What to do if you’ve been sexually assaulted
If it happened recently or in the past or you’re not sure what happened,
find some information on your next possible steps below.
If you need to talk to someone about your options
you can call our helpline Monday-Thursday 10 am- 2 pm
or Tuesday and Thursday 6:30 pm- 9 pm.
Or head over to Rape Crisis for more options.
Further information and FAQs
What should I do?
As ISVAs we aren’t here to tell you what to do. We can give you information and answer any questions you have, but the decision is up to you.
You can talk to your friends and family, you can tell no one.
You can report to the police or you can just keep it to yourself.
All of these options are perfectly acceptable.
We don’t judge anyone’s decision, we just want to give you the information to help you decide what is best for you and support you in that decision.
If you don’t want to tell anyone or report to the police, you can still access our services.
What is an ISVA?
An ISVA is an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor; a trained specialist who offers non-judgemental, practical and emotional support to survivors of sexual abuse who are thinking of reporting to the police.
It is the ISVAs role to work with survivors and help them access support services and address long and short-term needs throughout the criminal justice process.
What is a SARC?
SARCs (sexual assault referral centres) are specialist medical and forensic services for anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted. They are designed to be comfortable and multi-functional, providing private space for interviews and forensic examinations, and some may also offer sexual health and counselling services. Their services are free of charge and provided to women, men, young people and children.
SARCs provide services to victims/survivors of rape or sexual assault regardless of whether the survivor/victim chooses to reports the offence to the police or not. They have specialist staff that are trained to help you make informed decisions about what you want to do next.
Click here to find your local SARC.
What happens during a forensic exam?
SARC staff will help you to understand the choices available to you and you will choose what services you want to use.
You do not have to talk to the police unless you want to.
When you arrive
You will meet a SARC Support Coordinator who will sit down with you and talk to you about your options.
This may include arranging for somebody to check your immediate physical and sexual health needs.
They will work with you at your pace and you will not need to tell them every detail about what has happened. They won’t insist that you tell the police but they will want to make sure that you are safe.
If there is an option for a forensic medical examination, this will be arranged and SARC staff will talk with you to answer any questions you might have.
The examination will collect evidence that might help with your investigation if you have reported to the police or if you decide you might want to go to the police at a later date.
The collection of forensic evidence can include an intimate examination but may also include the collection of clothing and other items.
It is better to get this done as early as possible after the assault so that evidence is not lost.
After the Examination
You may be offered emergency contraception or a pregnancy test if you think you may be pregnant.
You might be offered post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to reduce the risk of HIV infection.
Some SARCs provide STI testing, but if they don’t they can arrange appointments with local Sexual Health Clinics at an appropriate time for you.
If you have already reported, SARC staff can work in partnership with the police to support you through the process.
If you are thinking about reporting, they can explain what this will involve and can support you to take the next steps.
They offer a judgement-free service and provide support regardless of whether you choose to report or not.
Do I need to hire a solicitor?
If you choose to report, the police will investigate the crime independently. Your case will be prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service, an independent agency. A barrister will be appointed to represent the state and present the case to the courts.
Because you are the victim of a crime it is the responsibility of the country to represent you.
You are classed as a witness in the case. This also means there are some details you will not be permitted to know as it could influence your evidence.
How to support a victim of sexual assault
Your friend, relative or partner is trying to make sense of what has happened. It can take time but with your support, you can help to ease their trauma and come to terms with the assault.
Click here for more information
What does the police investigation and court process look like?
Click this link for more information on the police and court process in a sexual assault investigation.