Reporting a rape or sexual assault to the police

The decision to report a rape or sexual assault to the police may not be an easy one. At every step of the reporting process, there are trained professionals there to help and make it as straightforward as possible for you.

The police take reports of rape and sexual assault seriously, no matter when the incident happened or who was involved. You'll be treated with respect and dignity throughout the process, and everything possible will be done to make you feel safe and involved.

If you're 16 or over, you don't need to report a rape or sexual assault to the police in order to have a forensic medical examination (FME), but having an FME does mean evidence is available if you choose to report to the police in the future.

Reporting a rape or sexual assault to the police after a self-referral

If you have chosen to self-refer and have an FME, the evidence gathered will be held by the sexual assault response co-ordination service (SARCS) for 26 months.

If you choose to make a report to the police in that time you should tell the officer:

  • when you had your examination
  • where it took place

The police will ask you to sign a document which allows them to retrieve the evidence from the SARCS as part of their investigation.

If more than 26 months have passed since your examination the evidence will no longer be held by the SARCS. However, you will still be able to make a report to the police.

If you don't feel able to contact the police directly you can contact your SARCS nurse for their help, or contact Rape Crisis Scotland for additional support.

Phoning 999 or 101 to make a report to the police

When you phone 999 or 101 to report a rape or sexual assault, the first person you speak to will be a call taker. They'll make sure you're safe and ask if you're injured, or if you need immediate medical attention.

The call taker will then ask for details for the person who was assaulted, and sometimes the person reporting if that's someone else. The details requested will include:

  • name
  • age
  • date of birth
  • home address
  • contact details (phone number)
  • current location

After getting these details, the call taker will ask some questions to establish what has happened to you, the date and time it happened, and where it happened.

They will also ask who assaulted you, if you know them, and for a physical description. For example, they might ask about the person's height, age, and hair colour, among other things.

Depending on when the assault occurred, the call handler may advise you to take specific actions (for example, not washing or changing your clothes).

You may also be asked at this point if you had an examination at a sexual assault response co-ordination service (SARCS). If you did, they will ask you to sign a document to allow them to retrieve the evidence as part of their investigation.

If you'd prefer the police come to speak to you at a later time, for example the following day, you can ask for this.

After the call, the information you provided will be recorded and police officers in your area will be sent to speak to you in more detail about what happened.

Walking into a police station

When you attend a police station to report a rape or sexual assault, the first person you speak to will be a member of police staff or officer at the front counter. They'll make sure you're safe and ask if you're injured, or if you need immediate medical attention.

The staff member or officer will then ask for details for the person who was assaulted, and sometimes the person reporting if that's someone else. The details requested will include:

  • name
  • age
  • date of birth
  • home address
  • contact details (phone number)

After getting these details, they will ask some questions to establish what has happened to you, the date and time it happened, and where it happened.

They will also ask who assaulted you, if you know them, and for a physical description. For example, they might ask about the person's height, age, and hair colour, among other things.

You may also be asked at this point if you had an examination at a sexual assault response co-ordination service (SARCS). If you did, they will ask you to sign a document to allow them to retrieve the evidence as part of their investigation.

If you'd prefer the police come to speak to you at a later time, for example the following day, you can ask for this.

Where possible you will be taken to a private room in the police office and officers will speak to you there. Alternatively, arrangements can be made for officers to come to speak to you at home, or a suitable location, as soon as possible.

Someone reporting on your behalf

It's possible for someone to report your assault to the police on your behalf if you feel it would be difficult. The person reporting could be a family member or friend, for example.

While someone else can tell the police your details and the circumstances, the police will still need to talk to you to get more information about what happened. Officers recognise that this can be a traumatic experience. You will be treated with respect and dignity, and be listened to.

What happens next?

After the initial report, officers in uniform will come to speak to you at home or a suitable location as soon as possible, or at a time that's convenient for you. The main focus is on your safety and wellbeing. If you're injured and need medical attention, this will be arranged for you.

The officers will clarify the information you have already provided and ask further questions to establish the exact nature of the assault. Officers recognise that this can be a traumatic experience. You will be treated with respect and dignity, and be listened to.

If the assault has taken place within 7 days and you haven't had an FME, you may be asked to provide non-intimate samples such as a mouth swab or urine sample. The police may advise you have an FME where appropriate - they would arrange this for you.

Officers may need to take items of clothing and other belongings for evidence. You'll be given an explanation of why certain things are being done.

Officers will also give you details of the support services available.

Can I press charges if I've been raped or sexually assaulted?

Police Scotland have a duty of care to investigate all crimes once they've been reported.

The decision to charge someone with an offence will be made by the police, based on the evidence.

Last updated:
01 April 2022