Victim of a Crime

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Sexual Assault

Sexual assault (including rape and incest) is against the law.   You have the right to feel safe and protected. Seeking support can be difficult but getting information from someone you trust may help you decide what you would like to do.

What happens if I tell someone?

It is your choice whether to tell someone what has happened to you. You don’t have to report a sexual assault to the police.

If you tell a person from Child Safety Services or the police about the sexual assault then they must investigate it. If you are under 18, need medical treatment and the doctor believes you have been sexually assaulted, then they must tell the police or Child Safety Services.

However, a medical report may be important later to support your story if you decide to go to court. You do not have to answer questions or give any information to anyone if you do not want to. A doctor cannot refuse to treat you because you do not give full details of what happened and who was involved.

It is important to look after yourself by seeing a doctor as soon as possible for things like STIs, pregnancy and your general health.

If a teacher reasonably believes a child at the school has been sexually abused by another person then, by law, they have to report it to the principal who must report it to the police.  If the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian (CCYP&CG) is told about possible abuse they must pass the information on to the police.

It is important to check that whoever you talk to (youth worker or friend) respects your right to decide whether to report your assault to the police or Child Safety Services.  Call one of the agencies under ‘Who can help?’ if you are unsure who to trust.

What happens if a sexual assault is reported?

If you have questions about what happens if you report an assault contact one of the agencies under ‘Who can help?’  before you report it. The steps below give you an idea of what happens if a sexual assault is reported to the police or Child Safety Services:

  1. You make a complaint/ask for help
  2. You are interviewed by police (usually videoed) or a Child Safety Services officer
  3. Police gather other evidence (for example, medical report, other witnesses). The police or Child Safety Services may ask you to undergo a medical examination
  4. The person you say assaulted you is interviewed by police (the person can refuse to be interviewed)
  5. Police or Child Safety Services make a decision about what should happen next:
  • if the police believe there is enough evidence to show that the person has broken the law, the person is charged and is taken to court
  • if Child Safety Services believes you are not being cared for or you are not safe from further harm they may take out a Child Protection Order (which means that Child Safety Services may become your guardian and make decisions about you).

Reporting a sexual assault can be difficult as it will mean you will have to talk about what has happened to you in detail to people you do not know. You will need to think about what going to court will mean for you. It is important to know your rights. If you report the assault, you may not be able to control what happens and decisions may be taken out of your hands.

Do I have to have a medical examination?

  1. But sometimes the police may want you to have a medical examination, to gather evidence for the police and the case. This is your decision. If you say no, the police may not be able to take the offender to court because there may not be enough evidence.

A court can order a medical examination if Child Safety Services is assessing whether you are at risk of further harm and a Child Protection Order should be taken out. You should get your own legal advice if this is happening to you.

What happens if I change my mind?

If you change your mind about going to court you can ask the police for a ‘Withdrawal of complaint’ form. This form should be completed as soon as possible. It is a police decision whether to drop your case. This may depend on a few things such as whether they have completed their investigations into your case and have found enough evidence to continue to court. The police will not necessarily drop the case because you no longer want to go to court.  If you change your mind it is a good idea to contact one of the agencies under ‘Who can help?’ to support you in telling the police your decision.

What about court?

If the police decide that there is enough evidence, the case will be taken to court. If the case is not taken to court, it is because the police do not have enough evidence. This does not necessarily mean that the police do not believe you.

Will I have to be a witness at court?

You will be the main person the police will be counting on to give evidence. If you are under 16 your statement will be recorded on video.  This will be used as your evidence at the committal (the initial court proceedings).  It will also be used as your evidence at the trial.  The solicitor for the alleged offender can still ask you questions at a pre-trial hearing (the pre-recording), however there are rules about the type of questions that they can ask. It is also possible to give evidence through an audio-visual link.  If this option is not available then you are entitled to give evidence behind a screen.

Being a witness can be difficult because you have to say what happened to you and answer questions from the offender’s solicitor. Court can take a long time and the offender may be found not guilty. This does not necessarily mean that the court did not believe you.

Will I need to prepare a victim impact statement?

You may need to consider preparing a victim impact statement. A victim impact statement is where you are given the opportunity to explain how the crime has affected you (for example the physical, emotional and financial impacts of the crime). It is a written statement prepared that can include things like a medical report or letter from your counsellor.[1] Sometimes the court may want to ask you questions about anything you have included in your victim impact statement. Often other people affected by the crime, such as your parents, are also able to submit a victim impact statement. The reason that you prepare a victim impact statement is so that the court can take the information that you have provided into account during sentencing of the offender.[2]

What about compensation?

An application for compensation is usually a separate process (refer to one of the agencies listed under ‘Who can help?’), which will enable you to access the support and assistance you require.

[1] For information on how to prepare a victim impact statement refer to the ‘Making a victim impact statement’ fact sheet produced by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General (January 2010).

[2] During sentencing under section 15 of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld) the court is permitted to inform itself in any way it considers appropriate in order to impose a proper sentence.

Who can help?

If you want help or advice you should call and have a confidential chat to someone at one of the agencies below. You do not need to give your name or address.

Youth Advocacy Centre (YAC) www.yac.net.au  3356 1002

South West Brisbane Community Legal Centre www.communitylegal.org.au 3372 7677

Logan Youth & Family Legal Service www.yfs.org.au 3826 1500

Legal Aid Queensland www.legalaid.qld.gov.au 1300 651 188

Brisbane Youth Service www.brisyouth.org.au 3620 2400 (Information and advice about health issues and free doctors)

Zig Zag Young Women’s Resource Centre www.zigzag.org.au 3843 1823

Kids Help Line 1800 551 800

Gladstone Rd Medical Centre (support for young men) 3844 9599

Sunshine Coast Cooloola Services against Sexual Violence: Gympie (Laurel Place) 5482 7911  Maroochydore (Laurel Place)   5443 4711

Women’s Health Services: Brisbane  3839 9988 Qld Wide  1800 017 676

Women’s Centre Cairns 4051 9366

24hr Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Support 1800 737 732

Women’s Health, Info & Referral Service:  Rockhampton Rocky Rural Areas Only 1800 017 382

Gympie Widgee Youth Service 5482 6188     

Immigrant Women’s Support Service www.iwss.org.au 3846 3490

Victim Assist Queensland (Victim Compensation) 1300 546 587

Translating & Interpreting Services (24hrs) 131 450

Community Legal Centres (CLCs) see www.naclc.org.au for your nearest CLC

 

 

This information was last reviewed and updated in June 2015.  The Youth Advocacy Centre does not accept responsibility for any action or outcome as a result of anyone relying on the information provided.