Reporting Historical Sexual Abuse

Historical sexual abuse is a term used to describe child and/or adult sexual abuse that happened in the past. This could mean months, years or even many decades ago.
Last updated:

What is historical sexual abuse?

WA Government agencies are aware that deciding to report historical sexual abuse can be a stressful and overwhelming experience. We hope it can also be a helpful one.

This information is designed for you to understand the different reporting methods and what to expect from them.

Being well informed about what is involved in the reporting process can help you make the decision that is best for your situation.

It is your right to choose to report. No one can take that away from you.

How do I report my historical sexual abuse?

Deciding to report this abuse to police is a big decision.

Experienced investigators can explain all the available options, so that you can make an informed decision about what you want to do. Police understand that not everyone wants their incident to be formally investigated, but police do strongly encourage victims and witnesses to report all sexual abuse.


There are no time limits on reporting sexual abuse. It can be reported years after the offence and the investigation process can also be suspended and re-opened.

It is common for victims/survivors of historical offences to report to police many years and often decades after the abuse took place.

Reporting options - Speaking with the police

You can attend the police station and make a report of sexual assault without having that report investigated or making a formal statement, if that’s what you want to do.

If you would like to discuss whether to make a formal report to police, you can contact your local police station by phone or ask to come in and speak face to face.

If you decide to attend in person, it is a good idea to telephone your local police station and make an appointment. The duty officer will speak with the detective’s office and arrange for you to speak to a detective. If attending in person, you do not need to tell your whole story but will need to provide some details about what occurred at this time to be able to arrange for a detective to speak with you.

You can discuss with the detective what is involved in making a formal statement and what will happen after. You can ask to speak to a male or female detective and police will attempt to accommodate your request.

If you decide to make a formal statement, you can give an initial overview of what occurred, and then complete a formal statement. The statement process can take a long time and will involve remembering and recounting, as best as possible, the abuse in detail.

Police know that this can be difficult and traumatic, but it is important to tell them everything that you remember.

After you make a formal statement, the detectives will investigate the complaint. Detectives may obtain further statements and collect further information about the case. Once all information has been obtained, the detectives will make an assessment about whether there is sufficient evidence to bring the matter before the courts.

Sometimes, the length of the investigation may be affected by police having to prioritise some aspects of a recent report over an historical report, due to current community safety concerns and investigations.

During the investigation, detectives will maintain contact with you and keep you updated.

The length of an investigation varies for each case. It will usually be a lengthy process if the investigation progresses towards an arrest and criminal proceedings.

Regular communication with the detective should occur at all times during the process. You should feel you are able to contact the detective investigating your matter and have your questions or concerns responded to in a sensitive manner. 

Call your local station or 131 444 in the first instance.