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Please note that Living Well is an Australian service, and the below information is relevant to residents of Queensland, Australia. If you are located in another country, there are some links in the comments, otherwise please check out some of the other worldwide services online.

Are you considering prosecution?

If you have experienced childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault, then it is almost inevitable that at some point the question will arise as to whether you wish to make a formal complaint, in order to have the person who abused or assaulted you prosecuted. Below is some information about contacting police, making a formal complaint and the prosecution process in Queensland.

You may also be interested to know that, should you decide that you don’t wish to make a formal complaint at present, there are still things you can do to help others and prevent someone committing further offences.

Reporting to police: It’s your decision

You may feel pressure from family members or friends to report (or not report) child sexual abuse or sexual assault. You are the only person who can decide whether or not to report to the police. Most people have mixed feelings about it. It can be useful to discuss any concerns you have with a supportive person, a counsellor or someone who knows about making a complaint to police and the prosecution process.

Police and health workers recognise just how difficult it can be to make a formal complaint regarding childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault and are specifically trained to assist you. You may feel it is important to do your best to have the person/s who committed the offences held to account and stopped from doing it to anyone else. You should also be aware that Queensland Police Service has a special unit, Taskforce Argos, who specifically deal with sexual offences committed, 10, 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years ago – it’s never too late.

Childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault often involve taking away a person’s sense of control and choice, so it is important now that you feel in control and free to decide what action you wish to take. Provided below is some information regarding prosecution and court processes and the options available to you in making a formal complaint to police.

Information from the Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney General

Comprehensive information regarding what you can expect as a witness, how the court operates, what is expected of you, how to make a victim impact statement and victim compensation can be found at the Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney General Website.

Information from the Victorian Department of Justice

Victims of Crime is an interactive web resource to learn about keeping safe, the court process, your rights and entitlements and who can help you along the way. It includes videos, surveys and games.

If you are unsure about making a complaint

If you are unsure about making a complaint right now but wish for important information about a sexual abuse or sexual assault to be passed on, you can contact Queensland Police Service Project ARO (Alternate Reporting Options).

Project ARO was specifically set up to ensure valuable information regarding child sexual abuse or sexual assault is not lost. Queensland Police Service recognises that some people do not wish to make a formal complaint, but are interested in helping bring those perpetrating sexual offences to account. Project Aro is a way of doing this without making a formal statement of complaint or attending court. It involves filling in a ‘Sexual Crime Survey’ designed to gather information about the circumstances of the offences and what details, if any, you remember of the person/s involved. The information provided is collated and then used to:

  • assist in the identification and prosecutions offender/s; and
  • enable the Police to devise intelligence driven strategies that prevent further child sexual abuse or sexual assaults.

Information on Project ARO and the Sexual Crime Survey can be found at http://www.police.qld.gov.au/programs/adultassault/altReportOpt.htm

Making a complaint to the police

Reporting something to the police is called making a complaint. If you make a complaint you will be asked about the assault, and the police officer will type up what you say. The officer will need to know as many details as you can remember. If you find that telling the details becomes too distressing you may call an end to the interview if you wish. Police policy has been changed to minimise the number of times you have to tell the story to different police officers.

Making a statement

If you decide to make a complaint to the police, you will have to make a statement. You may ask to talk to either a man or woman police officer, and the police service will try to meet this request. As far as possible, the police must accommodate your wishes as to when and where the interview takes place. You are entitled to have a support person present at the interview.

The police must try to safeguard your privacy and anonymity as far as possible. In rural areas and close-knit communities, privacy and anonymity can be a problem. Tell the police about your concerns. You may want to ask that police officers from another town take the statement and investigate the offence. It’s up to the police whether they agree, but police policy does state that such situations must be dealt with ‘in a highly sensitive manner’.

What is a statement?

The statement itself is a typed record of events before, during and after the child sexual abuse or assault. It will also contain your description of the offender and any conversation that took place. The police will ask you to tell what happened in your own words, and ask you questions so that important details are not left out. You may be asked questions that you find embarrassing to answer. However police officers should never ask questions such as: ‘Did you enjoy it?’. If they do, it is your right to complain about it. Afterwards you will be asked to sign each page. Your statement will be used in court as the basis of the case against the suspect. It is very important that you read it carefully and correct any errors before you sign. There are a number of different ways to make a statement. In some areas, your statement may be taped or videotaped, as well as being written down. You do not have to agree to this.

Remembering details

Stress or shock can sometimes make people uncertain about exactly what happened. If this happens, let the police know. Many people find that they remember more details of an event after they have been written down. If you remember something that you did not tell the police, call them and let them know. The information may be useful. It is also common to remember details a little differently later on. If this happens, tell the police officer in charge, or the prosecutor, who will decide whether it is important. If they decide it is important they will ask you to make a further statement.

Getting a copy of your statement

Although you will not have to repeat your statement word for word in court, you will be expected to give an account that is similar to your statement. You have a right to a copy of your statement, and it is very important that you get one. If the police don’t give you one, ask for it.

Second thoughts

If you do not wish to proceed with further police action after charges have been laid, you will need to give police a brief statement to this effect. You should inform the police of your wishes as soon as possible.

The police should tell you that the case could still go ahead, and that you may be called as a witness. They should check that the suspect hasn’t put any pressure on you to withdraw the case.

Help in dealing with the police

There may be many barriers to communicating with the police, but there is assistance available to you:

  • If English is not your first language you have the right to an interpreter. The police will organise one for you for when you make your statement or they may use a telephone interpreting service to translate what you say.
  • If you are Deaf or Hearing impaired the police will provide an interpreter for you.
  • Aboriginal community liaison officers are employed to ‘foster mutual understanding’ between the police and Aboriginal communities. If you are Aboriginal, the police may contact the liaison officer in your area to help explain your legal rights and talk to police and government agencies on your behalf.
  • There are gay and lesbian police liaison officers across the state who can help you with support and advice. Call the police switchboard and ask for the gay and lesbian liaison officer at your local police station. The role is additional to their other police duties, so you may need to persevere to contact them.

Have questions or concerns about sexual abuse prosecution? Let us know in the comments section below – we endeavour to respond to all comments.

This page was developed with reference to NSW Rape Crisis Information Sheet – ‘Reporting to Police’.

 

33 comments

  1. Comment by Anonymous

    Anonymous Reply June 20, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    It’s impossible to find information like this anywhere, its ****ing invaluable thankyou

    • Comment by robbie

      robbie Reply November 1, 2015 at 1:18 pm

      this is crazy. the big guys always win. …………cops

    • Comment by Patricia

      Patricia Reply January 26, 2016 at 8:49 am

      I was abused when I was young in the care section. it’s taken me a long time to talk TO someone I trust.

  2. Comment by conejo

    conejo Reply June 20, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    I agree with the other commenter. It’s nearly impossible to find information on how filing such a police report may go. I live in America and want to file a report, but have been too scared to do it for many reasons. I’ve been trying for over a year to find information about how the process works just so it will take some of the fear out of it. Even though this information is for Canada, it still helped me. Thank you.

    • Comment by AdiM

      AdiM Reply September 8, 2014 at 10:43 am

      Its not for Canada. It’s Australian

  3. Comment by Suzanne

    Suzanne Reply June 23, 2015 at 3:55 am

    I was sexually abused by my step father at the age of 13 when I had lived in the Bronx. I am now 50 years of age. I was told that nothing can be done, even back in the day, I think because he was a new York City cop. he has destroyed my life, I been going through therapy for years, now I am also on SSD, can not hold a real job, I also have learning disability.

    It has been bothering me all my life because he is walking the face of the earth laughing and going on with his life like nothing ever happened. I never wanted money I just want him to go to prison for the rest of his life. I also take meds for my depression and anxiety. I hope maybe someone out there can maybe help me after all these years.
    can this sight help me being that I am a woman. thank you

    • Comment by Suzanne

      Suzanne Reply June 23, 2015 at 3:36 am

      can this sight help me being that I am a woman

      • Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]

        Jess [Living Well Staff] Reply July 3, 2015 at 11:16 am

        Hi Suzanne,
        Thank you for reaching out for support. I know that is not easy to do. Your story is one of amazing strength.

        I’m hearing you have decided to take some action against your step-father. As you guessed, we are a site for men, and in addition we are based in Australia, so unfortunately we cannot help you directly.

        There are services that can, however. RAINN is the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. They have some information about what to expect when you press charges. They also provide a support line on 1.800.656.HOPE, and a list of phone numbers by US state.

        I wish you the best Suzanne. Please continue to take care of yourself.

      • Comment by lisa

        lisa Reply November 10, 2015 at 12:17 am

        Hi suzanne i can relate to your story on many different levels im too embarassed to write it all down here but i live in nyc feel free to contact me and id be glad to help you in any way possible
        Lisa

  4. Comment by Joe R

    Joe R Reply October 4, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Thank you for this site. I was reqgularly abused by my oldest brother between the ages of 7 and 13. The assualt went beyond inappropriate touch and included sodomy and rape. I said nothing because my parents were aware what was happening. I have survived. I am sober. I have never harmed a child.

    But I let my brother go free. He is in his sixties, has children, and taught school for three decades. I have failed to protect others because I was protecting myself. It is time to come forward and say “Enough.” The abuse took place in New York State. My brother lives in Canada as a naturalized citizen. Others have told my that the international boundaries will make the filing of a complaint difficult, more difficult than it already is. Can you point me towards any resources, in the United States or Canada which I might avail myself of as I move forward?

    I am well enough, under the circumstances. But I am not free. Any assistance you can give me is greatly appreciated.

    • Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]

      Jess [Living Well Staff] Reply October 23, 2015 at 10:15 am

      Hi Joe,

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us and trusting us with your enquiry. It takes a great deal of courage to contact services and seek support. I hope you’ve found some of the resources on our website helpful.

      I just want to reflect that it does sound as though you are “living well” in many areas of your life Joe, and I want to commend you for that. Major aspects of moving on include being in touch with what is going on for you, engaging in self care, and living by your values and what you find personally meaningful. I’m guessing you are well on your way in many of those areas.

      However you mentioned there is a part of you that does not feel free… of the past, and of the responsibility you feel you have to bring your brother to account. Please know, Joe, that you are not, nor have you ever been in any way, accountable for your brother’s actions.

      I’m hearing you are now at a place where you feel strong and ready to take some action, and I know that it can take a lot of hard work to get to that stage – of which you can be proud. As you may have noticed, we are based in Australia, but I would like to direct you to our two close partner organisations.

      One is based in the USA and is called 1in6.org
      The other is based in Canada – it is http://www.1in6.ca

      Besides these two services, who specifically support men who have experienced sexual abuse or assault, RAINN have some legal and process information on reporting sexual abuse, as well as National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673)

      Joe I hope this assists you to link in with a support service. If you require any further information please let us know. Best of luck.

  5. Comment by Mick

    Mick Reply October 10, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    I just found this today thanks to good old Facebook I found the guy that molested me when I was 5 he is happily married in North Queensland I have held onto this for 30 years only telling my family 5 years ago as my life has never been what it should be as I have held onto that secret I was ashamed and worried about what my mum thought of me after years of depression tablets in and out of jobs I still struggle to find my place in society I have a son now and I don’t want him to hold onto any secrets as it has messed me up to this day worse thing is my brother got molested from the same guy but he passed away when he was 13 he took that to the grave with him it upsets me to this day I will have to look into this further as I want this guy to suffer the way I have for 30 years

    • Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]

      Jess [Living Well Staff] Reply October 23, 2015 at 10:29 am

      Mick,
      Thank you for reaching out and sharing your story. It sounds like you have been dealing with this on your own for a long time. That takes remarkable strength, and I’m so pleased you have now reached a place where you feel able to reach out to us and take some further steps towards ‘living well’. I wonder if the rest of our website has been helpful to you, such as the parts on improving your wellbeing or managing difficulties.

      If we can be of any assistance, support or help to you, please do get in touch or give us a call on (07) 3028 4648. You do not need to go through this alone. Help is available.

  6. Comment by alex

    alex Reply October 16, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    I live in NSW, Australia. I need to know, can I charge him now if the abuse happened 10 years ago?

    • Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]

      Jess [Living Well Staff] Reply October 29, 2015 at 1:30 pm

      Hi Alex,
      There is no limitation period for reporting sexual offences. This means you can report sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse even if it occurred many years ago. You can report straight to the police or to a sexual assault service. The police will decide if a prosecution is possible.
      I would suggest getting in touch with a support service to explore your options. You can give us a call to chat to a Living Well counsellor, or to get a referral to a local service.
      Please take care of yourself through this.

  7. Comment by Anonymous

    Anonymous Reply October 20, 2015 at 7:32 am

    I made a report eight years ago at fifteen againest my step father for sexual abuse nothing was done and it was brushed under the carpet despite a video from my younger sibling stating the same offenses can i got back and make another statement?

    • Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]

      Jess [Living Well Staff] Reply October 23, 2015 at 10:49 am

      Hi there Anon,
      Thanks for reaching out to us. I’m hearing that you gathered the strength and courage to report your step-father years ago, and nothing happened. I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through all this!
      It looks like you are based in the UK. We are an Australian service so I’m just not sure as to how the legal system works over there. Please consider getting in touch with one of the following services, who may be able to provide you with more relevant information and support:
      The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC)
      Help for Adult Victims Of Child Abuse (HAVOCA)
      or one of the other services listed on our page worldwide support services online.
      Best of luck!

  8. Comment by Valora

    Valora Reply October 22, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    I reported my uncle for sexual abuse 18 mths ago, this week he was arrested. I am all over the place at the moment, consumed with wanting information and feeling my rights and power have once again been taken from me. I wish i had found this site before. I am looking for information on the next step. I cant think of anything else and nobody understands how consuming this is right now. i have an amazing counselor and my parents are learning to support but out of hours i am alone, so alone.

  9. Comment by Love

    Love Reply October 29, 2015 at 6:48 am

    As a young nine year old little girl by my mom’s boyfriend. At thirteen he tried to sexually abuse me. I told my mother. She stayed with him. I’m now forty-two years old. I’ve learn to shut down and numb myself for my mother. I was afraid of this monster as a child. I speak up now but I get blamed for stressing out my mother. I’m suffering & hurting everyday of my life :'(
    I’ve tried to file, he says, “oh you’ve been saying that for years I’m still here!! Get over it, it happened years ago!” I live in California, can I still file.

    • Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]

      Jess [Living Well Staff] Reply October 29, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      Hi Love,
      First, I’m so sorry you’ve experienced this painful situation for so many years. You clearly care about your mother deeply, which seems to have enabled you to stay so strong.

      I’m not sure if you read the comments previous to yours, but Living Well is based in Australia. I’m so sorry, but I can’t help you with information about pressing charges in California.

      I would advise getting in touch with RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network based in the U.S. They provide a support line on 1.800.656.HOPE, and a list of phone numbers by US state.

      I wish you the best. Please take care of yourself.

  10. Comment by REMY

    REMY Reply December 4, 2015 at 11:27 am

    is it possible to prosecute parents who enable, or allow sexual abuse to occur if perpetrated by a friend of the family ?
    I am in QLD,

    • Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]

      Jess [Living Well Staff] Reply December 11, 2015 at 10:40 am

      Hi Remy,
      Historical prosecutions are difficult. For the parents to be prosecuted they would have to be shown to have ‘actively’ engaged in the sexual abuse or ‘conspired’ to make it happen.
      The fact that someone was negligent or failed to act to protect a child (an act of omission) would typically not lead to a criminal prosecution for historical matters. It would in the present result in a Child Safety investigation or intervention and possible removal of a child.
      There are exceptions and it will be worth talking with police. I understand that this does not make the sense of injustice and betrayal any easier.
      Please get in touch if we can be of any further assistance. I wish you the best.

  11. Comment by Tormented

    Tormented Reply January 28, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    I was molested by my stepfather from the age of 6 – 15yrs of age. I even went to the high school counsellor. When I was 22 I made a report to the Parramatta police and was accussed by the office in charge, he said that I was a false accusation because my mum and stepfather were divorcing. The police said that there is no file with the school councellor concerning me and my ‘allegation’ and without my knowledge closed the file, when I had called up to enquire as to the progress of the investigation I was told that I had called them and said to stop investigation – which I never did. They refused to reopen saying that I had already said to close it.

    That was 20 years ago, I have ptsd, severe depression and anxiety. I live with what my molester did to me daily. I can’t even have a shower without putting something to cover the door handle even though there is no key hole. I can’t have my shower screen fully closed. Not to mention other things that stop me from living a ‘normal’ life.

    I want him charged, I want him to pay for the damage he has done to me.

    • Comment by Tormented

      Tormented Reply February 22, 2016 at 4:03 pm

      I would also like to know if there is a way to get my stepfather charged with what he has done to me.

      Can you suggest who I should see for help. Please

      Thanks

      • Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]

        Jess [Living Well Staff] Reply February 24, 2016 at 2:43 pm

        Hi Tormented,

        First, thanks for getting in touch and sharing your story. I know it is hard to write about the experiences you describe, and also to have gone through such a struggle to try to seek justice. I’m hearing that despite the barriers you have faced you are not ready to give up, and I commend you on your strength through all this.

        It looks like you are in Australia, so I would like to invite you to give us a call on (07) 3028 4648. We have several specialist counsellors here at Living Well who can not only provide support (at whatever level you feel comfortable with), but can also give advice as to what steps you can take next to bring your abuser to account. Please know you’re not alone and needn’t go through this alone.

        Best of luck.

  12. Comment by Michael

    Michael Reply March 9, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    My uncle sexual assaulted me when I was only 18 years old

    • Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]

      Jess [Living Well Staff] Reply March 11, 2016 at 11:58 am

      Hi Michael,
      Thanks for coming forward. I know that isn’t easy.
      It’s awesome that you’re seeking information. I’d like to invite you to check out our partners in the USA: https://1in6.org/. They’ll have more support and info relevant to you.
      Best of luck in your journey.

  13. Comment by carol

    carol Reply March 15, 2016 at 8:52 am

    Please advise me. I tried at 21 to prosecute my abuser from when I was 5 onwards but they said there was not enough evidence. Im bulimic wiv it and now also 40. Please help me I need closure and justice please

    • Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]

      Jess [Living Well Staff] Reply March 21, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      Hi Carol,
      I want to commend you on taking steps to seek justice and closure. I know that can be a struggle, and it speaks volumes about your inner strength.

      Unfortunately we are unable to help, as not only are we a service for men, but we are also located in Australia.

      The Survivors Trust are based in the UK and may be able to help you.
      Best of luck to you.

  14. Comment by Aleisha hurley

    Aleisha hurley Reply March 17, 2016 at 9:03 am

    No one should ever live in silence.
    And everyone deserves justice.

  15. Comment by blinded mother

    blinded mother Reply March 18, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    My daughter is 25 and told me last evening on the phone that she was raped at 6 by one of her father’s friends. I had no idea this ever happened to her. I was away for 6 months and she was left in the care of her father. My whole world has been turned upside down. There were multiple rapes and my daughter is devastated and doesn’t want to see me because she’s worried about how I’ll view her. I explained to her that I was sorry for not being there and that she is not to blame. I explained that she was a child and was not responsible for his actions against her. She is so worried about how we will look at her when we come face to face. I’m devastated that I never had any inclination that this predator had violated my child and taken her innocence. I taught her bad touch and stranger danger. But I never taught her not to keep secrets from me. I’m so at a loss I have no idea of how to make this right for her. She’s not angry and doesn’t want me to blame myself but she’s hurt and traumatized. My heart is broken for her pain and isolation. I never thought this would have happened to my child. A deceived mother……..

    • Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]

      Jess [Living Well Staff] Reply March 21, 2016 at 12:00 pm

      Hi Blinded Mother,
      I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through such a difficult time, and your daughter also. What a terrible shock. It sounds like your daughter is struggling with some really painful thoughts and feelings.

      It also sounds like you’ve said some very important and helpful things to her since you’ve learned of all this. Hopefully when she does manage to see you face to face she will be able to take your messages of love, acceptance, empathy and care to heart. She has taken a massive step in telling you this and I think that’s something you can be proud of.

      Please take care of yourself in this difficult time. I would recommend finding a counsellor to explore your own thoughts and feelings in a helpful space.
      All the best.

  16. Comment by Retro-Mama

    Retro-Mama Reply April 16, 2016 at 8:33 am

    Hi all.
    A year ago I discovered that my daughter was sexually assaulted by best friends partner. This has been reported to and is an ongoing investigation as he was interviewed, and chose to remain silent, which is his right.
    I have absolutely no doubt in the world that this guy is guilty, proving it will be more difficult.
    I no longer speak with my friend and I have no idea what her thoughts are on this matter.
    My question; am I allowed to tell our mutual friends about this because they all have kids. I don’t want to jeopardise the investigation but I feel that other kids need to be protected.
    Can anyone answer this for me?
    Thanks.

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