There is no right or wrong way for you to be feeling right now. What’s most important is to go somewhere safe if possible and do what feels right for you.
After being assaulted, you may be affected emotionally and physically. You may be in shock. Only you can decide what you feel up to doing in the following hours, days or weeks.
There are lots of services that can help you going forward.
If you have been attacked in the last 8 days and would like specialist medical attention and a Forensic Medical exam you can go to your local Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).
Sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) offer medical, practical and emotional support. They have specially trained doctors, nurses and support workers.
SARCs in the South West
If you’re unsure which SARC to contact, please use this NHS tool to find your nearest SARC.
Examinations are carried out by a doctor or nurse specially trained in sexual assault forensic medicine. They will collect DNA evidence and log any injuries.
Any forensic medical evidence that is collected will be stored at the SARC. This will allow you time to decide if you do want to use this as part of a report the assault to the police in the future.
Things to consider:
- Keep and bag all your clothing, including any underwear that you were wearing at the time.
- If you haven’t already, do not shower, bathe or wash, brush your teeth or eat or drink. If you need a drink, make sure it is non-alcoholic, and use a straw if possible. Bring the straw or drinks container with you.
- Do not smoke if you can help it.
- Do not wash any bedding that the assault took place on
- If your attacker drank anything, smoked, chewed gum, used a condom or could have left DNA on anything, please put it in a separate bag.
You are able to have a forensic medical examination even if you have already washed or brushed your teeth.
If there is a possibility of pregnancy or having contracted a sexually transmitted infection, the SARC will be able to advise on further services available.
If you’re unsure about reporting to the police see our Reporting Pathway to find a variety of paths that you can take. You should only do what feels right for you.
If you are considering reporting the assault to the police, the SARC can arrange for you to have an informal talk with a police officer specially trained in supporting victims of sexual assault. They can talk you through the process and help to make sure you understand what’s going on at each stage.
There is no right or wrong way for you to respond after experiencing rape or sexual assault. Some people will want to report to the police and others will not.
The SARC staff will discuss the option of anonymous reporting with you.
A SARC will not pass your personal details to the Police when making an anonymous report unless you have given written consent.
There are specially trained advisers available in some SARCs or voluntary organisations to help people who have been sexually assaulted. Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAs) 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.
SARC services and ISVA support are free to all, whether a resident of the UK or not.