Tips for women who want to report their rapist to the police
By Sophia Hladik
November 29, 2021
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Call the rape crisis centre closest to you. They will support you leading up to, during, and after the police investigation. They can advocate to police on your behalf and help you understand the criminal justice system process.
Before making the report, write a chronological account of the attack. This written account will be your police statement and is a key piece of evidence in the investigation. To ensures that the police have your FULL account of what happened in the police file, include all the events and the interactions you can remember that are related to the attack; what happened immediately before, during and after the attack. Stick to facts, not feelings or judgments about your own behavior or your attackers’ behaviors. Write the statement by yourself without help from anyone so that if the case goes to trial, the defence will not accuse you of being “coached”. If the Crown decides to prosecute your attacker, his criminal defence lawyer will get a copy of your statement and all other evidence collected by police.
When you meet with the police to provide your statement, insist that your advocate or a woman who supports you (like a friend or a family member) joins you. You do not need to do this alone! If you have an advocate with you, police are less likely to bluntly decline to conduct an investigation, deem your case as unfounded, or tell you that there is no point to “go ahead” because this is a “he said, she said” situation. Police may tell you that they do not allow a support person in the room with you, but we advise that you insist by telling police that you are only comfortable speaking with them with your support person in the room. You can assure them that your support person will not interfere with your statement or speak during the interview.
Once you provide your statement, ask the officers what are they going to do next and when can you expect an update from them. Follow up with the investigating officer every 3-4 weeks and ask them what they have done so far to investigate your attack and what the next steps in the investigation are. This will remind the police officer that they have an obligation to investigate your assault fully and that you expect that they do so. If you get a poor response such as the police failing to take basic investigative steps, for example: failing to collect witness statements; failing to request your related medical records; or failing to access relevant footage from the taxi companies or bars — contact your local rape crisis centre (or us if there isn’t one near you). The advocate at the rape crisis centre can pressure police to conduct the investigation properly. Note that sexual assault investigations take at least a few months, if not a year or longer. After the police complete their investigation, they will either close the file due to what they consider a “lack of evidence” or lay a charge of sexual assault. In British Columbia, the police forward their report to Crown Counsel who will then approve or decline charges against the man who assaulted you.
If they close your file and you would like more information about the police investigation, you can request the file through the Access to Information and PrivacyAct online. Make sure you write the police file number and include “police officers’ notes” and “video recording of police statement” in your request. They will not provide you anything beyond what you specifically request. Regardless of what you ask for, they will redact other witnesses’ statements and you cannot access the statements given by your attacker.
There are options to complain about the way the police responded to you or handled the investigation into the attack. If you are in British Columbia you can do so through the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner online. To find your local complaint mechanism, search “police complaint (insert province or territory)” via an online search engine. You are also welcome to call us and we will assist you with that, regardless of your location.
Dealing with the criminal justice system as a victim of sexual assault can be frustrating and even traumatizing. You don’t need to go through it alone. If you need help finding your local rape crisis centre or any other assistance, call us at 604-872-8212.