Adult survivors of child abuse
Information for adult survivors, reporting to the police and the court process.
On this page:
Police Scotland understands that not every person feels ready or able to speak about the abuse they experienced.
However, we're here to listen to you. We can let you know about support services when you feel ready.
Police Scotland will explain the investigative process. We will make sure you understand your options. We will keep you updated during the investigation.
Police Scotland is fully committed to thoroughly investigating child abuse no matter where or when this happened.
Our priorities during such investigations are to ensure your welfare and wellbeing.
We want to identify those who pose a risk to children. We want to protect any person who may be at risk of harm.
Your report will allow us to assess the current risk posed by the abuser. We'll be able to ensure that no further children are at risk.
Your report may also lead to your abuser being brought to justice.
Survivors are not to blame for the abuse they experienced during childhood.
Should you need an urgent response from the Police or other Emergency Services please dial 999.
Otherwise, you can report abuse to Police Scotland in the following ways:
- On 101
- Attendance at a Police Station.
You will be asked for certain information but will not be asked to provide specific details of your abuse.
You can request that Police attend at a time, date and location suitable to you.
You can go to a Police Station to make a report of the abuse you experienced.
You can also discuss your options with a Police Officer. You can do this before making a decision about whether you would like to make a formal report.
We know some people are unwilling to speak directly to police. If you have information or are concerned that someone is at risk of harm, you can contact the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or use their anonymous online form.
Some support services can help you to decide which option is best for you. They can also accompany you to a police station.
British Sign Language users can contact Police Scotland directly with the assistance of an online sign language interpreter from Contact SCOTLAND BSL
A trained Police Officer will speak with you and take a statement.
If you are a survivor of sexual abuse you will be given the choice of speaking with a male or female officer. Every effort will be made to meet your request.
Your statement will be taken by an officer who is trained in taking sexual offence statements.
You may be given the name of another Officer who is responsible for making enquiries into the information you have given. We aim to keep you updated and reassured at every stage.
Other people that have been named or identified during the investigation may also be spoken to. This will be done by the Police as part of their enquiry.
To assess your vulnerability as a witness, we will consider your needs and try to have them met.
If you have a mental illness or learning disability we will seek the services of an Appropriate Adult who is independent of the Police. They are trained to help you.
The Appropriate Adult will help you understand what is happening and help you communicate with the Police.
Once the Police have gathered together all information, they will decide if there is enough evidence to report any person to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).
They are responsible for the prosecution of crime in Scotland.
If the decision is made not to report to COPFS you will have this explained to you.
A solicitor in COPFS will decide if there should be a prosecution and a case taken to court.
COPFS has a Victim Information and Advice (VIA) service. They have offices around the country.
VIA provides information and advice to child victims and victims of other crime. They also deal with witnesses who are vulnerable or where it is likely that a trial will involve a jury.
It is likely that VIA will be in contact with survivors of non recent childhood abuse.
They will let you know what is happening at all stages of the case. If you do not hear from VIA you should contact COPFS.
If COPFS do take the case to court, you may have to give evidence in court.
COPFS VIA staff will speak to you about the support you may need to help you give evidence.
This can include a visit to court before the trial. They will also speak to you about special measures that you may be entitled to. This will aim to support you while you give evidence.
This can include having a supporter with you in court. You may be able to give your evidence without having to see the accused person in court.
If you think special measures would help you in court, and you have not heard from COPFS VIA, please contact COPFS.
Can I make a report to Police if my abuser is now dead?
Yes, Police Scotland will still investigate your report. The primary purpose will be to ensure that no one who is still alive were involved in any abuse.
All information obtained will be recorded on police systems. Whilst Police will carry out these actions it is important to highlight that deceased persons cannot be reported to COPFS.
Can I have someone with me when I speak to the Police?
Yes, throughout all the above processes you can choose to have a friend, family member or other support person with you to support you before, during any breaks and after your statement has been taken, provided that person is not a significant witness in the case.
What happens if English is not my first language?
If you have difficulty understanding or speaking English, you can request an interpreter. They can help you understand questions you are being asked.
They can help the information you are being given or allow you to provide answers and information effectively.
What are my rights as a victim of crime?
For further information on your rights as a victim of crime in Scotland, please refer to the Victim’s Code for Scotland.
What happens to the personal information I give to Police?
Police Scotland understands how important it is to protect people’s privacy and has published an Information Charter .
This sets out the standards that you can expect when we request or hold your information.
Breathing Space: Offers a confidential phone line for anyone who feels low, anxious or depressed in Scotland. To access this service, call Freephone 0800 838587 (6pm-2am Monday to Thursday & 6pm Friday- 6am Monday).
Samaritans: Offers a safe place for you to talk any time you like, in your own way – about whatever is affecting you. Samaritans can be contacted on Freephone 116 123 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Scottish Government - This website contains links to survivor support services, via NHS Inform and ALISS, as well as links to more immediate support.
Future Pathways - Offers help and support to people who were abused or neglected as children while they were living in care in Scotland. Future Pathways work to help survivors get support. They can be contacted via Freephone 0808 164 2005 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. F
Rape Crisis Scotland If you have experienced any form of sexual violence then you can contact the Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline on 08088 010302 (open 6pm- midnight daily). You can contact them via email@example.com. Support can also be obtained via local Rape Crisis Scotland Services. If you report a crime of this nature to Police Scotland, you can ask to be referred to Rape Crisis Scotland
Victim Support Scotland (VSS): Provides support and information to anyone who has been affected by crime or who has to attend court. To receive support, call the helpline on 0345 603 9213. This is available 8am to 8pm Mon - Fri. If you report being a victim of any crime to Police Scotland, you can ask to be referred to VSS.
Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry - the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (SCAI) was set up in 2015 by the Scottish Government in response to calls for a Public Inquiry into the abuse of children in care in Scotland from survivors of abuse and associated support groups. The SCAI commenced on the 1st October 2015 and operates independently from the Scottish Government and any other public organisations, including Police Scotland. For more information or to make an application to give evidence to the Inquiry, please refer to the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry website or make contact via one of the following methods:
- Phone: 088 0929 300
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Post: P.O.Box 24202, Edinburgh, EH3 1JN.
Scottish Government Redress Scheme is for survivors who experienced child abuse whilst within care in Scotland. The scheme has been set up to recognise and acknowledge what happened and the harm it may have caused. For more information or to make an application please refer to Financial redress for abuse survivors - gov.scot (www.gov.scot).