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The Law

Rape and Sexual Assault

The legal definition of rape has recently changed and the definition is now much wider than ever before. Rape now involves the penetration of a vagina, anus or mouth by a penis, without consent and without any reasonable belief of consent.

Penetration of a vagina or anus by anything at all, including a penis or any other body part, or any object is now considered Sexual Assault by Penetration.

Consent is now defined as “free agreement” and is central to the offence. This includes the use or the threat of violence, incapacity due to the effects of alcohol or if a person is asleep or unconscious at the time of the assault.

Sexual Assault is penetration by any means and to any extent of a vagina, anus or mouth and includes sexual touching and the emission of ejaculate, saliva or urine onto a person.

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted and have decided to involve the Police, it is best to report the incident as soon as possible as it is estimated that vital forensic evidence will be lost after 4 days. If you have not yet made a decision on reporting to the Police, retain your clothing in a paper bag. It is also important that, if you are going to report immediately after the incident, to try not to eat or drink or take drugs or alcohol as this can interfere with forensic evidence.

It is likely that you will be asked to undergo an intimate medical examination. Women can request a female Police Surgeon but should be prepared for the examination being carried out by a male in the event of Police being unable to provide a female Police Surgeon. The medical examination is carried out in order to collect evidence, which may be presented in court, in the event of a trial. It is also possible that you will have to return to the Police station in the following days to have bruising (which does not always show up immediately) etc photographed.

Whilst at the Police station you will be asked for specific details of what happened before, during and just after the attack. You will be asked if your attacker is known to you, what, if anything, was said and for any other details which you can remember. It is likely that after an attack, a survivor will not be able to remember everything but she can contact their SOLO (Sexual Offences Liaison Officer) with any further details as she remembers. You may be taken back to the scene of the assault to show Police where the attack took place in order for them to search for any evidence left behind. It is difficult to be more specific about what else will happen during the Police process, as the circumstances of each assault are different.

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