Over 7 days

Forensic medical examinations (FMEs) usually take place within 7 days, depending on the assault. In some circumstances, a healthcare professional may decide it would be appropriate for you to have an FME after that time.

If you were raped or sexually assaulted over 7 days ago, there are places that can provide the best and most appropriate care for you.

Find information about support services

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Immediate needs

What is rape and sexual assault?

Rape is when someone puts their penis into (penetrates) the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person without their consent.

Assault by penetration is when someone puts another part of their body – or an object – into another person’s vagina or anus without that person’s consent.

Sexual assault is when someone touches another person in a sexual way, without that person’s consent.

What is consent?

Consent means giving permission, freely and without fear. If you said yes because you were scared, or didn't feel that you were able to say no, that isn't consent.

Even if you didn't say no, froze, or didn't know what was happening, it doesn't mean you consented.

If you initially say yes but change your mind and say no during sexual activity, that instantly becomes non-consensual. It is assault if the person doesn't stop.

If you're thinking about sexual activity, everyone involved must give consent. It doesn't matter if you're in a relationship or have had sex before, consent is needed each and every time.

How do I know if I was raped or sexually assaulted?

There's no test that can tell whether you've had consensual sex or not.

Often people are unsure what has happened to them. Someone who has been raped or sexually assaulted can show no physical signs of injury, and may not remember everything right away.

There may also be instances, because of the type of assault, where you are unable to remember what happened to you.

Learn about the support available to you

Injuries

During your assault you might have been injured. It is important that you seek medical advice even if it's difficult to talk about it.

Read more about dealing with injuries after a rape or sexual assault

Unintended pregnancy

You should speak to your GP or contact 111 if:

  • you experience any abdominal pain
  • you have irregular bleeding

If you suspect you may be at risk of an unintended pregnancy as a result of a sexual assault, you should start to take pregnancy tests from around 21 days from your assault until the start of your next period. If you have any concerns or worries about the test results contact your GP or local sexual health service.

If your pregnancy test is positive this can cause you to feel many different emotions, and heighten emotions you already feel. Choosing what to do can be a very difficult decision.

If you are pregnant you should speak to your GP. You can also contact Rape Crisis Scotland for additional support.

It will be entirely up to you what you do, and you will be supported whatever you decide.

Making a report to the police

Deciding to report 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.

Making a report 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 after reporting to the police

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 require 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.

Officers may need to take items of clothing and other belongings for evidence. An explanation of why certain things are being done will be given to you.

Officers will also provide details of support services available to you.

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:
05 April 2022