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sexual assault referral centres

What is a SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre)?

SARCs are specialist medical and forensic services for anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted.

They aim to be a one-stop service providing medical care and forensic examination in a single location, usually in the immediate aftermath of a rape or sexual assault.  If you report a rape or sexual assault to the police, they may take you to your nearest SARC for forensic medical examination and the SARC might also have the facilities for you to give your police statement there, rather than at a police station.

Most SARCs offer emotional and practical support from a dedicated crisis worker and some provide longer-term support such as counselling and advocacy, though most refer out to other local specialist agencies, such as Rape Crisis organisations, for these ongoing services.

SARCs are funded and run in partnership, usually between the NHS, police and sometimes the voluntary sector.

Most SARCs are able to offer medical services to anyone, including those who do not wish to report the assault to the police (‘self referrals'). Service users can then chose whether they would like to inform the police at a later stage and have their samples stored whilst they are considering what to do next. It is hoped that through this option service users can take back some control over what is happening whilst allowing more time to make such an important decision.

In order to preserve any evidence that may be present it is vital that help from the SARC is accessed as immediately as possible after an assault. In addition, SARC's can advise on and assist with other medical needs. For information and to book an appointment, phone the SARC nearest to you.

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