Safety and first aid

Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) crisis service questions

How long will the examination last?

When you arrive at SARC, you will be met by the SARC doctor and counsellor. You will be taken to a private room where the doctor and counsellor will tell you about the services they can provide. The doctor will take a medical history and ask you about the sexual assault. You will have time to talk about this at your own pace. The doctor will provide you with medical care and undertake a forensic examination, if this is what you want. The duration of an examination depends on a number of factors such as the number of samples required or the number of injuries to be documented. After the examination you may want to have a shower and change your clothes.

The majority of people are at SARC between 2 and 4 hours.

Who will be with me during the examination?

The SARC doctor and counsellor will be present throughout the examination. The doctor has a medico-legal responsibility to provide medical care and undertake a forensic examination. The counsellor is there to provide you with support.

Can a friend or family member come into the examination with me?

If you are very upset, you may want a friend or a family member to be with you during the initial period when you talk about the incident, however it is usually easier to talk about these matters when those close to you are not present.

Family and friends are not usually allowed into the medical and forensic examination unless you are under 16 years of age or you need special support because you have a disability.

The counsellor will support you during the medical and forensic examination. They are trained to understand what is happening and when. You will find this very reassuring as the counsellor will explain the procedure to you and make sure you are comfortable to continue. The counsellor will intervene on your behalf if they believe you need a break or you can ask them to intervene if you don’t think you can do this yourself.

Does the examination hurt?

No, the examination should not be a painful experience. As with any intimate examination it is more uncomfortable than painful and is similar to having a Pap smear. We understand how upsetting it is to have an internal examination and we try to carry this out as quickly as possible.

If you are in pain or do not want the examination to continue, you can tell the counsellor who will ask for the procedure to stop. You are always in control of the examination.

Will you tell my family?

No, the decision to tell your family is entirely up to you.

However, if you are under 18 years of age, the SARC doctor is legally required to make a report to the Department for Child Protection. No further action will be taken unless it is believed that you are at risk, in which case your parent or guardian will be notified.

Can I choose to have a male or female doctor or counsellor?

All SARC doctors are female; however the counsellors are male and female.

All of our counsellors are trained psychologists or social workers who understand how difficult this experience may be. They will support you in a professional and caring manner. However, if you are not happy with the gender of the counsellor, you can advise the duty counsellor when you telephone and we will try to locate another counsellor.

Counsellors do not ‘watch’ the medical examination – they are in the room to provide you with support.

When will I get the results?

A SARC doctor or nurse will contact you within 2 weeks of your visit to let you know about the results of blood tests for infection.

Can I take a shower after the examination?

Yes, SARC has a private bathroom attached to the examination room where you can have a shower and wash your hair. Toiletries and towels are provided. The facilities are appropriate for people with disabilities.

If possible, it is a good idea to bring a change of clothes with you. This is because the clothes you were wearing when the assault occurred will be kept for forensic analysis. SARC is able to supply you with underwear and clothing if required, but these will not be as familiar or comforting as wearing your own clothing.

Do I have to tell the police?

If you have already reported to the police, they provide SARC with a special form. The SARC doctor is then required by law to hand over any forensic samples that are taken.

If you have not yet reported then it is entirely your decision whether or not you report to police. SARC doctors can take forensic samples and keep these for up to 3 months to give you time to decide.

If you decide when you are at SARC that you want police involved, we will help you to contact the Police Sexual Assault Squad.

If you definitely do not want police involved, we will not tell them or try to encourage you to report. Reporting is entirely up to you.

See also What to do if you want to report sexual assault to the police.

Can you use my report to lay criminal charges?

No. Only you can make a report to the police. If you wish to make a report you can do so by calling the Police Sexual Assault Squad on 9428 1600.

How will I know if my drink was spiked?

The most common substance used for drink spiking is alcohol. This may make it difficult for you to be able to tell yourself. If you think you may have had a drink spiked, SARC can test for foreign substances up to 72 hours after the spike. We are more likely to get a result the sooner you are seen – preferably within the first 12 hours.

You can stop your drink being spiked by:

  • not leaving your drink unattended
  • watching if someone else pours your drink
  • drinking from cans or bottles that have not been opened
  • staying close to your friends and leaving together.

If someone you are with has had their drink spiked, stay close to them and take them to a safe place. If they are unwell, you should take them to the closest hospital emergency department.

I can’t remember what happened – will you be able to tell me if I’ve been sexually assaulted?

The female genital area can heal very rapidly and in most cases there are no signs of sexual activity having taken place. The SARC doctor will tell you if they see anything that might indicate that penetration has occurred, but unfortunately this is rarely the case.

At SARC we can screen for sexually transmitted infections and provide prevention against some infections and unwanted pregnancy. Our counsellors will also ensure you are well supported emotionally.

Can I wait and see if there is any forensic evidence and then report to police?

No. You must make a report before the SARC doctor can hand over forensic samples to the police for analysis.

Where to get help

Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC)

  • 24 hour emergency line for recent sexual assault – phone 9340 1828 or 1800 199 888 (free from land line only)
  • Emergency telephone counselling between 8.30am and 11.00pm daily – phone 9340 1828

Alternatively

  • In an emergency situation, go to the nearest hospital emergency department
  • See your doctor

Acknowledgements
Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC)

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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