After the Rape/Sexual Assault
There are Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA) services for victims of rape/sexual assault, their partners, and families throughout Victoria. CASAs provide 24 hour counselling information and medical services as well as supportive counselling.
Reporting to the Police
Reporting a crime to the police is not the same as making a formal complaint. If you do not make a formal complaint the police will not take it to court. Making up your mind about this is something that only you can do. There will be good reasons for your choice whatever you decide. A CASA Counsellor/Advocate can tell you about the legal process. Making a formal complaint will mean you have to make a statement. This is a detailed written account of what happened to you. Before doing this a medical examination may be done at a hospital to document any evidence of the assault. After taking a statement (you should ask for a copy) the police will investigate the matter and attempt to catch your attacker(s).
If they are caught they will be charged with one of a number of offences, which are graded categories of sexual assault. Most sexual assault offenders are given bail until court, usually on condition that they do not attempt to contact you.
You do not have to go to the police before going to a Centre Against Sexual Assault. If you report the sexual assault to the police, you should automatically be taken or directed to the nearest Centre Against Sexual Assault. These centres maintain confidentiality.
Going to Court
There are two stages of court hearings. The first is called a committal hearing and is held in a local court before a magistrate. At this hearing you will have to give evidence, that is, stand in the witness box and say what happened to you. You will usually also be cross-examined by a lawyer who is defending the perpetrator. If a magistrate decides that there is enough evidence the case will be sent on to trial. If not the case will be dismissed. A trial takes place in a District Court and is heard by a judge and jury who must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that a crime has taken place. You will have to give evidence again at the trial. It can take some months to get a committal hearing and it is then adjourned for 3 months, before the trial. There may be more than one adjournment. If your attacker pleads guilty the process is quicker and you do not have to give evidence. If the offender is convicted he will then be sentenced. You are entitled to apply for compensation under the Victims of Crime Assistance Act, if you have made a formal report to the police.