I have experienced sexual abuse. What should I do?

If you think you have been the victim of an offence you should seek professional help. Your mental and physical wellbeing should always be your first priority as well as processing the trauma that you have experienced.

You might want to press charges against the perpetrator right away or wait until later. Maybe you don’t want to press charges, that is entirely in your power. The most important thing is that you can continue on with your life.

What happens when I press charges?

You have to decide whether you want to hold your perpetrator responsible. Pursuing your case through the justice system can be tough, but it is the only way to make the perpetrator answer for their crime.

This guide attempts to explain the process that begins when you press charges and what you can expect. It aims to clarify the process regarding offences against individuals 18 years and older.

Going to the Emergency Room for Sexual Abuse

The right place if the offence occurred recently.

For many victims, a visit to the emergency room is the first step towards recovery. Emergency Rooms for Sexual Abuse are located in Reykjavík and Akureyri.

Should I press charges or not?

The decision whether or not to press charges is yours to make.

It is important for perpetrators to take responsibility for their crimes, but the process takes time and requires work on your part in order for justice to be served.

Reporting to the police

A police investigation begins.

When you press charges for an offence you must go to the police station and recount the offence.

Giving a statement to the police

You describe your experience of the offence.

A detailed interview with you is one of the most important parts of the police investigation. The interview takes place at the police station.

The police investigates

Evidence is collected from various sources.

The case has become a public criminal case that is now in the hands of the police.

Filing a compensation claim

Your legal rights protector (ice. réttargæslumaður) files the claim on your behalf.

The compensation claim will be sent to the State Claims Fund along with a request for the fund to collect payment from the perpetrator.

Indictment issued or case dismissed?

The case data is sent to the district prosecutor.

The district prosecutor decides whether to issue an indictment or have the case dismissed.

The case is brought before the district court

You recount your experience in the courtroom.

When the district prosecutor has issued an indictment against the perpetrator the case is pleaded before the district court. You are the district prosecutor’s principal witness in the case.

Case closed

Hendur halda á skjali

A judgement is delivered in the district court.

Now it is revealed whether the perpetrator is acquitted or must undergo punishment.

After the judgment is delivered

Following a verdict, all sorts of feelings can come up.

Most likely, two years have passed since the crime against you took place.

This guide makes use of the term "victim," a legal term within the justice system for those who have experienced sexual abuse. However, some individuals may prefer to use the term "survivor" to refer to themselves. The preferred term in Icelandic is "þolandi."

See also:

Good advice

Advice from survivors who have pursued a case in the justice system, professionals, and staff of the police department and the district prosecutor’s office.