What is a SARC?
A Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) can offer confidential medical, practical and emotional support to people who have recently been raped or sexually assaulted.
If you need urgent medical attention, call 999 and ask for an ambulance. Or you can go straight to your nearest A&E (accident and emergency) department.
If you have recently been raped or sexually assaulted, you can get help and support at a SARC, if there is one in your area. You can find your nearest SARC on the NHS website.
How do I access a SARC?
You can go to a SARC without talking to the police or a doctor. The best way to do this is usually to phone them.
You can find the phone number of your nearest SARC on the NHS website.
What happens at the SARC?
SARCs are designed to be as private and comfortable for you as possible. At the SARC, staff are specially trained to work with people who have been raped or sexually assaulted.
A support worker, nurse or doctor will talk to you about what has happened, and give you information. They can also support you through how you are feeling right after a rape or sexual assault.
You can get a pregnancy test, emergency contraception, and a test for STIs (sexually transmitted infections).
You can also choose to have a forensic medical examination. You can do this whether or not you think you will report to the police.
Will I have to tell anyone else?
You don’t have to tell anyone about what has happened if you aren’t ready to.
Everything that happens at the SARC is private and confidential. This means they won't tell anyone else about what has happened without your consent (unless a child or vulnerable adult is in danger).
You also won’t have to report anything to the police, unless you decide that you want to.
If you're not ready to talk to your friends or family, but do want someone to talk to, you can talk to us.
What is a forensic medical examination?
At a SARC, you can have a forensic medical examination.
During a forensic medical examination, a doctor or nurse will examine you and collect samples. These can be used as evidence if you do decide to report a rape or sexual assault to the police, now or in the future.
During the examination, a trained doctor or nurse will ask you some health questions. They will take swabs from anywhere you have been touched. They might take blood and urine samples, or keep your clothing. They might also take photographs of any injuries.
The doctor or nurse should explain what they are going to do before and during the examination. They won’t do anything without your consent.
After the examination, you will be offered a shower and a change of clothes.
Do I have to report to the police if I go to a SARC?
You can get help and support at a SARC whether or not you want to speak to the police, or if you haven't made up your mind yet.
At the SARC, you can decide at any stage if you would like a forensic medical examination.
Once you have had a forensic medical examination, there is still no pressure to report. The SARC can store anything they collect during the examination until you have decided what you want to do. This can give you more time to think about your next steps.
Some people who have a forensic medical examination don’t go on to report to the police. No-one should make you feel any pressure to report or not – that decision should be totally up to you.