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SARCs

If you have recently been raped or sexually assaulted, you can visit a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) for medical and practical support.

A Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) can offer confidential medical and practical support to people who have recently been raped or sexually assaulted. SARCs are usually provided by the NHS. SARCs are not Rape Crisis member services but often work alongside us.

If you are in danger or need urgent medical attention, call 999.

If you have recently been raped or sexually assaulted, you can visit a SARC, if there is one in your area.

At a SARC, you can get medical and practical support. You can:

  • Get a forensic medical examination to collect forensic evidence. You can do this whether or not you report to the police.
  • Get medical help for any injuries.
  • Get free pregnancy and STI tests.

You don't have to report to the police to visit a SARC. They can also store any evidence they collect, in case you might want to report in the future.

You can find your nearest SARC on the NHS website.

Find your nearest SARC

If you think you want a forensic medical examination, try not to:

  • Eat or drink.
  • Smoke.
  • Wash yourself.
  • Brush your teeth.
  • Change your clothes.
  • Go to the toilet. If you have to go to the toilet, you can do this into a clean container.

We know that this can be really hard.

If you have already done some of those things, don’t worry – it’s not too late to collect evidence.

Find out more below.

Forensic medical examinations

It's totally up to you whether or not you report to the police. You can do this at any time in the future.

But, if you've been raped or sexually assaulted very recently, there might be forensic evidence that can be collected. This evidence might help your case if it does go to court.

Evidence can be collected during a forensic medical examination. This usually takes place at a SARC.

If you want this evidence to be collected, you need to get a medical forensic examination as soon as you can. You have the best chance of evidence being collected in the first 72 hours (3 days).

Having a forensic medical examination doesn't mean you have to report to the police.

Any evidence collected during the examination can be stored. If you do decide to make a report in the future, this evidence can then be shared with the police.

Some people decide that they don't want to report to the police. Or, some choose to report to the police once they have had time to think about their options.

If you’re not sure, you can have the examination and still have plenty of time to think about what you want to do.


What do I need to do?

If you decide that you do want a forensic medical examination, there are some things you can do to give the best possible chance of collecting evidence.

Try not to:

  • Eat or drink.
  • Smoke.
  • Wash yourself.
  • Brush your teeth.
  • Change your clothes.
  • Go to the toilet. If you have to go to the toilet, you can do this into a clean container.

If you have already done some of those things, don’t worry – it’s not too late to collect evidence and you can still make a report.

If you have already changed your clothes or brushed your teeth, put your unwashed clothes or used toothbrush in a clean bag.

When you are ready, contact your local SARC and they will let you know what to do next.

During a forensic medical examination

During a forensic medical examination, a doctor or nurse will be looking for traces of bodily fluids, skin or hair that might have been left by the attacker.

They 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.

These can all be used as evidence if you do decide to report a rape or sexual assault to the police, now or in the future.

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.

You should also be able to consent to some parts of the examination and not others – or stop altogether if you change your mind.

What else happens at the SARC?

At a SARC, you can get medical and practical support.

You can:

  • Get medical help for any injuries.
  • Get free pregnancy and STI tests.

A support worker, nurse or doctor will talk to you about what has happened, and give you information.

Some SARCs might help you get access to an ISVA, further emotional support, or counselling - or they might put you in touch with your local Rape Crisis centre.

You can also contact your local Rape Crisis Centre directly if you want more support.

Has something happened recently?

We know this is a lot to think about when you might be feeling very upset, confused or overwhelmed.

If you do get in touch with one of our helplines or your local Centre, we can help.

We will never judge you or tell you what to do. You can take it at your own pace.

Find out more
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