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Reporting sexual offences and child abuse

Learn about the how to report sexual offences and child abuse to Victoria Police.

What is a sexual offence?

Sexual offences can refer to a broad range of sexual behaviours that make a person feel:

  • uncomfortable
  • frightened 
  • threatened 

Sexual offences can include rape, sexual assault and child sexual abuse.

Sexual offences are often perpetrated by someone known to, and trusted by, the victim and those close to them. Sexual offending can occur anywhere. This could be within the family home, the community and institutional settings (such as a school, church, club, aged care facility or disability service). A sexual offence may be experienced as a one off or repeatedly over a longer period.

Reporting a sexual offence to police

We will listen without judgment and treat you with dignity and respect. Our detectives are specialists and are trained to understand the complex and diverse nature of sexual offences.

You don’t need to worry about whether what happened to you is a criminal offence or not. It is our job to work that out. If you are concerned about something that has happened to you, we encourage you to speak with a detective from one of our Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Teams (SOCITs) or Sano Taskforce. 

Telling us about what happened to you does not mean your case will proceed all the way to court. We will discuss your options with you and your views will be considered and taken into account.

We understand it can be difficult to report your experience to us. There are support agencies that can help support you regardless of your decision to report to police. 

Any form of sexual offending is serious. Everyone is entitled to protection under the law.

You can report a sexual assault by

If you are concerned about something that has happened to you at any point in time, we encourage you to come and speak with us. You need not worry about your actions or choices – you will be taken seriously. Our investigators are trained to understand these complex situations and are here to help you. 

Reporting a recent sexual offence to police

If you have just been sexually assaulted: 

Your welfare will always be our primary concern.

If you have just been sexually assaulted:

  • do not disturb the area where the assault happened. 
  • if possible, refrain from showering or bathing as this may destroy evidence that can be used in court 
  • in some cases, try to refrain from eating or drinking anything. 
  • do not wash or discard the clothes you wore during the assault.  

Sexual assaults are often committed by people the victim knows, which may include their partner or ex-partner. These are sexual offences and we encourage you to call 000, your local police station or a SOCIT team, who can help. 

Reporting historical sexual offences

It is never too late to report sexual offences. Delays in reporting sexual offences are common. Our detectives often investigate weeks, months and years after an offence has occurred. Victoria Police will always respond to reports of sexual abuse and sexual assault, irrespective of the time that has passed.

If you wish to report historical sexual abuse involving institutional or religious organisations, please contact the SANO Taskforce on email sanotaskforce@police.vic.gov.au or call 1800 110 007. Sano Taskforce is based in Melbourne but operates state-wide.

Reporting child abuse to police

  • if your situation requires police attendance, dial Triple Zero '000' 
  • for immediate concerns about the safety of a child, contact the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, Child Protection Crisis Line by telephone on 13 12 78 
  • to discuss concerns about child abuse, including historical child abuse, contact your local police station

The case will be transferred to a Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT) detective for investigation and referral to support services. 

Reporting child abuse to other authorities

Mandatory reporting refers to the legal requirement of certain groups of people to report a reasonable belief of child physical or sexual abuse to child protection authorities. 

Child Protection will report some cases that come directly to them to police if there needs to be criminal or civil action. 

In the course of investigating Family Violence, police will come across children they believe to be at risk and will refer those cases to child protection for further review

The Reportable Conduct Scheme requires some organisations to respond to allegations of child abuse (and other child-related misconduct) made against their workers and volunteers, including notifying the Commission for Children and Young People of any allegations. 

The Commission for Children and Young People independently oversee the organisation’s responses to an allegation. 
 

Contact a SOCIT member

What to expect

When reporting, you can expect the following from us:

  • Your wellbeing and safety is our priority. We will listen without judgment and treat you with courtesy, respect and dignity. We will respect your cultural background and any individual safety and/or accessibility needs you might have. The decision as to whether to conduct a formal investigation will be discussed with you and your views will be respected and considered.

  • We will discuss your informal and formal support needs with you. We will work in partnership with you to ensure you have appropriate support in place by connecting you with victims of crime and support agencies.

  • You may have a support person of your choice throughout your dealings with us. It is important that your support person is not a witness in the case and does not interfere with the police investigation.

  • Your investigation will be handled by a specialist detective who will be your main point of contact. 

  • We will discuss with you how you would like us to keep you informed throughout the investigation and will keep you updated as agreed. We will be available for any questions you may have. 

  • There is no time limit for reporting sexual offences. Specialist detectives are trained to investigate sexual offences, no matter when they occurred.

  • We will usually take your statement very early in the investigation in a private setting. A statement records what you can recall about your experience in as much detail as possible. We will ask you about everything you can remember about what happened, including sounds, smells, how you felt and what you did. Try not to leave anything out. Even small details that you might not think are important can help us with the investigation.

    We know recalling sexual offences can be difficult. It is not easy to share information of a personal and physically intimate nature. Our detectives will treat you with dignity and respect. They are trained to understand the impacts of sexual offences and will support you through the process. You may also have a support person present for emotional support.
    Take the time you need to make your statement. It is important you feel comfortable when giving your statement. Giving your statement may take several hours and may sometimes require several appointments.

    You will be given a copy of your statement when you have finished. If you remember something later or find a mistake in the statement, speak to the detective looking after your case.

  • Your investigation will be led by a detective who will be your main point of contact.
    We will keep you informed of the progress during the investigation and will be available for any questions or concerns you may have. We can discuss with you how you would like us to update you during the investigation – in writing, by phone, email or in person. 

    If you would prefer not to be kept up to date, let us know, or ask us to provide progress reports to your support person instead.

  • We will encourage and support you throughout the investigation. However, we understand you may decide that continuing with a police investigation is not the best option for you.

    Deciding not to continue does not stop you from proceeding later. However, a delay in the investigation may result in some evidence being lost. Where there is a risk to community safety, we may still need to proceed with an investigation. Regardless of your decision, your safety and welfare will be our priority and we will work with you to connect you with support services.

  • We will usually take your statement very early in the investigation in a private setting. A statement records what you can recall about your experience in as much detail as possible. We will ask you about everything you can remember about what happened, including sounds, smells, how you felt and what you did. Try not to leave anything out. Even small details that you might not think are important can help us with the investigation.

    We know recalling sexual offences can be difficult. It is not easy to share information of a personal and physically intimate nature. Our detectives will treat you with dignity and respect. They are trained to understand the impacts of sexual offences and will support you through the process. You may also have a support person present for emotional support.
    Take the time you need to make your statement. It is important you feel comfortable when giving your statement. Giving your statement may take several hours and may sometimes require several appointments.

    You will be given a copy of your statement when you have finished. If you remember something later or find a mistake in the statement, speak to the detective looking after your case.

  • Depending on the circumstances of your report and the timeframe, you may be asked to undergo a forensic medical examination. If a forensic medical examination is appropriate, we will explain what it will involve and will arrange the consultation for you with your consent.

    Whether to undergo a forensic medical examination is your choice, however be mindful that evidence may be lost with time. Forensic medical examinations are conducted by a trained medical professional who will address any immediate medical needs, collect evidence for use in the investigation, may take photos of any injuries and will discuss any concerns you may have relating to sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy. You have a right to have a CASA counsellor advocate and/or a support person present during the examination.

    For more information about forensic medical examinations, please visit the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine website.

  • We will collect evidence related to the crime. What we collect as evidence will depend on the circumstances of the sexual offence. The evidence collected during the investigation will be stored securely and any items taken as evidence will only be kept as long as necessary.

    At the completion of the proceedings, we will discuss with you which items you would like returned. We will take statements from people who may have witnessed the sexual offence or may be able to provide information that could assist the nvestigation. We understand you may be reluctant to have detectives speak to your family or friends.

    We respect your privacy and will not reveal any unnecessary information when speaking to witnesses. If you are concerned or worried about anyone we might speak to, let us know so we can discuss your concerns.

  • If the accused is known or has been identified, we may interview them.

    Depending on the circumstances, the accused may be kept in custody, released or granted bail until the court case starts.
    Your safety will be our priority at every stage of the investigation. We will keep you informed and discuss with you how to manage your safety.

  • At the conclusion of the investigation, all the evidence collected will be examined by a person who is specifically trained to make decisions about matters that may proceed to court. The decision is made after careful consideration of the available evidence and the rules of law.

  • This does not mean we don’t believe you. It simply means we do not have enough evidence to meet the required level for criminal prosecution. If this happens, we will talk to you about it and explain the reasons why.

  • If the matter proceeds to court, a detective or the prosecutor will explain the process to you and will keep you up to date throughout. There are several stages in the court process and these vary depending on what court your case is being heard in.

    There are special arrangements at court that are designed to minimise trauma. These include giving evidence from another location by closed- circuit television, using screens in the courtroom to ensure the accused is not visible to you and allowing a support person to be present with you when giving evidence.

    For more information about going to court, please visit the Department of Justice and Community Safety website.

    There are services available to you and your family to assist and support you at court, such as the office of public prosecution’s witness assistance service. We can make referrals to these specialist support services if required.

    For more information, please visit the Witness Assistance Service website.

  • There are a range of organisations independent of victoria police that you can contact for further information and support. These organisations can support you regardless of your decision to report to police.

Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Teams

Sexual offences and child abuse are crimes that require a specialist response from police who understand these complex crimes. Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Teams (SOCITs) are staffed by experienced and qualified detectives who are trained to respond to and investigate sexual offences and child abuse by perpetrators known to the victim.

The SOCIT response prioritises the needs of victims. Any investigation is a victim-led process. They aim to ensure your safety and wellbeing; your ability to regain control of your circumstances; and to provide access to support, information, justice and services appropriate to your need.

Remember, any form of a sexual offence is serious and everyone, including you, is entitled to protection under the law.

There are SOCITs throughout Victoria. Some SOCITs work in Multi-Disciplinary Centres (MDCs) which offer a range of services for victims of sexual offences under the one roof, away from the police station environment. 

Multi-Disciplinary Centres

There are seven (7) Multidisciplinary Centres (MDCs) across Victoria. These sites collocate a range of agencies in the one building to provide a victim-centred, integrated and holistic response to victim/survivors of sexual assault, child abuse and in some location’s, family violence too. 

These agencies include:

  • Victoria Police specialist investigators (SOCITs and in some locations FVIUs)
  • Child Protection staff from Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, Counsellors and Advocates from Sexual Assault 
  • Family Violence response services and Community Health Nurses. 

Some MDCs also have Forensic Medical Officers attend from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM) who may be able to provide expert forensic opinions or undertake forensic examinations on-site to support police investigations.

MDC buildings are deliberately located away from police stations and are carefully designed to provide a safe, welcoming and confidential environment for victim/survivors and their support people. MDCs are discreetly located with minimal external signage to enhance the privacy and security of clients.

Extensive consideration is given to ensure that the buildings are culturally respectful, support a victim/survivor’s well-being, are accessible and facilitate a high level of confidentiality. Police members working from the MDC are not in uniform. All agencies located within the MDC work together to ensure they provide a victim-centric and holistic response.

MDCs are a ‘one stop shop’ providing safe and discreet access to:

  • Specially trained police investigators
  • Counselling and advocacy support
  • Private counselling rooms and group therapy spaces
  • Video Audio Recorded Evidence (‘VARE’) rooms where child victim/survivors and adults with cognitive impairments can provide their statement to police
  • Clinic rooms where victims can have their general health and well-being needs assessed by qualified Community Health Nurses
  • Treatment programs for children and young people up to 18 years of age who are displaying or engaging in sexually abusive behaviours
  • Forensic medical suites (at some locations) to enable forensic examinations on site
  • Remote witness facilities (at some locations) so victim/survivors can provide their evidence to court

Glossary of terms

  • The term used to describe the person who is alleged to have committed an offence. They may also be referred to as the suspect, an offender, defendant, respondent or perpetrator depending on the context.

  • A highly trained police officer formally trained  to investigate sexual offences, child abuse and other criminal activity.

  • A medical examination to initially treat, assess, document and interpret injuries sustained during a crime. It is conducted by a trained medical professional called a Forensic Medical Officer or a Forensic Nurse Examiner.

  • A solicitor’s office that prosecutes serious criminal cases on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions. It is a separate organisation to Victoria Police.

  • A specialist unit within Victoria Police that investigates reports of child sexual abuse (either historical or current) that occurred in a religious or institutional setting.

  • A broad range of non-consensual sexual behaviours. These include rape, sexual assault and child sexual abuse.

  • A specialist team of detectives that investigate reports of sexual offences and child abuse.

  • A detailed description of facts and events witnessed or experienced by a person that are relevant to the crime under investigation. It is usually written down but can sometimes be recorded on video.

  • An organisation, separate to Victoria Police, offering various welfare support and assistance services such as counselling, information about the investigation and court process, medical assistance and emergency housing.

  • A person who offers emotional support during the investigation process. They can be a friend, family member or a worker or volunteer from a support service. This person cannot be a witness to the offence and should not interfere with the police investigation.

Reviewed 13 September 2021

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