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Part of: Deciding to report or not

Being okay with changing your mind

Making the decision to report a rape or sexual assault is a very hard decision for all of us. There's so much to weigh up at a time when we can be feeling overwhelmed, in pain and confused. We can feel a sense of urgency to make a report and then later want to take back our case. It's important to know that it’s okay to change our minds.

Whilst this is your story and an important part of your journey is to own it, in this note we'll just explain a few things to bear in mind if you retract your case.

There are various reasons to why we take back or retract our case, here are a few:

  • Sometimes we feel pressured or intimidated by our family members, friends or community (FYI 👀 using intimidation or using violence is a criminal offence).

  • We want to give an existing relationship another chance.

  • Sometimes we fear that we will not be believed as a result of how we reacted/behaved after the incident.

  • It will be our word against theirs, as there is no other evidence (for example, non-consensual intercourse will not always leave visible signs on the body or genitals).

  • There was a delay in reporting the incident to the police.

  • We're worried about the impact for our children and / or finances (such as on benefits or tax allowances).

  • We're embarrassed.

  • We're scared of going to court, and / or having to relive the experience through the giving of evidence, or having the details of how we live our lives scrutinised. This could be in terms of our work, things we have done, such as misuse drugs, or our mental health and other capacities.

  • We have insecure immigration status.

If you decide that you want to retract your case, there are some things to bear in mind.

  1. The law is different in each country, please check it in your country for the process of retracting your case.

  2. If you have someone who you trust, ask them if they can support you with the process. You can tell them how they can best help you; whether that’s with planning what to say, going with you to the police, or helping you to feel safe and supported after any meeting.

  3. If it helps, write down what you want to say and why. This will help you if you feel overwhelmed by the meeting with the police.

  4. If it exists, ask a legal representative or an advocate to be present with you in any meeting so that they can explain any legal process or consequences and help you through the meeting.

  5. To retract a statement, you should contact the police officer, advisor or lawyer assigned to your case. They will be best placed to assist you with the way in which you can withdraw. This might be different depending on the country you live in. If the police find that you have felt coerced to withdraw your statement, it is possible that further charges will be brought to your attacker.