How do I report a sexual assault to the police if I choose to do so?
If you are in immediate danger or require emergency medical assistance, you should call 911. You can also:
- go to the local police station where you live or the police station in the area where the crime occurred;
- call your local police non-emergency line; or
- go to the closest Sexual Assault / Domestic Violence Treatment Centre, which offers 24/7 emergency care to women, children and men who have been sexually assaulted. Services include emergency medical and nursing care; crisis intervention; collection of forensic evidence; medical follow-up; and counselling and referral to community resources.
- Please Note: The Centre will not automatically report the sexual assault to the police. You will be given an opportunity to decide whether you want to report it after speaking with a specially trained nurse.
If you would like to speak to someone about whether to report the crime to the police, you can contact your local Sexual Assault Centre. They can answer your questions and provide you with counselling and other support; they may also be able to accompany you to the police station to make a report. In Kingston female and male survivors can contact the Sexual Assault Centre at 613-545-0762. Male survivors of sexual abuse can also contact a 24-hour, multilingual, toll-free phone line for immediate crisis and referral services at 1-866-887-0015.
Please note: there is also an Independent Legal Advice pilot program in place for survivors of sexual assault who live in the city of Toronto, city of Ottawa and district of Thunder Bay. A survivor of sexual assault living in those cities may receive up to four hours of free confidential legal advice any time after the incident happened. You do not need to have reported to the police to access this service. To access the pilot program, you must fill out and submit a voucher request form. The form is available at Ontario.ca/legaladvice. You can also call the toll-free line at 1-855-226-3904 for more information. An independent lawyer can provide you with information about legal options so that you can make an informed choice about what is right for you, including whether or not to report to police.
Can I report a sexual assault if it happened a very long time ago?
Yes. There is no limit (statute of limitations) on when you can report a sexual assault. The perpetrator can still be criminally charged even if the crime happened many years ago. However, it is recommended that you report a sexual assault as soon as you are comfortable doing so, since there may be additional challenges with prosecuting a case the more time that has passed from the assault.
Can I report if I don’t know the name of the person who assaulted me or there aren’t any witnesses?
Yes. You do not need to know the name of the person who assaulted you or have witnesses in order to make a police report. There often aren’t any witnesses to a sexual assault. To help to identify the person, the police will ask you questions about what you remember about the person and the events leading up to the assault.
What happens if I report a sexual assault to the police?
In most cases, you will first be asked to give a brief description of what happened and a report will be created. That report will then be sent to a sexual assault investigator, who will conduct an investigation.
If the sexual assault happened recently and a sexual assault evidence kit has not been done, the police may ask if you are willing to have one done in order to see whether there is any evidence that can be found. A sexual assault evidence kit is used to collect medical evidence in cases of sexual assault. The evidence is collected as part of a medical examination and is done at a hospital or health clinic by specially trained medical professionals. The police office does not need to be present in the room during the examination.
Please Note: It is your choice whether or not to report a sexual assault to the police and you can request to be interviewed by an investigator of the same gender as you. Once you report the incident to the police, the police will decide how and when to investigate and whether charges will be laid.
What is involved in a police investigation?
Before charging someone, the police must conduct an investigation to see whether they have reasonable grounds to lay a charge. Often, the first officer that you speak with will not be the officer conducting the investigation. You may be contacted a few days later and asked to go to the police station to be interviewed, and this interview will likely be video recorded. Sometimes you will be interviewed by the police more than one time. Questions asked by the investigator are based on the needs of the investigation. Some questions may seem odd or unimportant but the investigator will have a reason to ask, that you might not be aware of.
It is important for you to know that if charges are laid and the case proceeds to trial, your interview(s) with the police may be referred to in court. Therefore, it is important that you try your best to tell the police all the details you remember about the sexual assault, including any contact you may have had with the person who sexually assaulted you following the assault. If you forget to tell the police something or remember more details later, you should contact the police officer in charge of your case as soon as possible.
It is okay if you cannot remember all the details. The trauma of being sexually assaulted can often affect memory. Take your time and seek help from support services if you need it.
In most cases, the police will try to speak to the accused during the investigation as well, although the accused does not have to provide a statement to the police.
The police investigation may also include:
- photographing any visible injuries such as cuts or bruises;
- trying to locate and speak with anyone who might have information to give;
- gathering physical evidence, including clothing that you were wearing or sheets/bedding that was used;
- asking to see any text messages or emails that may be related to the crime, including those sent after the offence;
- gathering any photos, videos or social media posts from personal and publically available sources; and
- asking for your consent to have access to a sexual assault evidence kit. if it was previously done, or other medical records that might be related to the investigation.
For more information on sexual assault evidence kits and the process contact the SADV Program at Kingston General (613-549-6666)
You have the right to know about the outcome of the investigation. You can request the contact information for a police officer that you can contact should you wish to receive an update about the investigation or you have further questions. It will also be important for you to keep the officer up to date with your contact information so they can keep in touch with you.
Will the person who sexually assaulted me be arrested?
The police can arrest and charge someone with a criminal offence when they have reasonable grounds, based on an investigation, to believe that an offence has been committed. Normally this means that if a charge is going to be laid, the arrest happens when the initial investigation is finished. Depending on the circumstances, an investigation can take only a few hours or it can take weeks or, in some rare cases, even months.
What if I decide that I don’t want charges to be laid after speaking to the police?
Although the final decision about whether or not to charge a person with sexual assault is up to the police, in most cases the police will not charge the person who sexually assaulted you unless you wish to proceed with criminal charges.
Will I receive any support during this time?
Yes. Support is available to you through a number of different programs and services:
- Sexual Assault Centres (SAC) – offers women survivors of sexual assault a variety of services, such as a 24/7 crisis support line, counselling, and assistance with practical needs. SAC service providers can answer questions about reporting a sexual assault to the police and can advocate on your behalf.
- Victim Crisis Assistance Ontario - offers information, referrals and safety planning. They can also help you to apply to the Victim Quick Response Program for financial assistance with counselling and eligible emergency expenses in the immediate aftermath of a crime.
- Independent Legal Advice pilot program for survivors of sexual assault who live in Toronto, Ottawa and Thunder Bay. You may receive up to four hours of free confidential legal advice any time after the incident happened. To access the pilot program, you must fill out and submit a voucher request form. The form is available at Ontario.ca/legaladvice. You can also call the toll-free line at 1-855-226-3904 for more information. An independent lawyer can provide you with information about legal options so that you can make an informed choice about what is right for you. This service is confidential and seperate from the justice system and therefore is not accessible by the police or the Crown Attorney's office.
For more information about programs and services available in your community contact the Victim Support Line toll-free at 1-888-579-2888 or in Kingston at 613 -548-4834 or go to services.findhelp.ca/ovss/.