Information for victims of sexual abuse

This page gives details of what happens if you report sexual abuse and what support you are entitled to if you have experienced sexual abuse.

It also provides details of other support and advice available.

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You can report sexual abuse to the police or the Shores, which is Dorset’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).

The police will record any report of sexual assault and will work to investigate it. If you do not wish the police to investigate at this time for any reason you will be referred to the Shores.

You can also self-refer to the Shores directly if you do not wish to speak to the police. The police will only receive an anonymous report so they have knowledge of the number of reports and any repeat offences. If you change your mind later and do decide you want the police to investigate, the evidence gathered by the Shores can be passed to the police with your consent.

Officers will need to work with you to conduct a full investigation with a view to possible prosecution. Dedicated officers and staff will support you through the process.

The investigation includes:

  • The police will gather all the evidence available to put forward a case to the specialist CPS team who make a decision as to charging the perpetrator.
  • A full medical examination (if it occurred in time for forensic evidence to be gathered) – more info below
  • A recorded interview – more information below
  • An examination of your means of contact (if any) with the perpetrator, such as your phone or laptop will need to be removed and examined by officers.

To help the police investigation please let us know:

  • If you remember something not already included in your current statement
  • If your contact details change
  • If the crime involved any type of hostility, for example if you were targeted because of your (or your perceived) race, sexuality, religion, disability or gender identity
  • If you have any specific needs, for example; mobility, communication or religious requirements.

Throughout a police investigation a SOLO will be appointed to you. A SOLO is a specially trained Sexual Offence Liaison Officer (SOLO) who is assigned to you for the duration of the investigation. They will be the person who conducts your interview, and will be your main point of contact from the police.

SOLOs also work with the Shores, which is Dorset’s SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre) and ISVAs (Independent Sexual Violence Advisors) to provide you with care and support.

If you do not have contact details and need to contact an officer involved in your case, please call 101 and request to speak to that officer. You can also request for a call-back or for a message to be passed to a particular officer by visiting dorset.police.uk/do-it-online

SOLOs like many police officers, work a variety of shifts. Therefore it may take a few days to receive return phone calls, so please do not let this be a cause for concern.

The Victims’ Code sets out the services you can expect from criminal justice agencies.

The police will conduct a needs assessment and will ask you questions to establish what help and support you might need.

Victim rights under the Code include:

  • The right to be kept informed about case progress by police
  • The right to hear when a suspect is arrested, charged, bailed or sentenced
  • The right to apply for special measures in court for vulnerable or intimidated victims
  • The right to be told when an offender will be released, if the offender in question has been sentenced to a year or more in prison for a violent or sexual offence
  • The right to be referred to Victim Support.

Victims of sexual abuse are entitled to an enhanced service under the Victims’ Code. This means that you can be provided with extra support and services through the criminal justice process due to the nature of the crime and/or your potential vulnerability as a victim. With our partners we will work to ensure you get the support you need.

For more information about the Victims’ Code click here >

A full medical examination will be conducted within the Shores facility by a forensic nurse. The earlier this can happen the greater the chance of collecting evidence such as DNA.

Also present at the examination will be a Crisis Support Worker who will support you during the examination and assist with your referrals. If you have self-referred they will be responsible for making sure all the samples are correctly recorded. If a police investigation is taking place then this is done by a SOLO, who also speaks with the medical staff.

If you decide you wish for a police investigation to be progressed you will undergo a visually recorded interview. This is conducted by a SOLO and is recorded to enable the courts to understand your report fully.

The role of the SOLO is to gain as much information from you as possible and they will have to refer to parts of your body and what happened to you in detail. This can be quite stressful or upsetting but is vital to an investigation and once it has been finished you should not have to revisit this again.

There are a number of processes for the police to go through before a case can be brought to court. The SOLO or officer in charge of your case will collate all of the evidence. This will be reviewed by an inspector within the Dorset Police Serious Sexual Offences team who will make sure there is enough evidence for a jury to be able to make a decision. If this is the case the file will be sent to the CPS who make the final decision as to whether it will go to court.

At court you will be required to be cross examined by the defence barrister, if the perpetrator pleads guilty, but your video interview will be played rather than you having to say everything again.

There will be special measures which you will be entitled to assist with this. You will also be able to have your ISVA or SOLO with you to offer support.

Special measures at court

There are special measures which will be granted by the court to assist you with giving evidence. They will be requested by the officer in charge of your case on your behalf.

Screen separation:

  • You will be in the main court room but a screen will be put up to separate you from the suspect
  • You will still be able to see the judge and jury
  • The barristers will move so that you can see who is asking questions
  • You will not be able to see the suspect and they will not be able to see you
  • You will not be able to see the public gallery and they will not be able to see you.

Live link:

  • You will be in a completely separate room to the court room (currently still within the court building)
  • You will be in front of a two-way television where you can see the person asking the questions
  • You will be able to answer the questions via this means

 You will be asked which you prefer but it is up to the judge as to what will be applied.

Dorset Police

Call 101 to make a report or access advice. Always dial 999 in an emergency.

Dorset Police takes all reports of rape and sexual assault seriously, no matter when they happened or who you are. Rape or sexual assault that has happened a long time ago will also be investigated.

Dorset Police has specially-trained officers who can help and advise you. They are dedicated to investigating these sorts of offences, will talk to you in confidence, will explain the options open to you and will be guided by your wishes.

 

The Shores, Dorset SARC

Visit: the-shores.org.uk 

Call: 01202 552 056

The Shores offers support for victims of rape or sexual assault including crisis support, counselling referrals and health and welfare support.

 

Dorset Rape Crisis

Visit: dorsetrapecrisis.org

Call: 01202 308855 

Dorset Rape Crisis offers practical and emotional support to anyone who has been or is being, abuse or harassed. 

 

Victim Support

Visit: victimsupport.org.uk

Call: 0300 3030 163

 

24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline

Visit: nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk

Call: 0808 2000 247

 

Over the Rainbow

Visit: rainbowbournemouth.co.uk

Call: 01202 257 478 

Advice, support and information for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in Dorset.

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