Frequently Asked Questions
If you or someone you know is dealing with issues of sexual violence, you may have a lot of questions about what to do or what this means. See below for some answers, and also our Information page for more advice and facts.
I've just been raped. What should I do?
GRCC recommends you attend the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit or SATU (for more about what a SATU is, see Services). You can access a SATU several ways: through your local Garda station, via the Accident and Emergency Department at Galway Hospitals, your local GP, or by self-referral on 091 765751 (SATU Office)
If you have reported the crime to your local Garda station, Gardai will be present at the SATU and will take a preliminary statement from clients. However, you will be given some time and space after the ordeal to decide whether or not they want to go ahead with the legal process. If you do not wish to report to the Gardai, you can do a self-referral to a SATU.
A specially trained volunteer from Galway Rape Crisis Centre will be present at the SATU to offer you emotional support, information and advocacy services.
How can counselling help?
Within the counselling relationship you are given the time and space, not always available in other parts of your life, to explore your feelings in relation to the trauma. Our aim in counselling is to help you reach your full potential, so that your experience of sexual violence no longer controls or overwhelms your life, behaviour and choices.
The counsellor is a neutral professional so you do not need to protect them from the intensity of your feelings or the details of your trauma, as you might feel obliged to do with the family or friends you confide in.
Is there any help for my partner/family/friends who may be upset about what I have told to them?
Learning that someone you care for has experienced sexual violence can be quite a shock and may leave a supporter feeling helpless. We have a counsellor available to talk this through with them either on the helpline or face to face.
Will counselling help me forget what happened?
Forgetting events of such an extreme nature as sexual violence is not a realistic or even desirable goal of counselling. What the counselling process can hope to achieve is that the event becomes something which no longer take over your day to day life.
You may in fact find in the course of counselling that you begin to develop positive aspects of yourself that have been dormant or under-developed.
Counselling will help you understand that what you are experiencing is in fact a normal reaction to an abnormal event. This does not in any way minimise the range and intensity of feelings you are experiencing, but affirms their normality in the context of what has happened to you.
What medical care may I need after a recent assault or rape?
After a recent assault or rape it is vital to have a medical check up to screen for any possible sexual transmitted infections including HIV.
You may wish to take the morning after pill (MAP) to exclude a possible pregnancy after rape.
There may be bruising, and/or other injuries external or internal that will need immediate medical attention.
The Galway SATU unit (Sexual Assault Treatment Unit) will provide all of the above.
What happens if I report to the Gardaí?
In relation to very recent cases of sexual assault or rape:
*If you have experienced a recent assault or rape, GRCC advise to attend the Galway Sexual Assault Treatment Unit or SATU unit which you can access via any Galway gardai station. This unit provides integrated services looking after medical needs, as well as the gathering of forensic evidence, and the taking of a statement. It will be up to you at a later stage to decide whether or not you wish to go ahead with the statement, but the recommendation is to make it anyway at first, and to collect forensic evidence, in case you do want to go ahead later. There will be a specially trained GRCC volunteer present at the SATU to offer emotional support as well as information and advocacy services.
* If you are reporting a recent assault, do not shower or wash, but contact gardai immediately and ask to be taken to the SATU unit. Take a change of clothing including coat and shoes as the Gardai may keep the clothes you were wearing to gather forensic evidence. You can shower and change at the unit.
* Do not take any alcohol or drugs, but if you have done so before the recent assault this should not prevent you from reporting.
* If reporting an assault/rape – report as soon as possible. There is no time limit, but valuable forensic evidence is lost quite quickly.
After the initial stage of proceedings at the SATU Unit as well as in relation to any other cases of sexual violence or abuse other than those very recent:
*If you do decide to approach the Gardai, we can arrange this for you, and can facilitate the statement being taken in a centre if that feels safer than going to the Garda station.
* Bring someone you feel comfortable with. You are entitled to have them stay with you if you want. However if they are present during the taking of your statement their details need to be included and they may be called as a witness, for this reason the Gardai may ask that you not be accompanied during the actual taking of the statement. If however you want the person present you do have the right to insist on it.
* Make a note of the names of any Gardai or detectives you have significant contact with from the time you first report.
* You have the right to speak to a female Garda.
* If reporting an incident of child sexual abuse, or of sexual assault/rape that happened some time ago, it is of advantage to have as many witnesses as possible who can testify to strengthen your case.
* The Gardai will ask you questions but they should only be relevant to your case.
* You will be asked to make a written statement; this means a detailed description of the events before, during and after the attack. Make sure you read your statement carefully and change it if necessary, before you sign it. You are entitled to, and should request, a typed copy. If you remember other details at a later stage, you can make a supplementary statement.
* If the alleged perpetrator is identifiable the Gardai may interview the person soon after you make your statement.
* If the identity of the perpetrator is unknown to you and the Gardai arrest a suspect you may be asked to look at photographs or attend an identity parade, or go with the Gardai to try to identify the person who assaulted you.
* If you feel you are not being treated well by the Gardai at any stage of proceedings, you can insist on seeing the duty officer or you can make a formal complaint.
What should I know about the legal process?
* When the Gardai have completed the investigation, they will prepare a file (containing all the evidence gathered and a recommendation as to whether to prosecute) which will be sent to the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions).
* The DPP’s office will decide whether there is enough evidence to take the case to court. Try to remember this decision is not based on whether they believe you or not, it is whether they believe the case can be proven ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. You have a right of appeal against a decision not to prosecute and if you so request a different lawyer will review the decision in the case. You have no right however to know reasons for the decision taken.
* If your case goes ahead a decision will be taken as to what the charge will be and which court it will be held in (district, circuit, or central criminal).
* The Gardai have a duty to keep you informed of the progress of your case. If a prosecution takes place it may be many months before it comes to court.
* If the assailant pleads ‘not guilty’ you may be required to appear in court as a witness for the State. Your identity will be protected during and after the case unless you specifically decide to go public. The defendant’s identity will not be protected, unless that by revealing their identity the identity of the victim becomes apparent (e.g. A case of incest). When the matter comes before the court such cases are heard “otherwise than in public” meaning that only persons directly concerned with the case will be in the court room.
* You are entitled to advice from your own lawyer and indeed representation by your own barrister (in limited circumstances), see the Legal Aid Board Leaflet No.14 “Civil Legal Aid for Complainants in Rape and Certain Sexual Assault Cases”.
* You are entitled to, and indeed it is advisable to, meet the prosecution team before the trial.
* You are entitled to have present in the court with you your supporters or counsellor(subject to the permission of the Judge).
* If the perpetrator is found guilty you will be entitled to submit a victim impact statement and or speak in person as to the effect on you of this offence before sentencing. Rape Crisis Centres prepare such Victim Impact Reports or VIR’s for their clients.
* You are entitled to be kept informed of any pending release from custody of the perpetrator who offended against you.
* You may have a civil case against the perpetrator and it is important to seek early legal advice about this as there are time limits within which such a case can be brought.