This page is for people over 18, options and advice may be different for people under 18, please see – FAQ for Children and Young people

I don’t know what to do…..

It can be hard to know what to do, what to feel or what options are available following a sexual assault. We are here to provide you with information about what your options are and what will happen if you decide to report to the Police.

Telling someone about what has happened to you is a very big step and we will support you from the moment you contact us. You are not on your own.

Do the Police have to be involved?

If you are unsure about telling the Police and you are over 18, we can still do a forensic medical assessment to provide you with medical care and collect DNA evidence without police involvement. The medical assessment will still happen in the same way but there will be a second crisis worker to help with the medical assessment and record evidence, instead of a police officer

How do I report to the Police?

To report to the Police you can call the non-emergency Police line on 101 or of course dial 999 if you are in danger. You will be asked to give a brief account of what has happened and they will arrange for an officer to come and see you.

The police officer may arrange for you to complete a video interview (this is called an ABE, which stands for Achieving Best Evidence. This is in a discreet location and not at a Police station. The interview will be in a soundproof room with comfortable sofas. The camera and microphones are very small (like a light switch on the wall) to help you relax and make it easier for you to talk about what happened. The police officer may also organise a forensic medical assessment with a doctor or nurse to help with any medical needs and collect any evidence that might be helpful (please see below for more detail).

Can DNA evidence be collected?

If a sexual assault has occurred recently there may be evidence, such as DNA, which can be collected as ‘forensic samples’ to help support the police investigation. There are variable timeframes for this, which we can work out for you. The police may be able to collect some samples, such as swabs of your hands or mouth or collecting your clothes or bedding. However, some samples such as those from more intimate places, or blood samples will need to be collected by a specially trained doctor or nurse. To do this, the police will organise a forensic medical assessment for you. The doctor or nurse will also assess and document any injuries and will be able to provide you with healthcare advice and support.

If you do not want to report to the police at this time, we can still organise a forensic medical assessment to collect any evidence that might be needed in the future, should you decide to report at a later date.

What happens when I arrive?

When you arrive at the medical suite a Crisis Worker will meet you. They are specially trained to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible and support you from the moment you arrive until you leave.  The Crisis worker will ask you some questions, and introduce you to the nurse or doctor who will also ask some questions. Your answers will:

  • Help them decide what examination needs to be done and what samples should be collected. They will ensure that they do not take any unnecessary samples to help speed up the process for you.
  • Identify any medical needs the doctor or nurse can help you with, such as giving you the morning after pill or referring you to a sexual health clinic
  • Help them decide what support might be helpful to you after the medical assessment

We have a video you can watch

If I had a medical assessment who would be there? Can I bring someone with me?

You can come alone or you can bring with you a friend or family member who you trust and feel safe with. You will also have a Crisis Worker who can sit with you and support you whilst you have your medical assessment.

There will be a doctor or nurse, who will ask you questions and do a medical examination and collect any samples that are required. There will also be either an officer or another crisis worker who will write down your account and record what evidence is collected.

How long does a medical assessment take?

A medical assessment will be tailor-made to suit you, and therefore the time it takes can vary. We always aim to complete it as soon as we can but usually it will take several hours for us to complete everything. The examination does not hurt and you can have breaks or ask us to stop at any time.

What if I’ve caught something?

The doctor or nurse will, if needed and only with your consent, make a referral to your local Sexual Health clinic who will be able to test for a range of sexually transmitted infection and give you any treatment that you need. If we refer you, the sexual health clinic will contact you after a few days to arrange an appointment.

Could I be pregnant?

The doctor or nurse will make an assessment of the risk of pregnancy and if needed, they can provide you with emergency contraception (the ‘morning after pill’). The doctor or nurse will also be able to do a pregnancy test if needed.

What happens to any evidence that is collected?

If you have a forensic medical assessment arranged by the police, they will take all the samples that have been collected during the medical assessment. They will then process the samples as they are required to help with the investigation.

If you have not reported to the police and we have organised your medical assessment, then we take all the samples after the medical assessment. These will then be stored securely by the police but they will be anonymous, so the police will not know the samples relate to you and they will not be able to process them unless you decide to report what has happened to the police. The sample will be stored for two years or until you decide we can release them to the police.

Who finds out?

If you have reported this crime to the Police, they will carry out an investigation. This may mean speaking to the suspect and other witnesses. If you have concerns about this, speak to the officer who can discuss a safety plan with you.

Your GP will not be informed unless you ask us to contact them in which case we can send them a letter.

If you have not reported to the police and you tell us something which makes us concerned about your safety or the safety of others, we might have to share that information. This will be explained before you talk to us about anything, otherwise the information you share with us is completely confidential.

What happens after a medical assessment?

If you have reported to the police, a referral to the Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVA) can be made by the Crisis Worker if you choose. The ISVA’s will call you to arrange an appointment and they will support you all the way through the criminal process.

If you have not reported to the police, then someone from the SARC will contact you a few days after your forensic medical examination to see how you are and if there is any more support we can offer you.

Who can help me if this happened a long time ago?

If you would like to report to the Police we can support you through that process. We can initially meet for an ‘options’ meeting to explain what would happen. If you do want to report to the Police then an ISVA will support you through the criminal justice process. If you decide not to report there are other services which we can signpost you to.

Is it too late to report?

It is never too late to report. All reports made to the Police are taken seriously and are investigated where possible.

What if it goes to court?

If your case goes to trial and it is in Devon or Cornwall, your ISVA can accompany you on a pre-trial court visit, so that you know what the court looks like and what will be expected of you. Your ISVA will be with you to support you at the trial. If your trial is happening out of area, we will make sure you have support from someone who works locally to the court.

Can I give information to the Police anonymously?

Yes. At the SARC we offer a service whereby an ISVA will complete an anonymous information form with you that includes details of the offence / offences. This is passed to the Police anonymously. They will check to see if there are any current risks to anyone and would take the necessary action but do not open an investigation.

Please call us for any further information regarding any questions you might have


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