What is sexual assault?

A sexual assault is any sexual act that a person did not consent to, or is forced into against their will. It is a form of sexual violence and includes rape (an assault involving penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth), or other sexual offences, such as groping, forced kissing, child sexual abuse or the torture of a person in a sexual manner.

Sexual assault is an act that is carried out without the victim’s active consent. This means they didn’t agree to it.

It is not uncommon for a victim of sexual assault to have no physical injuries or signs of their assault. But sexual assault is still a crime and can be reported to the police in the same way as other crimes.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales for the year ending March 2015 showed that police recorded 88,219 sexual offences, encompassing rape (29,265 cases) and sexual assault, and also sexual activity with children. This is a steep rise on previous years and probably reflects increased confidence in reporting sexual assault. However, many more sexual offences remain unreported.

If you’ve been sexually assaulted

If you've been sexually assaulted, there are services other than SHINE that can help. You don’t have to report the assault to police if you don’t want to. You may need time to think about what has happened to you. However, consider getting medical help as soon as possible, because you may be at risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you want the crime to be investigated, the sooner a forensic medical examination takes place, the better.

Try not to wash or change your clothes immediately after a sexual assault. This may destroy forensic evidence that could be important if you decide to report the assault to the police.

Where you go for help will depend on what’s available in your area and what you want to do. For specialist medical attention and sexual violence support, whether you decide to have a forensic medical examination or not, your first point of call is a sexual assault referral centre (SARC).

In Newcastle your nearest sexual assault centre is:

Sexual Assault Referral Centre - REACH Rhona Cross Centre - Tel: 0191 221 9222

Newcroft House
Market Street East
Newcastle-upon-tyne
Tyne And Wear
NE1 6ND

Sexual assault referral centres

Sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) offer medical, practical and emotional support. They have specially trained doctors, nurses and support workers to care for you. If you decide to report the assault to the police, they can arrange for you to attend a SARC for medical care and, if you wish, a forensic medical examination.

If you have not reported the assault to the police, you can still refer yourself to a SARC for assessment and medical treatment to prevent some STIs and pregnancy.

If you refer yourself to a SARC and are considering reporting the assault to the police, the centre can arrange for you to have an informal talk with a specially trained police officer, who can explain what is involved.

There are also specially trained advisers available in some SARCs or voluntary organisations to help people who have been sexually assaulted. These independent sexual violence advisers (ISVA) can help victims get access to the other support services they need. They will also support you through the criminal justice system if you decide to report the assault to the police, including supporting you through the trial, should the case go to court.

You can tell someone you trust first, such as a friend, relative or teacher, who can help you get the support you need. SARC services and ISVA support are free to all, whether a resident of the UK or not.

Forensic medical examination

If you have been sexually assaulted, you don’t have to have a forensic medical examination. However, it can provide useful evidence if the case goes to court.

You can decide at any stage if you would like a forensic medical examination. However, the sooner this takes place, the more chance of collecting evidence. If the assault occurred more than seven days ago, it is still worth asking for advice from a SARC or the police about a forensic medical examination.

The forensic medical examination usually takes place at a SARC or in a police suite. The examination is carried out by a doctor or nurse specially trained in sexual assault forensic medicine.

The doctor or nurse will ask any relevant health questions – for example, about the assault or any recent sexual activity. They will take samples, such as swabs from anywhere you have been kissed, touched or had anything inserted. They will also take urine and blood samples and occasionally hair, depending on the information you provide about the assault, and also retain some clothing and other items.

If you haven’t decided whether to involve the police, any forensic medical evidence that's collected will be stored at the SARC to allow you time to decide if you do want to report the assault. An ISVA, sometimes called an advocate, will also offer practical and emotional support, whether or not you wish to involve the police.

If you do decide to report it to the police, a police officer specially trained in supporting victims of sexual assault will talk to you and help to make sure you understand what's going on at each stage.

The police will investigate the assault. This will involve you having a forensic medical examination and making a statement about what happened. The police will pass their findings, including the forensic report, to the Crown Prosecution Service, who will decide whether the case should go to trial.

Confidentiality

Your details will be kept as confidential as possible. However, if there’s a police investigation or criminal prosecution linked to the assault, any material relating to it is "disclosable". This means it may have to be produced in court.

If there is no investigation or prosecution, information about you won’t be shared with other services without your permission, unless there's a concern that you or anyone else is at risk of serious harm.

Local Support Agencies in Newcastle

Specialist ISVA - Arch North East

Mobile - 07739749647

Email - c.rodgerson@archnortheast.org

A specialist ISVA is someone who can offer support to people involved in the sex industry (aged 18+) who have experienced rape or sexual assault, whether you want to report to the police or not. She is here to listen. Claire is based with Arch North east (http://www.archnortheast.org) a sexual violence organisation who work closely with partner agencies such as SHINE, Changing Lives and GAP.

An ISVA can support you whether the rape or sexual assault was recent or historical and no matter who the perpetrator was. You will be able to discreetly talk about your situation to someone in a safe space; no judgement. The ISVA will be sensitive to your needs and move at your pace. It is not about telling you what to do but helping you to make informed choices. This is a free service.

Tyneside Rape Crisis Centre

Sexual Violence Telephone Helpline and Email Support - Telephone: 0800 035 2794

Tyneside Rape Crisis Centre (TRCC) is a charity offering free, confidential services for women and girls over 13 who are survivors of sexual violence
Email: emailsupport@rctn.org.uk

Our Helpline and Email Support are available: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday between 6.00 pm and 8.30 pm

Friday between 11.00 am and 2.00 pm

Our multilingual helpline is available on Thursdays in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu. The helpline is open between 6.00 pm and 8.30 pm. 

Victim Support

08 08 16 89 111

We can help, regardless of whether you have told the police or anyone else about the attack. Our services are confidential available to anyone who's been raped or sexually assaulted – now or in the past. While our volunteers can visit you at home (if you want us to, and if doing so will not put you at further risk) or somewhere else if you prefer.

REACH

0191 2219222
Alternatively we can be emailed via: - reach@northumbria.pnn.police.uk  

R.E.A.C.H is able to offer victims of rape or serious sexual assault, who do not wish to make a formal complaint of crime to the Police, the opportunity to receive support in two ways:

  1. Access to a forensic medical examination - a fully trained "chaperone" is available to assist the victim
  2. Practical support from one of our team of ISVA's (Independent Sexual Violence Advisor) who can help with any issues you may be experiencing.

Supporting a victim of sexual assault

Here at SHINE we can also offer support for relatives and friends of someone who has been sexually assaulted, but The Havens website has advice on what you can do to help. The advice includes: 

Don’t judge them, don’t blame them. A sexual assault is never the fault of the person who is abused.
Listen to the person, but don’t ask for details of the assault. Don’t ask them why they didn’t stop it. This can make them feel as though you blame them.

Offer practical support, such as going with them to appointments.

Respect their decisions – for example, whether or not they want to report the assault to the police.
Bear in mind they might not want to be touched. Even a hug might upset them, so ask first. If you’re in a sexual relationship with them, be aware that sex might be frightening, and don’t put pressure on them to have sex.
Don’t tell them to forget about the assault. It will take time for them to deal with their feelings and emotions. You can help by listening and being patient.