If you usually live in the UK and have been raped or sexually assaulted in another country, you can report while you’re still in the country, or you can report when you come home.
It’s important to know that some countries will not be able to investigate if you wait until you return to the UK to report, depending on the laws in that country.
If you are still in the country where it happened, the most important thing is to make sure you are safe.
If you feel at risk, you can get help from the local police or British Embassy. The Embassy can provide medical and legal help if needed, including telling you which hospitals have English-speaking doctors. All their offices have a voicemail with an emergency out-of-hours telephone number, or you can call +44 (0)20 7008 1500.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides information for British nationals impacted by sexual violence abroad, including how to access medical treatment and legal advice in the UK. They also offer ‘Rape and sexual assault abroad’ guides by country.
The Rape Crisis Network Europe has contact information for specialist support services in a number of European countries.
In some counties, you need to report the crime before leaving the country if you want it to be investigated. If you wait until you’ve returned to the UK to report the crime, the police in the other country might not be able to open a criminal investigation.
If you do choose to report to the police whilst you are still in the country where it happened, the British Embassy can give advice on local police and legal procedures, as these can often be very different to those in the UK. They can also put you in touch with local lawyers and interpreters.
Be aware that cultural and social attitudes to rape and sexual assault survivors can be very different in different countries, and can mean some things considered a crime in the UK are not a crime in other countries.
Getting medical treatment
If you need medical treatment abroad, you may need to give details of your travel insurance policy and, in Europe, your UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC or EHIC).
When you get home, it is a good idea to book an appointment with your local Integrated Contraception and Sexual Health (iCASH) clinic to discussed emergency contraception, pregnancy tests and tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Reporting once you’re home
If you have reported to the police abroad, you will then need to report to your local police on your return, as they may be involved in handling any legal papers. All papers for the prosecution will have to be in the local language of the country where the attack took place and a good solicitor in the UK can help you with this.
If you reported the assault to police abroad, where judicial authorities share information with the UK, the FCDO can update you with any developments in your case if it goes to trial.
It’s very normal to wait until some time after the assault has occurred before your feel ready to report it to the police.
If you do want to report to the police after you get home, you can talk to your local police force, who should be able to tell you what action they may be able to take and what options may be available to you. They won’t be able to investigate the crime themselves or ask that the crime be investigated but can pass the information on to the authorities where it happened.
If you think you might want to report when you get back to the UK, you can keep the clothes your were wearing at the time of the attack in a clean plastic bag without washing them. It can also help to write down anything you remember about what happened including, if possible, a description of the attacker.
If your attacker is also a UK resident, the police will not be able to investigate as the crime occurred overseas, but you can speak to a lawyer about getting an injunction to protect yourself, if you are concerned about your safety. If your attacker harasses or threatens you when you are back in the UK, this is a crime and can be report to the police.
If you are under 18 and the suspect is a UK national (or UK resident and the act is criminal in the country where it was committed) then UK police forces may be able to prosecute for a serious sexual offence committed outside the UK under Section 72 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. You local police force should be able to advise you about this in more detail.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides information for British nationals impacted by sexual violence abroad and have returned to the UK.