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Introduction

If you have experienced childhood sexual abuse or assault, one option you may be considering is whether to make a complaint to police and participate in a prosecution. This page contains information on what to expect if you choose to make a formal complaint, and how you might take care of yourself as you navigate through the legal process.

Recognising that the criminal justice system has its own particular rules and styles of talking, we understand that making a complaint to police and engaging in a prosecution is not a small step. It can be a prolonged process and there are challenges along the way. This is why it is important that you have as much information as possible up front.

Knowledge is power – understanding what to expect from the police and the criminal justice system allows you to make informed decisions and to prioritise your well-being along the way.

Living Well are grateful for the support of Professor Caroline Taylor in developing this web page – ‘Prosecution: Navigating the legal System.’

On this page:

  • Your rights – making a complaint to police.
  • Making a formal statement
  • Navigating the legal Process – court
  • Prioritise self care

(Please note that Living Well is an Australian service, and the below information is relevant to residents of Queensland, Australia in particular. 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).

Your rights – Making a complaint to police

Victim’s rights – You don’t need to do this alone

If you are sexually abused or sexually assaulted, you have the right to make a complaint to police and to have the allegation investigated. You have a right to ‘be treated with courtesy, compassion, respect and dignity’ throughout the process by police, government agencies and support services – See Queensland Charter of Victim’s Rights.

You do not need to do this alone. We encourage you, where possible, to make use of the specialist support services and, if available, knowledgeable and helpful friends.

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. Childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault often involves 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. In order to make an informed decision, 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 what is involved in the prosecution process.

For some people prosecution is not possible, because the identity is of the person who offended is not known or they are no longer alive. In some instances, you will not know whether or not prosecution is possible until you go to police.

If you are unsure and you want more information prior to making a formal complaint, you can contact the police anonymously, or ask a friend or practitioner to make enquiries about options and what to expect. Prior to contacting the police, some people find it useful to write down and record why they have chosen to make a formal complaint now. In writing this down, it can also be useful to record the challenges that you anticipate and how, in spite of these, you have chosen to go ahead.

Making a complaint to police

You can make an initial enquiry or complaint to the police by phone, in person and, in some cases, via online services. The first person you speak with will typically ask for your name, contact details and a brief outline of the complaint (where and when this happened and the type of offence, e.g. ‘I was sexually abused’). While, understandably, you may be reluctant to provide details of the offence/s, this information will help ensure the next person you speak with is the most appropriate investigating officer.

It is current best practice for police who investigate sexual crimes to receive specialist training, so they will have an understanding and appreciation of the courage you have shown in seeking to make a report. They will also have expertise in understanding how offenders operate, and the impacts on victim/survivors. In some instances, you may be referred to a specialist sex crimes unit.

The police must 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’.

Prior to making a formal statement, a police officer will explain the support and options available, their role, the rationale of interview and statement taking, police responsibilities, and the legal process. Note that the person taking the statement may or may not become the investigating officer (e.g. they might be taking the statement for someone interstate).

Once police have provided you with all your options and you decide to go ahead, the next step is the formal interview and statement.

Alternative reporting option – If you are unsure about making a complaint

If you are unsure about making a complaint right now, there are still things you can do to ensure important information about a sexual abuse or sexual assault is available to police. You can make an informal complaint through alternative reporting options (ARO) in your state. “Alternative reporting options” is a term for making a report to police without making a complaint (or “pressing charges”) against the offender, which means you do not need to go to court. You can make your report anonymously, help to prevent further assaults and bring those perpetrating sexual offences to account. Visit the QLD alternative reporting options website or learn more about AROs in Australia.

Alternative reporting options are useful:

  • Example 1: Anthony was sexually assaulted last night at a hotel that he visited with friends. He wanted to report this to police straight away so they could collect possible forensic evidence. But Anthony also wanted time to recover and was not sure if he wanted to be part of a legal process right now, so he requested police take no further action at this stage.
  • Example 2: Ryan was sexually abused as a boy by his uncle. This was 16 years ago. Ryan wants to make a statement about the abuse and feels he is ready to do this, but not sure if he is able to cope with a legal process at this stage. So, with the help of his counsellor, Ryan makes contact with police and makes a detailed statement. Ryan requested that police take no further action at this stage because of his health. Five months later, Ryan feels more supported and well enough to request that police now act on his statement. Police proceed to investigate the allegations made by Ryan in his statement.
  • Example 3: Damian was sexually abused over a long period of time by his teacher. He did not disclose the abuse to anyone until recently. Damian has wanted to report the abuse to police, but has also been fearful of reporting. Now with the support of his family and counsellor, he feels ready to make a police statement. He made contact with police, and was able to meet with them for several hours over 3 days to make his statement. Police commenced an investigation.

 

Making a formal statement

Making a statement to police starts the formal legal process. A statement documents your experience in relation to the allegation of an offence or offences. Your statement is a legal document that will guide police in their investigation and assessment of your allegations, so it is important that your statement is accurate to the very best of your memory and knowledge.

Making a statement is likely to be psychologically and emotionally exhausting. It is important, therefore, that you prioritise your well-being pre and post statement taking. In preparation, get as much sleep as you can, eat a healthy meal, have water at hand to drink, go for a short walk to burn off a little of the nervous energy and, most importantly, be kind and encouraging to yourself. This is a big step.

When making the formal statement:

  • Use your own words. If you are struggling to express yourself or find the right words, that’s okay. Take a moment for yourself — this is a big thing you are doing. You have every right to give yourself time, and to take steps to reduce feelings of being pressured or rushed. Don’t feel you have to use or agree with a word or phrase that someone else might suggest unless it is what you were trying to say.
  • If you are struggling to remember a date or a place – say that in your statement. You might remember it later on, but it could undermine your statement if you guess an answer because you feel pressured to do so. If you don’t know the exact date or place, it can help to remember what was going on at the time, e.g. you were at a birthday celebration, or on a school excursion, or on school holidays. This is helpful information.
  • Prepare for your statement. If you have documents, such as photos, phone texts, letters or anything else you feel is useful, bring them with you. Remember that these are your documents and ensure you have copies. What you hand over may become police ‘exhibits’ and part of the case.
  • The police officer taking your statement may ask you questions in order to ensure they have all the necessary information that you can provide for them.
  • Be aware that at some point the police will be particularly interested in:
    • Specifics about the sexual abuse.
    • Time, date, place, frequency, acts, those present?
    • How and when did it start?
    • What was said and done?
    • How and when did it stop?
  • They may also ask questions about:
    • How you made sense of it back then.
    • What barriers there were in speaking about the abuse as a child at the time.
    • What barriers have there been in speaking about the abuse as an adult (if an historical matter).
    • What your reasons are for wanting to report the matter now.
  • For some victim/survivors, police will seek what is often referred to as a VARE statement which means VIDEO AUDIO RECORDED EVIDENCE.
  • Your statement is a document that is both personal and confidential. However, be aware that your statement will be examined and read by police, prosecutors, the accused and their lawyer/s to assess evidence of a crime, and by defence to identify potential discrepancies, faults or flaws.
  • Give yourself time. Don’t rush your statement or allow anyone to make you feel rushed to complete your statement. You are deserving of the time it takes to put your story in a statement form — it doesn’t matter if it takes 3 hours, 3 days, or 2 weeks to get it done. If you need to, and if it helps, break it down so you can have short rests, a day, or few days’ break before you continue. It’s common for victim/survivors to do this, and the police understand this.
  • If you find yourself getting upset — take a moment or a break. Police will understand this. It is important you do what sustains you through this process, whether that be to have a refreshment or a good cry, listen to your favourite music, go for a walk, or just sit somewhere quiet. Remind yourself this is a tough process that you have chosen to go through – so be kind to yourself.
  • Remind yourself that, whereas sexual assault is about the offending person taking away and disrespecting your ‘choice and autonomy and exercising control’, this process is about you taking back control and expressing your choice and autonomy.
  • Talking about the abuse may trigger you. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling emotional, and remind yourself that you are going through this emotionally exhausting process of making a police statement for the purpose of getting your story down on paper so that police can do something about it! That this is part of the justice process you have sought and are now doing. If you feel yourself being triggered in any way — please be kind to yourself by taking a break. Let your support person or the police know that you are being triggered and remind yourself that you are now safe.
  • Police may ask you to shut your eyes in order to improve your recall. This cuts you off from current sensory information and can help you place yourself ‘back then’. It’s possible that this process may disorient you and overwhelm you in the present. It is important to do some grounding and take the time to re-orient yourself to the present (take some deep breaths, look around the room, have a drink of cool water or warm tea or coffee, etc.).
  • 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.
  • Make a plan beforehand for what you are going to do after the interview and completing your statement. Make sure you have a lift or safe transport to go home. Have a friend or support person meet you and prioritise your safety and self-care for that evening.
  • Remember: you are doing amazingly well to make a police statement and get all your story down on paper. You are being so courageous. Keep going!
  • Your statement is your story. Tell it as you remember it and experienced it.

Once your statement is made

When you have finished your statement and it is written up, the police will have you check it over and confirm what is written is accurate.

It’s possible that police may come back to you with further questions, or request further information. Don’t worry if this happens — this is not unusual. It simply means the police need more information to help them with their investigation, sometimes to help them identify or specify a charge.

Once your statement is made, police are obligated to keep you informed through reasonable contact about the progress of their investigation. You have a right to be kept informed of the process. Check in with police with regards to arranging when and how they will contact you. For example, you can clarify whether the police contact you by phone or text, or if there are any particular times that you would prefer to be contacted — if a cold call in the evening or on a weekend doesn’t work for you, let the police know that.

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 signed statement.

If you do receive a copy of your statement, watch out for the temptation to read and re-read it. If you are not about to go to court in the near future, it is best kept locked in a secure place. It is better to put your energy into enhancing your current well-being.

Completion of your statement

Congratulations for undertaking this process!

Take the time to be kind to yourself and acknowledge the significance of what you have just accomplished.

It’s a sad statistic, but it is estimated that only around 1 in 9 victim/survivors make contact with police for the purpose of making a statement.

An Australian study asked male and female victim/survivors why they reported their sexual abuse and they said things like:

‘I wanted to put the abuse where it belonged’; ‘to help other victims who’ve been abused’; ‘to stop others being abused’; ‘to make the offender accountable’; ‘breaking power hold of offender’; ‘honouring child within’; ‘contributing to the need to address sexual crimes by reporting it’; ‘it was a part of letting go’; ’because I realised it is my right to report this kind of crime.’

This same study asked victim/survivors how they felt once they had made their statements. Many of them said that making a statement was:

‘self-empowering’; ‘lifting a burden carried for years’; ‘felt free’; ‘broken the silence forced by the offender’; ‘had taken back the power’; I felt lighter, I felt happier because I had now told the appropriate authorities’; ‘I was believed, regardless of what now happens, the police believed me.; ‘it’s not a secret anymore now’; ‘I feel a bit more at peace now’. Source: Taylor, S. C.; Muldoon, S., Norma, C. & Bradley, D. (2012) Policing Just Outcomes Large ARC Grant Final Report, Edith Cowan University.

Safety as a priority

  • Your safety and those close to you is paramount.
  • Sometimes, when victim/survivors disclose and report abuse that occurred in a family setting or by a family friend, they can experience harassment and threats. Please seek help from the police and other services so that you have support and protection.
  • If you have any concerns at all about your safety, which includes your right to be free from any kind of harassment, threat or intimidation, please discuss this with police, regardless of whether or not you pursue a statement.
  • Consider your safety at home, at work, in public, alone and around other forms of communication.
  • Police can take out an intervention order on your behalf if your safety and well-being is an issue.
  • If you need to attend a residence or other place to remove your belongings, you have the right to seek support from police to ensure you can access the property to retrieve your belongings or have someone else retrieve them.
  • If you experience any harassment or unwanted contact or threats, keep records of this and advise police.
  • You have the right to security and confidentiality.
  • If your safety and privacy concerns are an issue, police can seek suppression of information about your whereabouts and public records on your behalf (eg. suppressing your details on the electoral role; blocking access to your vehicle registration details; utilities connection details; centrelink etc.).

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 also check that the suspect hasn’t put any pressure on you to withdraw the case.

Withdrawing a statement or halting an investigation

At any time during the police process you may request to withdraw your statement. You will be required to make a short statement affirming this and advise it is of your own free will. At any time during the police process, you may request that police cease any further action on your statement of complaint. Again, you will need to make a short statement affirming this. Sometimes this happens when a victim/survivor feels unable to cope with the investigation at this time. You may request police to reactivate your statement of complaint later on, and would need to make a short statement requesting this action.

Note that in some instances, police can refuse a request to withdraw a statement or cease an investigation if they feel there is a public safety issue connected with your statement. If this is the case, police would discuss this decision with you.

Outcome of making a statement:

  • Investigations may be lengthy so you need to be patient with the process.
  • Regular updates by police are important and helpful, so you don’t lose confidence in the process and you know what is going on.
  • When the police officer completes the investigation of your case they put together what is known as a ‘brief of evidence’. This is a document where they seek support from a senior officer for their recommendation as to whether or not charges can be laid.
  • Once the brief is ‘authorised’, the police officer will be notified of the outcome.
  • Often police will contact you personally to advise you whether or not charges have been laid and, if they do, they should also provide you with the outcome in a formal letter.
  • If charges have been laid the ‘brief of evidence’ will be sent to the Office of Public Prosecutions.
  • If the police determine that there is insufficient evidence to charge, you will be notified. Make sure you are notified in writing.

What if no charges are laid? Or the case does not proceed to court?

If the police determine not to pursue any charges from your statement of complaint, you have the right to request a review of the case by a senior police officer.

Also, if the Office of Public Prosecutions decide that they will not proceed with the charges outlined in the brief of evidence police provide to them, you have the right to request a review by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

If this happens to you, get support from your counsellor or advocate to help you write a letter to request a review.

The Qld Charter of Victim’s Rights states that a victim has a right to be informed about the progress of the investigation of the crime, unless informing the victim may jeopardise the investigation. A victim will be informed of each major decision (including the reasons) made about the prosecution of a person accused of committing the crime. This includes decisions about any of the following matters:

  • the charges brought against the accused
  • not bringing charges, or substantially changing the charges, against the accused
  • accepting a plea of guilty to a lesser or different charge.

A victim will be informed about:

  • the name of a person charged with an offence in relation to the crime
  • the issuing of a warrant for the arrest of a person accused of committing the crime
  • details of relevant court processes, including when the victim may attend a court proceeding and the date and place of hearing of a charge against the accused (also includes details of an application for bail made by the accused)
  • details of any diversionary programs available to the accused in relation to the crime
  • the outcome of a criminal proceeding against the accused, including the sentence imposed and the outcome of an appeal.

Information about bail applications

A victim will be informed about the outcome of a bail application made by the accused and any arrangements made for the release of the accused, including any special bail conditions imposed that may affect the victim’s safety or welfare.

Navigating the legal process – Court

Once charges have been laid and the ‘brief of evidence’ given to the prosecution, the police officer who is referred to as the ‘informant’ will discuss with you the process for here on. Depending on the type of charge/s, the case may be listed for a committal hearing.

Committal hearings

The prosecutor should seek a meeting with you to discuss the case. You don’t want to meet with them just before the case starts, so ask the ‘informant’ in your case to arrange a meeting well before the case goes to court. It’s important for you to feel comfortable and confident in the process that is to come.

Depending on the type of charge/s, a committal hearing is held before a Magistrate who will determine whether there is sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to a higher court (District Court), where your case will be determined by a judge or judge and jury, depending on the jurisdiction (for example, in South Australia a sexual offence matter in the higher court can be heard and determined a judge alone without a jury). If your case involves charges that can be heard in the Magistrate’s Court, there is no need for a committal hearing. The Magistrate will determine the outcome of the charges.

You as the witness

  • It is stressful for anyone to have to go to court, especially so for you because of the nature of the crime.
  • Judges and lawyers are now well versed in understanding the potential impacts for those giving evidence in a sex offence proceeding, so there’s now specific legislation in place to assist you to give your evidence in a way that reduces stress and trauma.
  • You are classified as a special witness, so you will have the right to give evidence remotely via Close Circuit Television (CCTV). This means you will be in a separate room and will not have to sit in the presence of the accused. You also cannot see the accused.
  • You have the right to a support person to be with your while you give evidence. This can be a trusted friend or counsellor who is not part of the case; or a volunteer court supporter who is trained to provide support for those giving evidence in court. Remember that you have choices about your support –You don’t have to do this alone.

Prioritise support for yourself

  • Allow trusted family, friends and professionals to support you through the legal process.
  • If you work, your employer must support your need to be absent from work for the court case.
  • Make sure you eat well and get good sleep and rest to help you through the court process.
  • Remember you are not alone. The police and prosecutor believe you and are doing all they can to successfully prosecute your case.
  • You are allowed to read your statement again prior to going to court for the purpose of refreshing your memory, if you wish to do so.

When you are giving evidence

  • First you will be ‘sworn in’ as a witness. This means you will be asked to swear an oath on the bible or give an affirmation if you are not religious.
  • You will be offered breaks during your evidence, but remember that if you feel you need a break, don’t be afraid to ask for one.
  • If you feel yourself get upset, take a few moments to compose yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself if you get upset, because giving evidence is not easy.
  • Don’t be rushed when giving your evidence. Listen carefully to the question put to you.
  • If you don’t understand a question, ask for it to be repeated or clarified. This is important. Don’t try and answer a question you don’t really understand.
  • If you need a moment to think about a question, take that moment. You want to be sure that you understand the question and know how to answer it.

What can you expect in the court

In accordance with the Qld Charter of Victim’s Rights. A person will be provided with information about the role of a witness. During a court proceeding, the victim will be protected from unnecessary contact with, or violence or intimidation by the accused, defence witnesses and family members and supporters of the accused.

  • You are the primary witness; often times referred to as the ‘complainant’.
  • The prosecutor will ‘lead’ you through your evidence, which means he or she will ask you questions based on your statement. This is called ‘examination’ of the witness.
  • Then the defence lawyer, that is the lawyer defending the accused, will proceed to ask you about your evidence. This is called ‘cross-examination.’
  • Giving evidence in court is different from making your statement to police or telling someone what happened at your own pace and time. Court is a highly structured process. It is like a ‘staged play’, where people talk in ‘legalese’ and where there are lots of rules that you don’t know until someone tells you.

Cross-examination

Cross examination is probably the most critical aspect of your evidence, as it is the process by which the defence lawyer will challenge the credibility of your allegations and your credibility as a witness. The defence lawyer will often want minute and exacting details and information. If you do not know the answer just say so. Don’t try and guess what you don’t know. The defence lawyer may accuse you of lying or having ulterior motives for making your allegations. Don’t get drawn into their false narrative, as you don’t want to lose your focus and your truth. Deny that you are lying and deny that you have a motive and stay focused on your truth.

Legal tactics are often used to put you off your concentration and to make you feel worried and less confident in your evidence. Remain focused and use your voice to honour your truth in the courtroom.

Remember what was said about your statement and using your own language? Use your own words and don’t be persuaded to agree with the paraphrasing or suggested words and inferences by the lawyer. You don’t know how it might be used to suggest a difference in your evidence. (see Surviving the Legal System for detailed discussions about cross-examination tactics, in particular Chapters 13, 14 and 15).

Some common tactics used by lawyers can include:

  • Moving between long time frames or incidents in the hope of confusing you so you make mistakes in your evidence or lose concentration.
  • Focusing on any delay in disclosure, so as to cause you to feel embarrassed or to suggest a false motive for coming forward months or years later with your allegations.
  • Asking rapid fire questions. Putting questions to you quickly and possibly moving between charges or time frames so that you don’t have much time to think and get flustered, confused or upset.
  • Asking you questions, sometimes long and complex questions or statements, and demanding you provide only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. This tactic can limit your ability to communicate your story and can be used to discredit you by having you respond with only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to incomplete or complex information. Surviving The Legal System pp. 144-146 provides some useful tips on how to handle this tactic.
  • Asking questions or putting selective information to you that is out of context so as to suggest a ‘motive’ for your allegations.
  • Using private or personal information about you—even things that might seem harmless, are not connected to the allegations or things that happened a long time ago that embarrass you. These may be used to try and create a certain image about you or to cause you to feel distressed and become upset or angry in the witness box.

When cross-examination is finished, the prosecutor has the opportunity to ‘re-examine’ you. What does this mean?

It means that if there was any evidence or information they want to add to or clarify from cross-examination, they have the chance to follow that up with you. Try not to worry if you feel that something raised in cross examination has confused you or that you did not get a chance to properly explain — the prosecutor can ask you these things in ‘re-examination’ to give you have that opportunity.

When the prosecutor is finished with ‘re-examination’, the judge will excuse you from the witness box.

To help you prepare for the court process, it would be most helpful to read the book ‘Surviving the Legal System: a handbook for adult and child sexual assault survivors and their supporters’. Living Well have this book as a resource. Check it out. The book provides a detailed understanding of the legal process and the kinds of strategies used in cross examination. The book has been identified in national research by victim/survivors and professionals as a valuable tool to help get through the legal process.

Your evidence is finished

  • You have completed your evidence.
  • You have shown great courage.
  • You have honoured your truth and spoken your truth to the best of your ability in a court process that is very formalised and makes you tell your story within legal confines.
  • Please rest. Try and relax.
  • The rest of the case will continue.

The informant will keep you advised of the legal process and the verdict.

The case outcome

You have invested so much energy in this process and the verdict is important to you.

If there is a conviction, you have the right to provide the court with a Victim Impact Statement (VIS). There are rules about how this statement is presented and what areas of impact can be included.

Just like your police statement of complaint, this is a most personal document. Take time to prepare it and seek supporting documents and if preferred assistance from those professionals who have supported you.

What is a Victim Impact Statement?

A Victim Impact Statement is a written document used to inform the sentencing judge or magistrate about the impact of a crime upon the victim. A Victim Impact Statement (sometimes referred to as a VIS) is one way that you can tell the judge or magistrate how a crime has affected you. Victim Impact Statements are not statements about the crime itself. Rather, they are a written statement that provides information to the sentencing judge or magistrate about the effect the crime has had on you. The impact of a crime upon a victim is one of a number of elements a judge or magistrate considers when determining an appropriate sentence. Your decision to produce (or not produce) a Victim Impact Statement may not have a major influence on the sentence. However, a Victim Impact Statement does provide an opportunity for you to participate in the criminal justice process by communicating to the court the impact of the crime upon you, including any physical, social, financial or psychological effects the crime has had. Although providing a Victim Impact Statement is not compulsory, it may be important for you to have your say regardless of whether the crime has had a minor or major impact on you. Many victims of crime welcome the opportunity to detail this with the judge or magistrate.

Here is a link to the guidelines for writing a Victim Impact Statement.

At what is called a ‘pre-sentence hearing’, your VIS will be presented. You may read this in court in the presence of the offender, you may have someone else read it, or you may have it tendered to the court for the judge or magistrate to read.

Your VIS will be taken into account when the judge or magistrate provides their sentencing and their sentencing remarks.

Sentencing outcome

  • Once a verdict has been given, you have no control over the sentence imposed. Don’t take on board responsibility for the penalties applied by the judiciary.
  • You might not agree with the sentence but it is decided by the judge, not you.
  • The fact is, a verdict of guilt is on public record and you achieved that result.

Be aware that the offender has the right to appeal

  • Upon conviction, the offender has the right to appeal either the conviction or the sentence or both.
  • If they do lodge an appeal, the police informant or OPP will advise you of this.
  • Don’t panic. This is pretty standard practice and you have no control over the process, so look to focus on your recovery and your future.
  • Sometimes the OPP appeal the sentence given to the offender if they think it was inadequate.
  • The police informant should provide you with updates on the appeal and also the outcome.
  • If the appeal against conviction is upheld, it may lead to the case being retried.

The Qld Charter of Victim’s Rights allows for you to apply to be placed on the victims register

http://www.correctiveservices.qld.gov.au/about_us/victims_register/registering.shtml

An eligible victim will be kept informed of the following matters:

  • the offender’s period of imprisonment or detention.
  • the escape of the offender from custody or whether the offender is unlawfully at large.

If an application for parole is made, an eligible person will be given the opportunity to write to the parole board under the Corrective Services Act 2006 about granting parole to the offender.

When there is no conviction

You will have your own thoughts and feelings about this news and all of them will be valid for you. That said, it is important for you to know that the outcome is not a statement about you as a person. There are so many reasons why a conviction is not achieved — that’s why it is called a ‘system’. You have shown enormous courage and determination to come as far as you have and to engage in a system that we know is flawed, and where statistics remind us constantly that conviction rates in sex offences are lower than for any other crime.

Be generous and kind to yourself. Watch out for becoming self-critical or telling yourself that you ‘should have’ or ‘could have’ done something or not something or that might have changed the outcome.

You have faced the person and told your truth – by going through the process, you will never have to deal with the question what if I had done something.

Remember: walk in the truth of your light and never in the shadow of the legal system.m

Justice is possible

“I don’t think that it all has fully sunk in yet, that this struggle for truth, justice and validation, that I started five years ago is actually coming to a favourable ending, for me.

“It seems to me that a small measure of justice IS possible for a survivor of abuse, but it takes an awful lot of struggle, pain and motivation to create that small measure.

“Has it been worth it? ABSOLUTELY!!!!! I feel great!

“I am so grateful and overwhelmed for all the support I have received from my family, the police, the prosecutors, the court and my online friends and supporters.

“Believe me, it ALL helped me get through!”

Read John’s Story Here

Civil remedies

You may consider taking civil action to sue the offender or, if applicable, the organisation deemed responsible. A civil suit can be can be taken by you regardless of whether or not you have pursued criminal legal action.

A civil action suit requires a lower burden of proof than a criminal case. In a civil suit, you will need to find your own legal representation and you may be responsible for legal costs associated the civil proceedings. Many legal firms offer an initial free consultation to assess your claim.

Prioritise self care

  • It is crucial that you put your health and your well-being first. So often victim/survivors put their own needs last or feel they are unworthy of care. This is wrong on both counts. Compassion for self is an act of love for the wounded child and adult inside of you.
  • Be aware and honest with yourself about the impact of the sexual abuse, as well as the potential impact of any legal processes you are engage in.
  • Seek support from professionals. This is a right you owe yourself so that you can recover, heal, and reclaim your life and your happiness on your terms.
  • Be gentle with yourself.
  • Whilst sexual abuse can influence your life in many ways, it is not destiny. It is something that was done to you, it is not who you are and does not determine who you can be.
  • Avoid exposure to people who are not supportive or adding to your stress.
  • Communicate your feelings. Some men can often struggle with talking about and expressing their feelings but you owe it to yourself and to those you love to let them in, help them understand what you are experiencing, and let them support and love you in your journey of recovery and healing.
  • Don’t be afraid to explore new things.
  • Embrace the future knowing how much you have to offer and how much yet you have to enjoy and experience.

Growth, resilience, empowerment and inner peace are achieved by many survivors

YOU ARE THE WOUNDED HEALER

Know the depth of your pain and your wound
So that you know what is needed for healing.
Believe that wounds can and do heal.
Yes, they create scars.
But those scars are just one part of our story
You are greater than that which has been done to you.
Always be gentle with our scars.
These particular scars were caused by another…
But they do not define us.
Where you have come from is no parallel to where you are going as a spirited victor.
(S. Caroline Taylor)

Living Well are grateful for the support of Professor Caroline Taylor in developing this web page – ‘Prosecution: Navigating the legal system’. We encourage you to access her book, Surviving the Legal System.

Useful contacts for male survivors

Living Well. Services and resources for male survivors and those supporting them. Located in Queensland. Access website for resources. www.livingwell.org.au

SAMSN (support network and program specifically for male survivors). Located in NSW but provides support and advocacy nationally www.samsn.org.au

SAMSSA (Service Assisting Male Survivors of Sexual Assault). Based in ACT but can provide resources. www.samssa.org.au

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