Frequently Asked Questions
Why did it happen to me?
You are not to blame for what happened. There are many different kinds of sexual violence from flashing and voyeurism to sexual assault and rape. Sexual violence is what happens when someone does not consent to a sexual act. Sexual violence can happen to anyone; no one ever deserves or asks for it to happen.
I don’t know how to cope with what happened, what can I do?
There is no right or wrong way of coping with sexual violence, as an individual you will have your own ways of coping. There is often an expectation that after a rape or sexual assault that the survivor will be ‘hysterical’ but many survivors remain very calm or even numb following an attack. Again, in the longer term ways of coping are very individual and can depend on how long the sexual violence lasted for, whether or not you have safety in your everyday life, if you are able to talk to people you trust or if you have accessed other support e.g. on the RCS Helpline or from Fife Rape and Sexual Assault Centre (FRASAC). The very fact that you are reading this page is an indication that you are taking positive steps to find ways of coping.
I just froze, why couldn’t I fight him off? What happened is not your fault. There is often an assumption that ‘if it happened to me I would fight for my life’. Sometimes these assumptions are unrealistic and can be very unhelpful. Some survivors are able to fight, others try to run and other again freeze, these are all normal reactions when placed in a situation which is out of your control. We are unable to choose which physiological reaction our body will have when presented with such danger. There are also times when the fear or threat of further violence makes it less safe to fight and resist. Being unable to fight someone off does not make you in any way complicit with what happened.
I was raped recently and I’m worried about sexually transmitted infections, what can I do?
You can visit your local family planning or sexual health clinic for routine testing of STI’s. You do not need to tell them what happened unless you wish to and you do not even need to give them your real name. The services are free and confidential. If any of your tests are positive for STI’s the clinic will provide you with the right treatment e.g. antibiotics. If you are having an HIV test it is worth considering when best to do this. This is because it takes 12 weeks for the infection to show up. You can also have these tests done at your GP but they are required to record the test and the result in your medical record.
I keep having nightmares and remembering what happened, sometimes it’s as if it’s happening again and again, am I going mad?
No you are not going mad. This is a natural reaction to having survived a trauma such as sexual violence. When we have survived such a dangerous event or have lived with sexual violence it is normal for the brain to replay what happened. Sometimes this is called ‘flashbacks’ – these can be memories in your mind, nightmares in your dreams, sensations on your body or even smells. Again the way you experience these will be individual to you and the experiences you have survived. They do not mean that you are going mad, but are a way of your mind trying to make sense of what happened. It is very distressing to relive it in this way, but by remembering, your mind is trying to find ways of moving on. It won’t feel like it, but these memories or flashbacks are part of the healing process.
Should I report it to the police?
FRASAC will provide support regardless of whether it’s been reported or not.
If you are thinking of reporting to the police it is helpful to know that this can take up to a few hours. Usually you would be asked to make a statement when you report but you can ask to speak with an officer first and then decide if you want to report. If you do not remember everything don’t worry, you can add to the statement the following day. It can be a good idea to take the name and number of police officer who you see in case you do wish to add to your statement.
If the attack or abuse that you experienced happened historically you will be asked to give a statement but you will not be asked to have an examination.
If you have recently been raped or sexually assaulted you will be asked to have a medical examination. You can ask for a female doctor but depending on the area you live in this might not be possible. The timescale can be quite important as the examination is looking for forensic evidence. The timescales for forensic evidence from an internal source are within the first 72 hours; however other forensic evidence such as a hair or stains to clothing can be detected for between 5 and 7 days.
If you have recently been raped or sexually assaulted it is very natural to want to wash, or to take a drink to help with shock. This can destroy evidence however so police advice is to try not to wash or eat or drink anything before going to the police. If you have changed out of the clothing you were wearing at the time of the assault, you should take these with you to give to the police.
If it has been a recent attack it is likely that you will be asked to return to where it happened so that further evidence can be gathered. It is also possible that you will be asked to return to the police station a couple of days after you report in case bruising has become visible.
Whether the attack has been recent or happened a long time ago it is entirely your own decision to report. It can however, be helpful to talk it through or to get some support. You can take a friend or relative to the police station to wait for you and give support, or you can contact FRASAC who may be able to go with you or have a police officer visit our premises.
I am worried I might be pregnant, what can I do?
Depending upon when you think you may have become pregnant there are a number of different options. You can take the Emergency Contraceptive Pill up to 3 days (72 hours) after the attack. An IUD often called a Coil can be fitted up to 5 days (120 hours) and must remain inside you until the time of your next period. You can get Emergency Contraception from local family planning. The Emergency Contraceptive Pill can also be bought from chemists for a cost of £25.
If you are pregnant and do not wish to continue with the pregnancy you can ask your GP or a doctor at a family planning clinic for a termination (abortion). It is your decision and no one has a right to tell you what you should do, it is about what is right for you, no one at FRASAC will judge you.
UK law states that a termination can legally take place up until the 24th week of the pregnancy. However, in practice it is rare for terminations to be carried out over 18 weeks of pregnancy. Early terminations are generally safer than later ones.
In order to arrange for a termination you will need to see at least 2 doctors, the first will refer you on to the second. If your own GP has chosen not to be involved in referrals for termination, they must refer you to another doctor or service that will.
If you are under 16, you have the right to a termination as long as the doctor who sees you decides you fully understand the procedure and its implications. Your parents do not have to be told.
I’ve just received a letter from the Procurator Fiscal saying that my case won’t be tried in court. Why didn’t they believe me?
The Procurator Fiscal receives the police investigation after the accused is caught. Their job is to look at the evidence and decide if it will stand up in a court of Law. Scots Law requires corroborative evidence – that is at least 2 pieces of evidence which back each other up. Usually your statement is one piece of evidence and the other/s can be forensic evidence, witnesses or in some cases of abuse, other survivors who have also reported against the same abuser.
If the Procurator Fiscal does not have enough evidence to proceed the case is dropped. This is not your fault and it does not necessarily mean that you haven’t been believed.
I’ve reported to the police and he was arrested but I haven’t heard anything for weeks. Has it been dropped?
It is not uncommon for this to happen. Often the legal process can take quite a long time and unfortunately you are not automatically kept informed. If the accused was held in custody the case would have to be heard in court within 140 days. The accused is often released on bail unless he has previous convictions for sexual violence, is on parole or is wanted for another crime. If the accused has been released on bail the case should be heard within 1 year, although this can be extended to 18 months at the judge’s discretion.
If you want to check what is happening with the case you should contact your local Victim Information and Advice. The local VIA office should make contact with you after the accused’s first appearance in court.
If your case does go to court then you will be able to access support from the Witness Service who can organise a pre-court visit and who can support you on the day.
I am currently involved in prostitution – can I receive support from Fife Rape and Sexual Assault Centre?
FRASAC recognises that those involved in prostitution are often at high risk of sexual violence. The law in Scotland is absolutely clear – rape and sexual violence carried out in the context of prostitution is a criminal offence, and all survivors are entitled to exactly the same justice and support. There have been a number of successful prosecutions in Scotland in recent years of cases involving sexual violence against women in this context.
If this has happened to you, we will be very glad to offer you support. If you are considering reporting what happened, we’ll be very happy to talk through any aspect of this that might be helpful.