is a crime taking place or has one just happened? If so, call 999 now and ask for the police. If you're deaf or hard of hearing, use our textphone service 18000 or text us on 999 if you’ve pre-registered with the emergencySMS service.

Your initial account

If you’re comfortable talking about what happened, the officer will have four main questions:

  • Who did this?
  • What happened?
  • Where did it happen?
  • When did it happen?


We understand you may not be able to answer all of these. However, the more you can tell us, the better our chances of identifying the suspect.

The suspect

If we can identify and locate the suspect, we may arrest them. Our decision to make the arrest will be based on both your wishes and what we feel is in the wider public interest. If we believe there is a continued threat, either to you or the public, we will act. We cannot risk anyone else getting hurt.

The investigation process

STOs (Specially Trained Officers) are assigned to reports of rape and serious sexual offences.

The officer will take a first account from you to assess what offence(s) are to be investigated and consider any priority actions including your immediate health and welfare needs.

This may also include making arrangements for you to attend St Mary’s SARC for a sexual health examination, your officer will explain why this may be required and also accompany you to your appointment. They will also, with your consent, refer you through to specialist support advocacy services, such as Independent Sexual Violence Advisors.

Your officer in the case

Once you've given a first account of what happened, we will assign an OIC (Officer In the Case) with the responsibility of investigating and securing all the evidence. An officer in the case is a plain clothes constable who has specialist training in the investigation of rape and serious sexual offences. These officers are also specially trained to provide you with the help and support you need throughout the investigation and any subsequent judicial process.

Your officer will be a single point of contact throughout the investigation. They will explain to you what is happening at each step and answer any questions you might have.

One of the officer’s first tasks will be to take a detailed account from you. This can be in the form of a written statement or a visually recorded interview. They’ll talk through both of these options with you beforehand.

Another such task will be to take a statement from the ‘first complainant’. This is the first person to whom you disclosed what happened to you – usually a friend, colleague, police officer or someone else that you trust.

As a general rule, your officer will keep you informed of how the investigation is going at least every 28 days or sooner if there are any updates.

The OIC will liaise closely with your dedicated officer to make sure you are kept updated throughout the investigation.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)

If a suspect is arrested, they will be interviewd and evidence collected. 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.

Going to court

If the CPS recommend a trial, the first stage will be ‘heard’ at a Magistrates’ Court. The suspect, who will be referred to in court as ‘the defendant’ will have to attend. You won’t need to attend at this stage. The police and CPS can apply to the court for ‘special measures’ that can assist you when you subsequently give your evidence in court. Special measures can include giving evidence behind a screen or via a video link from another room.

Giving evidence

If the defendant pleads ‘not guilty’ to the crime, you will need to go to the Crown Court and appear as a witness. In this case, you will be referred to as a ‘witness for the prosecution’.

Preparing for the day

It’s natural to feel a little nervous about going to court, but your dedicated officer and/or your ISVA will be on hand to support you all the way through the trial.

They can arrange a court visit before the day so that you can familiarise yourself with the layout of the courtroom.

Protecting your anonymity

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.