After Sexual Assault

The law defines Sexual Violation as:

  • Rape: penetration of a woman’s vagina by a man’s penis
  • Unlawful Sexual Connection: penetration of the vagina or anus by any part of another person’s body or any object used by another person; OR connection between the mouth and the genitals of another person.

Where these acts are performed without consent, where consent is withdrawn, or where consent is given under threat THEY ARE ILLEGAL, even if the two people are married.

Making a Complaint

There are three parts to a complaint. The first part is talking to the police, the second is having a medical examination (if the rape was recent), the third part is making a statement.

For some women, making a complaint can channel anger, or sense of loss, into something potentially positive.

Talking to the police

You can go to the police station or ask the police to come to you to make a complaint. You can ask to speak to a woman officer, but there may not always be one available.

Surveys show that only 10% of rapes are reported to the police.

Medical examination

If the assault was recent, the police will ask for a medical examination to gather forensic evidence. You can choose to say no, however, the police will need evidence to go to court. The examination will be carried out by a doctor (usually a DSAC doctor which stands for Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care) and will take several hours.

After a complaint is made

At the police station, the police will type up your statement. Tell them everything you can remember. They will investigate your complaint and try to gather enough evidence to go to court. The police will also write a survivor impact report explaining how you feel about the rape and how it has hurt you and your family.

More Information

Further information is contained in:

  • The Rape Survivors’ Legal Guide
  • The DSAC (Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care) pamphlet on medical care for sexual assault survivors.

You can get copies of these from Rape Crisis Dunedin.

Going to Court

The court process can be traumatic for survivors and proceeding can be slow. The basic legal process in New Zealand is:

  • Decision by police to lay charges
  • Accused arrested and charged
  • Preliminary hearing
  • High Court Trial
  • Sentencing
  • Appeal

This process shortens if the accused pleads guilty. Detailed information on the court process can be found in The Rape Survivors’ Legal Guide (available from Rape Crisis Dunedin).

The Sentence

The maximum sentence is 20 years and only about 20% of complaints result in the rapist being convicted.


You can ask family, friends and supporters to:

  • go with you to the police
  • be with you while you talk to them
  • be with you at a medical examination
  • take you somewhere safe after the police and doctors listen to you
  • speak on your behalf (e.g. “she wants a break/cup of tea now”)

A Rape Crisis counsellor can be with you if you want, and can:

  • listen to you
  • be with you when you talk to the police and speak on your behalf (e.g. requesting breaks)
  • stay with you during the medical examination and during your statement
  • be with you at any identity parade
  • support you during a court case

Your Rights

You have the right:

  • to be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect for your privacy and dignity
  • to be told of services and supports available to you
  • to be given information about the progress of the police investigation, to be told what charges are being laid, or the reason for no charges
  • to be told dates, places, and results of court hearings
  • to have property returned to you as soon as possible
  • to have your street address withheld from court
  • to be told about bail, sentencing, release, or escape from jail
  • to tell the parole board your views on release