I’ve Just Been Assaulted/Raped What Should I do?
- If you can, contact someone who will support you, such as a family member or friend immediately.
- Do contact the Gardaí if you wish to report
- Go to your local Accident and Emergency Department for the treatment of any injuries.
- Do contact your local Rape Crisis Centre for support.
- Do contact your G.P for any follow up medical treatment
It can be difficult, after an attack, to seek medical help. There are good reasons for doing so.
- You may have injuries internally or externally which need attention, you may get these treated at your local Accident and Emergency Department or your G.P.
- You need to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
- You may be pregnant and need to know your options in this regard.
- You may want important forensic evidence gathered by experienced professionals.
People react in a variety of ways to being raped and sexually abused and there is no such thing as a “typical reaction”.
Reactions may include the following:
Immediate effects:Shock and Withdrawal / Panic and Confusion / Terror and disbelief / Feeling dirty / Distressed / Crying and shaking / Calm and Detached.
Short Term Effects:Dwelling on the details of the rape / Recurrent Flashbacks / Sleeplessness and Nightmares / Easily startled/ Obsessive Washing / Physical Trauma.
Common Long Term Effects:Dramatic mood-swings / Recurrent and intrusive recollections of the assault / Self-blame and guilt / Fear / Deep emotional pain / Difficulty in trusting / Difficulty in building new relationships / Sexual difficulties / Impaired concentration and memory / Difficulty in coping with normal routines.
Forensic Medical Examination(FME)
In order to obtain a forensic medical examination you have two options. You can report the crime to the Gardaí and have them accompany you to the examination, OR you (or someone from the rape crisis centre, or a health professional on your behalf) can contact the nearest Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU), explain what has happened and ask for an FME to be arranged as soon as possible. It is important to let SATU staff know that you are as yet unsure whether you wish to make a report to the Gardaí.
- Do not shower, change, eat, drink or brush teeth if possible.
- Do not take drugs or alcoholic drinks before hand
- Do not wash you clothes; take them with you if you have changed. Alternatively take a change of clothes with you as your clothes may be kept for examination and evidence.
You may want support when attending the Gardaí or FME. You could ask a trusted friend or relative to accompany you. Each rape crisis centre can provide a trained volunteer to accompany you to meet the Gardaí to report a crime. In addition whenever a SATU is notified that someone is coming in for a FME the local rape crisis centre will be contacted and a rape crisis support person will be on hand at the SATU when you arrive. It is entirely your choice whether to have a rape crisis support person stay with you or not.
What is a Forensic Medical Examination (FME)?
Most FMEs are performed in a Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) based in a hospital, the Gardai will be able to inform you of where the nearest SATU is, or you can ask your doctor or rape crisis staff, or you can find out directly from the internet, for instance via this weblink: http://www.rcni.ie/useful-links/#toggle-id-2 (Rape Crisis Network Ireland website).
The examination is performed by trained medical personnel and its purpose is to gather forensic evidence. It is important that a FME is performed as soon as possible after an attack, preferably within 72 hours. After a lapse of 7 days little, if any evidence can be gathered. The FME itself involves internal and external swabs and you are also checked for other injuries such as lacerations and bruises. Emergency contraception is provided and tests for sexually transmitted diseases are performed. If your clothing is retained as evidence you will be provided with a tracksuit and trainers at the SATU.
If you are unsure of whether you want to go ahead with a formal complaint about the crime to the Gardaí, you can ask to have the intimate samples taken at the SATU in the immediate aftermath of the attack (preferably within 72 hours), stored for up to a year to give you time to think about this, provided you are over 18 at the time of the FME and you are able to give consent to this.
If you are not on any contraception you may need to avail of emergency contraception as soon as possible. The morning after pill is available from most chemists without a prescription and must be taken within 72 hours but it is more effective the sooner you take it.
What happens if I report to the Gardaí?
The Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre Sligo, Leitrim and West Cavan counsellors will give you, or assist you in obtaining, all the information you need in order to be able to make a decision about whether to report or not. If you do decide to approach the Gardaí, we can arrange this for you, and can facilitate the statement being taken in our Centre if that feels easier than going to the Garda station.
We will support you with information and advocacy throughout the legal process.
If you decide to go to the Gardaí, the following information should be helpful to you:
- Bring someone you feel comfortable with, we will accompany you if you want. You can have that person stay with you. However if they are present during the taking of your statement their details need to be included and they may be called as a witness, for this reason the Gardaí may ask that you not be accompanied during the actual taking of the statement. If however you want the person present you can insist on this. The names of all present will be recorded in the actual statement.
- The Gardaí will give you the contact details of any Gardaí or detectives you have significant contact with from the time you first report.
- You may ask to speak to a female Garda, if you wish.
- If you are reporting a recent assault, take a change of clothing including coat and shoes as the Gardaí may keep the clothes you were wearing to gather forensic evidence.
- Do not take any alcohol or drugs, but if you have done so before the recent assault this should not prevent you from reporting.
- If reporting an assault/rape – report as soon as possible preferably with 72 hours. There is no time limit, but valuable forensic evidence is lost quickly. However, evidence like semen that is on bed linen, clothes etc., lasts a long time.
- If your abuse happened when you were a child or a long time ago, you can still report to the Gardaí
- The Gardaí will ask you questions that are relevant to your case.
- You will be asked to make a written statement; this means a detailed description of the events before, during and after the attack. Make sure you read your statement carefully and change it if necessary, before you sign it. You are entitled to, and should request, a typed copy. If you remember other details at a later stage, you can make a supplementary statement.
- If the alleged perpetrator is identifiable the Gardaí may interview the person soon after you make your statement.
- If the identity of the perpetrator is unknown to you and the Gardaí arrest a suspect you may be asked to look at photographs or attend an identity parade, or go with the Gardaí to where it happened, to try to identify the person who assaulted you.
The Legal Process
We will provide you with all the information you need around court proceedings and can accompany you to court.
- When the Gardaí have completed the investigation, they will prepare a file (containing all the evidence gathered and a recommendation as to whether to prosecute) which will be sent to the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions).
- The DPP’s office will decide whether there is enough evidence to take the case to court. Try to remember this decision is not based on whether they believe you or not, it is whether they believe the case can be proven ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. You have a right of appeal against a decision not to prosecute.
- If your case goes ahead a decision will be taken as to what the charge will be and which court it will be held in (district, circuit, or central criminal court).
- The Gardaí will keep you informed of the progress of your case. If a prosecution takes place it may be many months, indeed years before it comes to court.
- If the assailant pleads ‘not guilty’ you may be required to appear in court as a witness for the State. Your identity will be protected during and after the case. The defendant’s identity will not, unless that by revealing their identity the identity of the victim becomes apparent (e.g. a case of incest). When the matter comes before the court such cases are heard “otherwise than in public” meaning that only persons directly concerned with the case will be in the court room.
- You may be entitled to legal information and advice (in limited circumstances) for further information visit www.legalaidboard.ie
- You are entitled to, and indeed it is advisable to, meet the prosecution team before the trial.
- You are entitled to have present in the court with you your supporters or counsellor (subject to the permission of the Judge).
- If the perpetrator is found guilty you will be entitled to submit a victim impact statement, and/or speak in person as to the effect on you of this offence, before sentencing. We can provide victim impact reports.
- You are entitled to be kept informed of any pending release from custody of the perpetrator who offended against you.
- You may have a civil case against the perpetrator and it is important to seek early legal advice about this as there are time limits within which such a case can be brought.
If you have been raped or sexually assaulted support can help you recover
Call us on 1800 750 780 we are here to listen and support you.