The most serious of sexual offences including rape, sexual assault involve sexual activity with a child. This is an issue which is becoming more and more prevalent in England and Wales with more than 45,000 such offences recorded in 2014/15. It would be safe to assume that many more went unreported. Sexual assault as a term encompasses several different crimes, ranging from inappropriate touching through to rape.
The group most at risk of being a victim of a sexual offence are women aged between 16 and 24 but such offences can happen to anyone regardless of their sex, age or background. While the offender could be a stranger, statistically it is much more likely to be an attack by someone the victim knows. Equally, the majority of attacks take place in the home of either the victim or the perpetrator.
As with rape it is important for a victim to know that there will be groups in their local area who will be willing to help. It will be for the victim to decide whether or not they report the incident to the police. Though other organisations can provide advice, that decision is one for the victim alone.It is also recommended that you do seek medical assistance as you may, depending on the nature of any assault, be at risk of pregnancy or of contracting a sexually transmitted infection.
In the immediate aftermath of the assault the advice is the same whether the allegation is rape or sexual assault. Keep the area where the incident took place as well preserved as possible for forensic purposes. So, don’t clean it and keep the clothes you were wearing so they can also be examined.
Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC) offer support; emotional and practical as well as medical. These independent sexual violence advisers help victims get access to all the support services they need. They will support you through the criminal justice system if you decide to report the assault to the police, all the way through the first statement and onto, if necessary, giving evidence in court.
Victims are not required to have a forensic examination, though it is recommended as it can be useful in providing DNA evidence against the defendant if the case is to proceed. If an examination is to take place it will be done in a police suite or a SARC and the person conducting it (a doctor or nurse) will take samples from you and ask relevant questions about the attack.
In respect of whether the case is thought suitable to proceed to court the police, after interviewing you, the alleged defendant and any other witnesses, will pass their findings onto to the Crown Prosecution Service who will make the final decision on whether or not there is sufficient evidence to charge the perpetrator.