IT is what every woman hopes she will never face. After the rape, Ann's emotions are in turmoil. She cannot decide whether to report the attack to the police. After three days of painful consideration, she finally goes to the Family Planning Association (FPA) to seek help. Ann tells the social worker she has not told anyone else about the assault; she is afraid to go to the police; worried her case will be publicised; and too ashamed to face friends and family. Ann is far from alone. Official figures for rape in Hong Kong may appear low, but they do not reflect the silent sufferers, the many women who decide not to report the crime. This year there have been 84 rape cases (up to September) according to police records. But the FPA has already helped 105 rape victims. Forty-three chose not go to the police. Last year, 112 rape victims sought help from the organisation; half did not report the assault. Police records show 116 rape cases in 1992. ''We don't encourage or discourage victims to report to the police. We just discuss the pros and cons with them and let them decide for themselves,'' said Grace Ma, a senior counsellor at the FPA. Those who do not report tell the FPA they are afraid of many things: that the police will not believe them and say they have brought it on themselves; that there will be little protection from exposure when their case appears in the newspapers. ''Women are also afraid that there might be retaliation from the assailant. The rapist might attack her while on bail or after he has served his sentence,'' Ms Ma said. A Chinese University study on Rape and Sexual Crime (1990) points out that Chinese women have been indoctrinated by society to think that they must behave themselves or they will inevitably invite rape. Women believe they have only themselves to blame for any sexual assaults. They fear they will be held responsible for the attack, therefore they are reluctant to go to the police or even tell their family. In many cases, a woman may not be sure who raped her and this results in her believing that there was no point in pursuing the matter further. ''The victim may not see the face of the rapist and even if she sees it she may not be able to remember it,'' Ms Ma said. Victims also believe the chance of arresting and convicting the rapist is very small. Women's Centre spokeswoman Linda Wong Sau-yung says most rape victims who call her do not go to the police. ''They are very scared and anxious. Their emotions are very unstable. They feel embarrassed, especially when the police come to their flat to investigate. Then all the neighbours would know,'' Ms Wong said. ''If they report to the police, they have to talk about the rape experience many times and to different officers. ''Sometimes they have to take time off work to assist the police in their investigation and have to explain why to their boss. You can imagine the social pressure they are under.'' For those who do go to the police, the treatment may be insensitive at times. Clinical psychologist Gillian Marcoolyn believes victims of sexual assault should be treated with consideration lest they go through the whole victimisation process again. She says the immediate need of a rape victim is to feel safe and looked after. ''Physically she would need the 'morning after' pill to prevent pregnancy straightaway. It would also be necessary for her to rest at a place where she feels supported and not blamed, as she would still be in a state of shock. ''The police must be as sympathetic as possible. Sometimes their attitude towards the victim could further victimise her.'' Ms Ma feels that if a woman walks into a police station to say she's been robbed, she is more credible to officers than a woman saying she's been raped. ''If you say you've been robbed, the police are more likely to believe the victim immediately. But if you say you've been raped there would be more doubt,'' she said. She feels the initial attitude of the police towards rape victims should be the same as victims of other crimes, like robbery. According to Ms Ma, many women complain about police treatment when they are making a statement. ''Sometimes questioning goes on for eight or nine hours and the victim is not allowed to go to the toilet for fear that evidence that she's been raped is lost,'' she said. During questioning, women often feel that the police are suspicious of what they say and that they are being interrogated like a criminal. A police officer will ask a woman to tell her story over and over again to see if she sticks to it. She then has to repeat it to the forensic pathologist and to the FPA. In addition, the police may call her back and go through the story again. They may also not respect the privacy of the victim, calling her at work, identifying themselves as officers and saying they would like to speak to the woman, without realising they may be causing embarrassment. ''The police could use more sensitive language during an investigation or be more discreet when calling the victim at work. Such things would not affect the investigation proceedings,'' Ms Ma said. The police should also be aware of some victims' strange reactions after the rape. ''For example, the victim might laugh when she is feeling very upset or nervous. Some may have a memory lapse or may appear very calm when talking as if the rape had not happened to her,'' Ms Ma said. This year the FPA gave a three-hour training course to a group of officers on attitudes towards rape victims. During the session, Ms Ma discovered that many officers believe that dressing inappropriately invites rape. Yet she noticed that the attitude of older officers towards the rape victim is better and more understanding than the younger ones. According to a police inspector who wishes to remain anonymous, sexual assault victims get very sympathetic treatment when they report to the police. ''There is at least one woman constable at every police station who takes down the statements because of the sensitivity of the case,'' he said. He pointed out that sexual assaults like rape and incest are placed under the category of serious offences. He believes there might be a few policemen who are not sympathetic, but said it depended on individual cases. Chief Inspector Josephine Lui of the Royal Hong Kong Police Detective Training School has been training CID officers for almost two years. She says the police are taught how to handle victims of a sexual offence. During the two-week course, which takes place twice a year, a special session is set aside to discuss the psychological aspect of sexual assault victims. So far, 88 officers have received training, six of them male officers. ''Every police constable has some basic training on how to handle such sensitive cases - such as how to comfort the victim. The standard procedure is to pick up key points during the interview with the victim to see if there is a case. ''Besides, we have a lot of experienced woman police officers,'' Ms Lui said. The police always call for rape victims to report the crime. ''We encourage them through the media and posters. It is necessary to report as we wouldn't want the rapist to be at large to commit more sexual offences.''