UNDERSTANDING REPORTING

Section 1: Understanding the University of St Andrews’ reporting system. 

Section 2: Reporting to the Police and information on the legal system.

Reporting to the University

**Update:** The uni has recently launched a Report and Support Tool, which allows for anonymous reporting! 

(Given that this tool was launched very recently, the panels below may need updating.) 

For more information from the University, here is their page on Sexual Misconduct – advice and guidance for students. It contains information on: reporting, support options, information for staff and also the Sexual Misconduct policy. 

Got Consent? has produced a wonderful series of tiles, published on their instagram account @got.consent.sta, explaining the reporting procedure at the University of St Andrews. We are reproducing them here with their permission.  

Reproduced with permission from Got Consent. 

Reporting to the Police

The Healing Collective have compiled together useful resources for reporting, gathering evidence, and understanding the justice system. Our team carried out further investigations to find answers to questions not readily addressed elsewhere online. This is a work in progress – for example we are working on clarifying legal definitions of gender etc. to help trans and nonbinary navigate the system. 

Timeframe:

It is important to note that the reporting process will take longer due to the current pandemic, with delays to be expected. There are also due to be significant reforms to the reporting process which should make the process easier (more information below).

 

RCS Survivors Guide to the Scottish Justice System 2019

This video made by Rape Crisis Scotland is a great resource and illustrates step-by-step the various stages and procedures of the criminal justice system from reporting to trial and sentencing. It really helps break down the process and gives a good and reassuring idea of what to expect. If you are thinking about reporting but are anxious about the justice process, or if you are looking for more information, we recommend this video. (Be prepared that the language of the video does assume that you are a woman who has been assaulted by a man, although the information remains relevant. You should also note that the Scottish definition of rape only covers specifically the insertion of a penis, although the video itself is addressing assault and sex crime in general.)

Play Video

Evidence for Reporting

Although significant evidence can be gathered up to seven days after the incident, ideally you should have a forensic taken within 72 hours.

Evidence that can be useful for the forensic team:

  • Clothing you were wearing at the time.
  • Underwear you have worn since.
  • Toothbrush (if you have cleaned teeth since)
  • Sanitary Products (towels, liners, tampons)
  • Condoms that might have been used
  • Any hair you may find on your body that is not yours.

All this should be put in separate plastic bags. It can also be useful to pee in a cup and store it, especially if you think you may have been drugged.

Within reason, if you are going to go for a forensic it can be helpful to have not eaten anything (but if you are not going within the first few hours, do not unnecessarily prevent yourself from eating). It is also very helpful if you have not showered since, and if you are thinking at all about reporting within the first week, avoid showering/cleaning yourself. 

 

Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs)

You can go to a SARC for immediate support and to get a forensic, without police involvement. Archway in Glasgow is a SARC and can be contacted directly via phone: 0141 211 8175 You can also visit their website:  http://archway.sandyford.org/ Their services are available to all, regardless of identity or background.

Currently, not every police station in Scotland has a SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre), however this will be mandatory by next summer. By July 2021, there should be the national implementation of Self-Referral Process. This is a similar service to what is currently offered by Archway in Glasgow. Survivors of sexual crime will be able to refer themselves to a SARC for a medical examination when they are not ready for Police to be involved. With this, you will be able to access support and have forensic evidence taken and stored to allow you time before you decide to report the incident. 

This process will involve having a person to support the victim and includes a nurse who can make any subsequent medical referrals if required. The medical examination is conducted by a Forensic Medical Examiner and a Nurse who will do a top to toe to record any injuries, and subsequent swabbing of any area identified as significant depending on what has been reported. This can be internal or external swabs. The swabs will be stored until such time as the victim makes a report to the Police and then they will be sent for analysis. A biology report is subsequently compiled by the Forensic Biologists, who report their findings and this would be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal if reported to them.

There is not much difference in terms of forensic an evidence collecting for different genders, all persons are asked if they consent to the required swabs ie. Anal, Vaginal, Oral etc prior to the exam. The storage of evidence for this new process is one of the details that has yet to be decided but it will either be stored by the NHS in a locked room that is only accessed by key identified workers or stored at a Police station against a unique reference code that does not identify the identity of the individual until they decide to come forward to the Police.

In the more immediate future, if you want to be referred to a specialist unit without police involvement, contact FRASAC and they will advise you. You might have to travel to The Archway in Glasgow. In certain circumstances, transport may be arranged for you. 

“Digital Strip Search”

You might have heard in the news or read online about a “digital strip search.” This was a term coined by the media which over-sensationalises part of the evidence gathering process. It refers to handing over your mobile phone in the event that the police believe they might be able to obtain important evidence from text messages, photos etc. You have to consent to this beforehand which will likely involve signing paperwork. They will use technology that will bypass any security settings on your phone. Note that the police will only examine the phone for  anything evidential to the matter under investigation. Anything not relevant would remain private and confidential and would not be stored. If you do not feel comfortable handing over your phone for a substantial period of time, “same day” downloads can be arranged, although this is not alway possible for every case. Evidence taken from phones can often help corroborate and offer a stronger presentation of the case to the Crown.

CCTV 

As well as forensic evidence, it is also worth noting that obtaining any CCTV footage that might strengthen a case is time sensitive. 

Should you change your mind

You should know that once you give a statement and a name to the police, they can continue to investigate the alleged perpetrator. However, this is only in the event that they are perceived to be a persistent threat to the public. This decision rests with the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) and is carefully reviewed for each case. Ultimately, the police are reluctant to present a case to the Procurator Fiscal without the support of the survivor. If a case is already reported to the PF when the survivor decides to change their mind then this decision is made by the PF and is no longer in the hands of the police. 

Note that at any point in the investigation should you wish to take breaks to think things through, this is totally fine and you will be offered support. If you find things getting difficult, different controls can be put in place and you can often choose the place you wish to meet anyone involved in the investigation.

“Not Proven” Verdict

Unlike other countries, Scotland has the “not proven” verdict for cases where the jury thinks a person is guilty but there is not enough evidence to prove this. There is always a starting point of assumed innocence until evidence allows for corroboration. Don’t let this put you off reporting though. Although we have all heard stories of bad experiences with reporting and the justice systems, these are exceptions. There have been significant shifts in attitudes towards sexual and gender-based violence in the last few years and reforms that are increasingly putting the interest of survivors at the fore. Every person at each step along the way has your best interests at heart and is there to support and help you. Should you encounter any discrimination or discrediting in the process, you should report this.

For male survivors:

If a male survivor (meaning, unfortunately, only someone legally recognised as male by Scottish Law) comes forward to the Police to report a sexual crime, he is given the choice in terms of gender preference for the Police and Doctor. In terms of a Rape Crisis support, there are not many male employees and this might not be able to be facilitated. Most survivors tend to choose either Female or No Preference when selecting the gender of the Police Sexual Offences Liaison officer (SOLO). If you wish to have support from another man and this is not provided, we recommend you reach out to two England-based charities, ManKind and SurvivorsUK. They can be reached here: https://mkcharity.org/ (MK) and here: https://www.survivorsuk.org/ (SUK).

For LGBT+ survivors:

If you wish to receive more support from a member of the LGBT+ community equipped to offer help and advice with reporting and the justice system, we recommend you reach out to Galop: http://www.galop.org.uk/ Note that all services offered specifically for women should also be offered to trans-women (as should be expected!). If you should encounter any discrimination or be refused support, you should report this. Discrimination and diversity training is mandatory and anyone refusing or avoiding offering aid needs to be flagged.