Guidance

Russia: information for victims of rape and sexual assault

This information is provided to help British nationals overseas make decisions about whether and how to seek medical advice and attention; report to local police; and engage with foreign legal authorities following a rape or other form of sexual assault overseas.

This information is provided to help British nationals overseas make decisions about whether and how to seek medical advice and attention; report to local police; and engage with foreign legal authorities following a rape or other form of sexual assault overseas. For information on support available in the UK, see Rape and Sexual Assault: Returning to the UK

First steps

It is your choice about what you do next, but this information may help you in coming to a decision. The most important thing is to make sure that you are as safe as you can be. You can:

  • contact the emergency number on 112. Please note that the operators may not speak English and you may need help from a Russian speaker.
  • contact your tour operator if you are travelling with one
  • contact the nearest British embassy or consulate. Embassy staff will be polite, patient, sensitive and non-judgmental, and can provide information on local police and medical procedures. Anything you tell them will be treated in the strictest confidence. They can contact your family or friends for you if you wish.

If you want to report the incident to the police in Russia

If you have a tour operator, they should be able to arrange for someone to support you. If you do not have a tour operator and you are in an area where there is a British embassy or consulate, they will try to send a consular officer to support you.

If you approach the police directly, you can also ask them to inform the nearest British Embassy or consulate. Most police officers speak Russian only. If you do not speak Russian, you need to be accompanied by anyone you know who speaks both Russian and English or by an interpreter

If you choose to report the crime, try to do so as soon as possible, so forensic evidence can be retained. Washing yourself or your clothes may make it difficult for the police to obtain forensic evidence. If you change your clothes, think about taking those you were wearing to the police. You may wish to preserve evidence by retaining items such as condoms, toothbrushes, or texts.

Tell the police if you think you have been drugged. Insist you get a police report.

Extramarital sex or homosexuality is not a crime in Russia; however the propaganda of homosexuality is pursued by Russian law.

When you file your report, there is no guarantee that a police officer of a preferred gender will be available or that you will be given somewhere private to speak.

If a crime has been committed against a minor, all actions (interaction with police, etc.) are to be taken by the legal representative of the child (a parent, a guardian, etc.).

While you are at the police station, the Consular Team can accompany you; we can offer information on investigation procedures, advice for seeking medical help and links to victim support groups. We can also be in contact with your friends or family should you request it. We will not be able to act as interpreters, though. You will not be required to surrender your passport.

If you do not want to report the incident to the police in Russia

The British Embassy or consulate will be able to help you. This includes helping you make arrangements to contact your insurance company, your family, travel back to the UK and/or provide you with information on local support in the UK. They can provide you with lists of English-speaking medical facilities, lawyers and translators. If you are on an arranged tour, you can report the incident to your tour operator and ask them for assistance. Where possible and if you wish, the tour operator may accompany you to the local hospital.

It is your choice on whether to report the crime, but if you do not report it, your case will not be investigated and the important evidence may be lost. You have to report the crime in country for it to be investigated and to be entitled to forensic examination, which has to be done not more than 72 hours after receiving injuries.

If you choose not to report it, you will still be able to get medical attention and you should either call the ambulance (112/103 from a mobile or 03 from a landline) if you have severe injuries or go to the nearest hospital / emergency room (‘travmpunkt’) and inform them of what has happened so they can take appropriate tests and document all injuries you have sustained. However, please be aware the police may still be involved as doctors are legally required to report any physical injuries that may have been inflicted as a result of unlawful action.

If you want to report the incident to the police in the UK

It is possible to report the crime to police in the UK. However, it is for foreign police forces to decide whether to investigate a crime in their jurisdiction. UK police forces cannot investigate crimes committed overseas. Foreign police forces can decide to request assistance from the UK police, but this cannot be guaranteed and is a very lengthy process. It can therefore be very difficult to guarantee that any justice can be accessed without reporting the crime locally. Please see Rape and Sexual Assault: Returning to the UK after rape or sexual assault abroad for more information.

Reporting the crime in Russia - what happens next?

The police will ask you to make a statement about the incident including a description of your attacker(s). They are unlikely to speak English so you would need to be accompanied by someone who speaks both English and Russian, or an interpreter. If you are accompanied by the British embassy, consulate or high commission staff, they will not be able to act as interpreters.

The police will keep any clothes, which may be evidence of your attack to present to a forensic examiner.

The police will send you, or take you if they have the available personnel, to the Russian centre of forensic medical expertise. Without this step, taking the matter to court is not possible.

The medical examination – what to expect

Most hospitals and medical centres treat victims of rape and sexual assault. If anyone goes to the hospital with any physical injuries, which could have been sustained as a result of a criminal action, doctors are responsible by Russian law to report it to police. Please note that forensic evidence is collected only at a specific facility and only when referred by police.

When visiting a hospital, it is important that you tell the doctor about what has happened so they can make a proper examination. The respective medical record will include the diagnosis, the doctor’s name, date of examination, your name, the offender’s name (if known), and a list of injuries sustained. It is not recommended to eat or drink before the medical examination. The examination may include oral swabs, vaginal smear or colonoscopy, and other tests for tracing sweat and grease deposits, DNA, etc. as well as assessing possible damage to your body from the assault. After that, the doctor will refer you for HIV and other STD testing. Inform the doctor of your psychological issues caused by the crime.

If you have reported the crime to police, you can skip the hospital and undergo a forensic examination instead upon the police referral. The forensic report is especially important when seeking legal redress, including payment of moral and material damages. With this report, the offender can receive a just punishment.

If it is possible you may have been exposed to HIV, you should go to a local Centre for the Prevention and Control of AIDS or urgently see an infectious disease doctor to take an HIV test and obtain HIV Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), a treatment that may stop HIV from replicating in the body by using a combination of antiretrovirals and so prevent the virus from attacking the immune system. HIV PEP medication needs to be taken within 72 hours of the incident for it to be effective. The NHS may be able to commence or continue the 28-day treatment on return to the UK. More information on risks is available on the NHS website.

HIV PEP medication may be purchased either from a pharmacy or from a local Centre for the Prevention and Control of AIDS. However, it may not always be available especially outside cities. In Russia antiretroviral treatment is provided free of charge only to HIV positive patients.

It is also important to undergo treatment for STDs and do repeat tests later.

Emergency contraception can be purchased from a pharmacy at your own cost with no prescription or medical referral. It needs to be taken within 72 hours of the incident for it to be effective. Women should also take a repeat pregnancy test in two weeks after the incident.

Hospital treatment and tests are covered either at your own cost or by your medical insurance. If you have had medication administered overseas, you may wish to keep the label or make a note of the name of the medication, so that you let your local health provider know when you return home.

Police investigations in Russia – what to expect

Upon your report, the investigator may initiate a criminal case within 10 days. The preliminary investigation may last up to 2 months from the day of its opening and may be extended up to 6 months or up to 12 months depending on the complexity of the case and the severity of the crime.

If you know the offender’s whereabouts and would like to cooperate, the police may take you to this place in order to try to identify and arrest the offender. If a suspect is brought to the police station, you may be asked to make identification. If you have left Russia before the suspect was apprehended, you may be able to make identification via video link.

If a suspect is unknown, you can ask the police to show you a photo base of registered sex offenders or insist on constructing a facial composite of their face. If you have injured the offender, please inform the police.

Within 48 hours after the suspect’s detention, police transfer the case through the Public Prosecutor to court to obtain permission to keep the suspect in detention. The judge shall take one of the following decisions:

  • apply pre-trial detention as a measure of restraint in respect of the accused

  • dismiss the request for detention. The suspect or the accused may be released on bail / placed under house arrest / released on a travel restriction order.

  • adjourn the examination of the request for up to 72 hours so that the requesting party can produce additional evidence in support of the request

Court procedures – what to expect

If a suspect is ordered to a trial, you will usually be expected to testify in court in person. If the case is referred for further investigation, you may be asked to give an additional statement. A lawyer can advise you on this further and explain the procedure for possible reimbursement of your travel expenses.

The preliminary hearing is scheduled within thirty days after a competent judge receives the case materials. If the suspect is already in detention, the maximum period is fourteen days. Based on results of the preliminary hearing, the judge may return the case to the prosecutor.

Depending on a criminal case, an unlimited number of hearings may take place, before the court reaches a verdict. The verdict becomes final if it has not been appealed within 10 days after it was read. The length of the judicial process also depends on the availability of parties and the number of appeals.

If you do not speak Russian, an interpreter will be provided by the court. You should inform them of this requirement in advance to allow them to make suitable arrangements. Consular staff will not normally be able to attend the hearing with you and you may wish to be accompanied by a friend or member of your family. If you have left Russia before the hearing, it may be possible to participate in a court hearing via video link upon decision of the court which is to hear your case.

On the motion of the legal representative of the victim who is under 16 years old, the investigating officer or court may arrange for a pro bono lawyer to represent the victim. The cost of lawyer’s work is covered by the Russian state.

If you change your mind about pressing the filed charges, you can drop them if:

  • the court and the Public Prosecutor give their consent

  • the offense committed against you is defined as petty offence or misdemeanour

  • the offender has come to terms with the victim and made amends for the inflicted harm

The assailant may press counter charges against you claiming that you have made false accusations. The court will consider these claims and decide on proceedings.

If anyone intentionally makes false accusations to police or withholds the truth, they can be prosecuted. Without your attendance, the court will still proceed with the hearing unless your appearance in the court room is required. In this case, your expenses, including travel, accommodation and legal representation may be covered. The court may order the offender to pay the damages to the victim. This may be the result of either the court’s verdict in the current criminal case, or a subsequent civil court action.

Hiring a bi-lingual lawyer will help the family of the victim gain insight into the ongoing case, ensure representation of their interests and rights in court, and timely and proper appeals. A list of English-speaking lawyers in Russia is available on the British Embassy Moscow’s website. Consular staff do not have access to legal expertise and cannot give legal advice.

Communication

When the crime is first reported, you will communicate with the police. Once the investigation is underway, the Public Prosecutor takes over and communication will be with them during the investigation, and if the case goes to trial, during the trial. The communication between the authorities and you may be facilitated by a lawyer.

If you have left Russia, the relevant authority will communicate the development of the case to British Embassy Moscow by post.

Compensation

The court can order the offender to pay compensation for any injuries or losses either after they have been convicted in a criminal court or as a result of a separate civil action. Your lawyer will guide you on the level of compensation to claim for and how to submit this before the trial.

There is no state-funded compensation scheme to cover physical or psychological injuries suffered as a result of a violent crime in Russia.

When you return home to the UK

You may want to let your GP or a Sexual Assault Referral Centre know what has happened to you so that you can talk about the experience and seek further support and advice.

If you believe you may be at risk of having contracted a sexually-transmitted infection (STI), you should ask your local health provider to test you, even if you have been tested in the country that the assault took place in.

The UK police will not normally be informed of the incident by the Russian police.

Read our advice on returning to the UK after rape and sexual assault abroad.

Support organisations in Russia

It is your choice to let people know. If you are ready to talk about it, the following organisations may be able to help you.

Sisters

+7 (499) 901 02 01, online@sisters-help.ru

On weekdays from 10 am to 8 pm Moscow time

Psychological help (available in English) to victims of sexual assault irrespective of their gender, nationality and place of residence

Anna

8 (800) 7000 600, annaruss93@gmail.com

Crisis Centres all over Russia provide psychological, legal, social and other kinds of help to women in crisis. Most of staff can only speak Russian, English-speaking staff is subject to availability.

Miloserdiye

+7 (499) 350 52 77, +7 (965) 262 98 78, m.m.studenikina@yandex.ru

Address: 49/3 Nikoloyamskaya St., Moscow

Moscow shelter for pregnant women and mothers with children with no means of subsistence, no place to stay. They offer social, legal and humanitarian support irrespective of their nationality, belief and age.

Crisis Centre for Women

+7 (812) 327 30 00, Skype crisis_center

Psychological help (available in English) from 11 am to 6 pm on weekdays and Sundays, legal help from 11 am to 6 pm on Saturdays.

Disclaimer

This information is provided by the British Government for the convenience of enquirers, but neither Her Majesty’s Government nor any official of the Consulate accept liability for any loss or damage which you might suffer as a result of relying on the information supplied. This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or legal advice.

Medical information has been provided by The Havens Sexual Assault Referral Centres of Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and The Rowan SARC NI and was accurate at the time of production.

Published 4 June 2020
Last updated 12 November 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated on 12 November 2021

  2. Updated contacts of the support organisations

  3. First published.