If you’ve been sexually assaulted If you’ve been sexually assaulted, there are services that can help. You don’t have to report the assault to police if you don’t want to. You may need time to think about what has happened to you. However, consider getting medical help as soon as possible, because you may be at risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you want the crime to be investigated, the sooner a forensic medical examination takes place, the better. Try not to wash or change your clothes immediately after a sexual assault. This may destroy forensic evidence that could be important if you decide to report the assault to the police. Where you go for help will depend on what’s available in your area and what you want to do. For specialist medical attention and sexual violence support, whether you decide to have a forensic medical examination or not, your first point of call is a sexual assault referral centre (SARC). The following services will also provide treatment or support, and can refer you to another service if you need more specialist help (such as a SARC): a doctor or practice nurse at your GP surgery a voluntary organisation, such as Women’s Aid, Victim Support, The Survivors Trust or Survivors UK (for male victims of sexual assault) the free, 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 the Rape Crisis national freephone helpline on 0808 802 9999 (12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm every day of the year) a hospital accident and emergency (A&E) department a genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexual health clinic a contraceptive clinic a young people’s service NHS 111 the police, or dial 101 in an emergency, dial 999 Sexual assault referral centres Sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) offer medical, practical and emotional support. They have specially trained doctors, nurses and support workers to care for you. If you decide to report the assault to the police, they can arrange for you to attend a SARC for medical care and, if you wish, a forensic medical examination. If you have not reported the assault to the police, you can still refer yourself to a SARC for assessment and medical treatment to prevent some STIs and pregnancy. If you refer yourself to a SARC and are considering reporting the assault to the police, the centre can arrange for you to have an informal talk with a specially trained police officer, who can explain what is involved. There are also specially trained advisers available in some SARCs or voluntary organisations to help people who have been sexually assaulted. These independent sexual violence advisers (ISVA) can help victims get access to the other support services they need. They will also support you through the criminal justice system if you decide to report the assault to the police, including supporting you through the trial, should the case go to court. You can tell someone you trust first, such as a friend, relative or teacher, who can help you get the support you need. SARC services and ISVA support are free to all, whether a resident of the UK or not. TheSite is an organisation for young people that has made a video about what to expect if you visit a SARC. People of all ages may find this video useful. Forensic medical examination If you have been sexually assaulted, you don’t have to have a forensic medical examination. However, it can provide useful evidence if the case goes to court. You can decide at any stage if you would like a forensic medical examination. However, the sooner this takes place, the more chance of collecting evidence. If the assault occurred more than seven days ago, it is still worth asking for advice from a SARC or the police about a forensic medical examination. The forensic medical examination usually takes place at a SARC or in a police suite. The examination is carried out by a doctor or nurse specially trained in sexual assault forensic medicine. The doctor or nurse will ask any relevant health questions – for example, about the assault or any recent sexual activity. They will take samples, such as swabs from anywhere you have been kissed, touched or had anything inserted. They will also take urine and blood samples and occasionally hair, depending on the information you provide about the assault, and also retain some clothing and other items. If you haven’t decided whether to involve the police, any forensic medical evidence that’s collected will be stored at the SARC to allow you time to decide if you do want to report the assault.