By reporting the assault to police you are providing details of what happened during your assault and requesting the police to investigate the matter. This is called making a complaint and you are referred to as the ‘complainant.’ Once a complaint has been received by police an investigation will commence so it is important to understand the role of the police and how they will investigate your complaint.
If you have just been sexually assaulted or raped:
- GET TO A PLACE WHERE YOU FEEL SAFE
- DIAL 000, ask for POLICE
- DO NOT shower or bathe
- DO NOT wash or destroy the clothing you wore during the assault
- DO NOT disturb the physical environment where the assault occurred.
The Queensland Police Service (QPS) investigator has three main functions in relation to sexual assault cases. These are to:
- Protect and support survivors
- Investigate complaints of sexual assault and establish whether an offence of sexual assault has been committed
- Identify, apprehend and prosecute offenders.
Throughout the state the QPS has investigators who are committed to providing an efficient, effective and professional service to the survivors of such crimes. They are provided with specialised training aimed at increasing their awareness of the many concerns and needs of the survivor of a rape or sexual assault. The investigators are stationed in metropolitan and regional centres throughout the state. (See Police Station Locator)
It is your choice to decide whether you wish to proceed with a formal complaint. No pressure will be placed upon you. The police will provide you with information to assist you to decide whether you wish to proceed with a formal complaint.
The police will explain the investigation process so that you understand what is going to occur and why it will occur. From that time onwards you will be fully informed on what is happening throughout the investigation. If you do not understand, or you have any questions, ask the police to explain.
Police will help you ensure your immediate physical safety and also give priority to any medical or special needs. If you have any concerns about your ongoing safety, the investigating police will be able to assist you in making appropriate arrangements or give relevant advice to you for your safety. The police will also be able to refer you to an appropriate support service if you wish.
Your confidentiality will be maintained during an investigation. However as a matter of course it is inevitable that police from various sections will have some involvement in furthering the investigation including scientific officers, Criminal Investigation Branch and Child and Protection Investigation Unit detectives.
If an offender is charged the court process may result in people such as police prosecutors, court staff and the Officer of the Director of Public Prosecutions knowing details about your matter. All material relating to the investigation will also be forwarded to the offender’s defence solicitors and barristers and the offender may view this material.
All information, including photographs, gathered during the police investigation is subject to the Provisions of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1978 which prohibits the publishing (media or otherwise) of any information that can lead to the identity of the sexual assault survivor.
The police will first take a detailed statement from you about your complaint. This is one of the most important steps in the investigation process. Without a detailed statement from you, the police will not know what they are investigating, and will not have sufficient information to conduct their investigation thoroughly. This process may take several hours and result in a type written statement being compiled for you to sign under oath. This statement will later be used in any court proceeding.
This statement will not contain any reference to your address, unless this directly relates to your complaint (for example, if the offence occurred in your house).
You will be provided with a copy of your statement.
You have the right to have a support person present throughout this process. Your support person could be a friend, family member or a community support worker. However, a witness or potential witness may not act as your support person. That is, someone who, for example, you told about the assault before reporting to the police.
If you have undergone any counselling or therapy prior to the provision of your statement, please tell the officer the nature of the therapy (e.g. did you take part in hypnosis or regression therapy?).
Police will ask you who you have spoken to about the rape or sexual assault and seek to interview those witnesses as soon as possible. These people are who the police will refer to as a Preliminary Complainant, and they may be called as a witness if the matter proceeds to court.
If the offender is charged and the matter goes to court, the police are required by law to disclose to the offender or lawyer acting for the offender, evidence gathered to ensure the offender is properly informed of the case against him or her. This material includes the police brief of evidence that will include a copy of your statement. It is possible that the offender will read your statement and be advised of its contents.