Sexual Assault Resource Centre

Women and Newborn Health Service

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24 Hour Emergency Line

08 6458 1828

1800 199 888
(freecall from landlines)


Have you been sexually assaulted or sexually abused?

» What can I do if I have been sexually assaulted in the previous two weeks?
» What you can expect at SARC
» Have you been sexually assaulted or sexually abused in the past?
» What do I do if I want to report to police?

What can I do if I have been sexually assaulted in the previous two weeks?

In most situations, what happens after a sexual assault is your choice. You can choose to see a doctor, to go to the police or to do nothing. However, it is a good idea to see a doctor as soon as possible to make sure any medical issues, such as sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancy or injuries are addressed. The doctor will be able to provide better care if they know about the assault, but you can choose how much detail you want to tell.

The doctors and counsellors at SARC offer a range of services to people who have been sexually assaulted (or raped) in the past two weeks. It is up to you what services you want to accept.

Medical care

The SARC doctor’s first priority is treating urgent health issues. If you have a serious medical condition or injury, you will be referred to a hospital emergency department for treatment. A SARC doctor and counsellor will then be called to see you. If you are not injured, you will be seen at SARC.

The SARC doctor can provide you with advice and treatment. This includes information on the risk of pregnancy, emergency contraception and prevention for some sexually transmitted infections. You can ask for your medical test results to be given to your own doctor.

SARC also offers medical follow-up. This involves swabs and blood tests to check for infection. We can arrange for your own doctor to provide the follow-up if you prefer.

 

Forensic examination

A forensic examination can be undertaken by the SARC doctor. This is an important way of collecting evidence of a sexual assault to be used in future court proceedings if you report the assault to the police. The aim of the examination is to collect and document evidence. It may include:

  • Taking a history of the assault
  • Documenting your general health
  • Collecting samples of physical evidence such as taking swabs for DNA
  • Taking photographs of injuries or bruises (photographs are not taken of the genital area)
  • Collecting clothing worn when the assault occurred
  • Writing a medico-legal report on your physical condition

In most cases a forensic examination is undertaken within hours of SARC being contacted. Although DNA can still be found 7-10 days after an assault, the sooner you come to SARC the better, as this will enable collection of the best evidence.

In regional areas, SARC forensic kits are used by doctors or specially trained nurses to collect forensic evidence on your behalf.

 

Counselling

A SARC counsellor is present throughout the medical and forensic examination to support you with the immediate impact of the sexual assault. Counselling is also available in the future, if you request it.

SARC can provide the support of an Aboriginal worker for Aboriginal people and their family, if this is requested.

 

How do I access these services?

You can call the SARC Emergency Service 24-hours-a-day on (08) 6458 1828 or (freecall) 1800 199 888 and speak to a duty counsellor.

What you can expect at SARC

People coming to SARC after a sexual assault are seen by a SARC doctor and counsellor in a confidential and safe setting. They can spend between two to four hours at SARC. This allows time for people to talk about their experience at their own pace. The services we provide are carefully explained and people are supported in choosing the services which are right for them. SARC also encourages the support of partners, family or friends at this time.

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Have you been sexually assaulted or sexually abused in the past?

Sexual violence can have a lasting impact on a person’s life. It can affect relationships and can impact on a person’s sense of self worth. Many people find that counselling is helpful.

SARC provides counselling to people who have been sexually assaulted or sexually abused. You can choose to see a female or male counsellor. The counsellor will focus on your feelings and your reactions and together with you will explore strategies to help you to heal and feel in control of your life.

In counselling, you can expect to:

  • Be treated with dignity, respect and understanding
  • Be believed
  • Have an opportunity to express feelings and thoughts without being judged
  • Receive accurate information
  • Make decisions in your own time
  • Communicate in your own language, with the help of an interpreter if required

Counselling is also available for partners, family and friends.

SARC does not provide counselling services to perpetrators of sexual assault or sexual abuse.

How do I access this service?

Call SARC during business hours on (08) 6458 1828 or (freecall) 1800 199 888 if you want to see a counsellor or attend a group at SARC.

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What do I do if I want to report to the police?

You may decide you want to report the sexual assault or sexual abuse to the police. This is an individual decision which only YOU can make.

Some of the reasons why people choose to go to the police are:

  • To feel believed
  • To feel empowered
  • Because they don’t want it to happen to anyone else
  • Because they want justice
  • To let the perpetrator know that what they did was wrong

People also choose NOT to go to the police. This is a personal choice and the reasons for this may be because:

  • They think they will not be believed
  • They feel humiliated or guilty
  • They think it’s their fault
  • They know the person who assaulted or abused them
  • The person who assaulted or abused them has threatened them if they told anyone
  • They are afraid to go to court

You can choose the following:

  • You can choose to do nothing.
  • If you are unsure about reporting, you can speak to the police informally, either on the telephone or in person. The police will tell you about your options, but they will not do anything unless you want them to.
  • You can make an informal report.This means the police will write down what happened, however you sign a statement saying that you do not want the matter investigated.
  • You can make a formal statement. This means a full report of the incident is typed and signed by you when you are satisfied with the contents. A report can take several hours to complete. The police will then investigate the incident. If you change your mind later you must tell the police as soon as possible. However, if the police have already charged someone, you cannot withdraw your statement. During the investigation the police might ask you to take them to the place where you were assaulted so they can gather evidence. They may also interview any witnesses to the assault.

In Western Australia sexual assault and sexual abuse are ‘crimes against the state’. This means the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions decide whether they have sufficient evidence to prove ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that a crime has occurred. If you make a formal statement to the police, you become a witness to the crime. The police or the Director of Public Prosecutions decides whether they have enough evidence to ‘press charges’. If the police do not lay charges it does not mean that they do no believe you. Sometimes there is not enough evidence for charges to be laid. This can leave people feeling disillusioned and denied justice. It can help to talk about these feelings with a counsellor or advocate.

Going to court can make you feel empowered, but it can also be a confusing and frightening experience. You can talk to someone at Victim Support Services to get information about the court proceedings. Victim Support Services also have support workers who can go to court with you.

Trials usually take place in the District Court, unless the offender is under 18 years of age. It can take up to two years between the time of the initial report to the police and the trial. Some cases do not go to trial because there is not enough evidence. This does not mean that you were not believed.

Regardless of the outcome of the trial, people often feel better knowing that they were able to speak out about their experience, even if the verdict is 'not guilty'.

SARC staff respect and support ANY decision you make, regardless of whether you decide to go to the police or not.


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