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Part of: Deciding to report or not

Weighing your options

The decision on what to do after an assault can be incredibly difficult. It is important to know what options are available and the common emotions associated with these options. In this section, we will go over your options for reporting your experience. Whatever decisions we make, it is most important to remember that assault is never our fault. Our mental and physical health and safety always comes first.

Here are some options to consider:

  1. Reporting to the police directly. Generally, we can do this in person or over the phone. Keep in mind that by reporting to the police, we are creating an official record of our assault. We may face repercussions later on if it’s believed that we have wasted police time or perverted the course of justice by making a false report. Our account may be used to launch an investigation against the person who committed the assault and end in a trial. There are many considerations to bear in mind: reporting can be an invasive and emotionally difficult experience, it may compromise our anonymity (even though in many countries, by law, we are entitled to remain anonymous) and it may be really frustrating (especially if we don’t get the outcome we’re looking for). Nonetheless, it is an essential step if we want to participate in the criminal justice system and see our case go to trial.

  2. Phoning a helpline. Many countries maintain local, regional or national helplines for people who have been sexually assaulted. Although they differ from place to place, these helplines are generally equipped to handle emergency situations and also provide information about how we can access help in our area. Calls are, in most cases, anonymous.

  3. Visiting a specialised sexual assault centre. Many countries have specialised, multidisciplinary centers that offer social, legal, psychological and medical support to survivors of assault. If we’re unsure about what to do after an assault, visiting a specialised center might help us evaluate our options.

  4. Going to the emergency room. Many hospital emergency rooms employ staff who are trained to work with people who have experienced assault. If the assault has taken place within the last 24 hours or so, emergency room staff can offer healthcare services that will help prevent disease and heal physical damage.

  5. Speaking to your school. With increased numbers of survivors coming forward about assault in schools, many educational institutions have worked to improve their response to reports - some have set up dedicated offices or trained staff that you can speak to and log anonymous reports. Whether these systems are in place or not, you may also feel comfortable speaking directly with a trusted educational advisor.

  6. Reporting to your religious institution. Every religious community is different. If assault occurs within your institution there may be specific members to speak to regarding your assault. You may also want to speak directly to the leader of the community.

  7. Reaching out to your HR Department (where applicable). For assaults or harassment at work, many companies have HR departments in place that you can speak to. What actions they are able (or legally obliged) to take will vary based on your location and individual company policies, so it is worth looking into these if you can before speaking to the appropriate contact.

  8. Alerting a public transport official. For assaults that happen in public spaces, such as bus stops and transportation hubs, there may be local support on site that we can report to.

  9. Not telling anyone. After an assault, we might not want to tell anyone – friends, family or professionals – what has happened to us. Perhaps we feel scared, intimidated or ashamed. Perhaps we just don’t want to talk about it. That’s our choice, and no one can force us to disclose if we don’t feel ready. But remember that if/when we are ready to talk to someone, there are options.

No matter what option we choose, we should keep a paper trail of all our interactions. Request meetings with HR over email, get a written evaluation from any healthcare professional, request copies of statements given to the police. Keep these documents in a safe place — they may come in handy!