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Information & resources


Here is some useful advice & information relating to questions we get asked a lot that will hopefully reassure you and let you know what happens when you are supported by the dedicated SARC team.

We have also provided details of a wide range of specialist local and national agencies that support men, women & children that have been affected by the trauma of rape and sexual assault. We are all here to help you so please don’t feel you are alone.


What are consent, rape & serious sexual assault?

  • Consent: This must be fully & freely given by someone with the capacity to do so. If a person says yes to a sexual act out of fear of the consequences this is not consent. If someone is under the influence of alcohol or drugs consent should never be assumed. Consent should not be assumed and a person should have a reasonable belief that consent has been given. If a person is asleep or very drunk it should not be assumed that they are consenting just because they haven't said ‘no'. It should also not be assumed that because two people are married, in a relationship or have had sex before that there is consent to any further sexual activity.
  • Rape: Rape is when a person intentionally penetrates a vagina, anus or mouth with a penis without consent. Rape can only be committed by a male as it involves a penis but both males and females can be the victims. Rape is a serious crime. 
  • Assault by penetration: Assault by penetration is when a person intentionally penetrates the vagina or anus of another person with a part of their body or anything else without consent. This can include inserting a finger or using an object i.e. a sex toy. This can be committed by males and females and the victim can be either gender.


When does it become rape?
As soon as someone's mouth, vagina or anus has been penetrated by a penis, that is rape, no matter how long for or whether the offender ejaculates or not. Penetration is to any degree. The law considers that children under 13 cannot give their consent to any sexual activity therefore any penetration of the mouth, vagina or anus of a person under that age is automatically rape. The age at which children can legally consent to sexual activity is 16 so it is an offence to have sex with a child who is between the ages of 13 and 16 even if that child is willing to participate, although as there is the element of consent it is not rape. In some circumstances, for example a teacher/pupil relationship or other position of trust is unlawful to have sex with someone under 18.


How can I make an appointment?
You can only use our services if you have an appointment so please phone us on 01603 276381 to arrange this. This number is available 24/7.


Will my family and friends have to be told?
You choose who you tell. The Centre will not tell anyone you have attended without your consent (unless we are concerned about your safety in which case we will discuss this with you). However it might be better to tell those closest to you so that they can help and support you.


Does it cost anything?
No. This is a free service for victims of rape and sexual assault. The service is funded by NHS England and the police.


If I am having a medical examination will it hurt?
The nurse will want to have a careful look at you to check for any injuries and make sure you are ok. The examination should not be painful. The nurse will explain what she is doing and you can ask the nurse to stop at any point.


How long will I be at the SARC?
The average time someone is at the centre when they come for a forensic examination is 3 – 5 hours. The actual examination will vary from person to person but usually takes 20 – 30 minutes. If you have an appointment to discuss abuse that happened in the past your appointment with the crisis worker usually lasts about an hour.


Can a friend or family member come with me?
Yes, if you would like someone to come with you that’s fine. They can wait in our lounge area or if you having an examination you are more than welcome to have someone else in the medical room with you if you want, this could be a friend, partner or relative, it’s up to you. It is your choice who supports you whilst you are at the SARC.


Will the nurse be male or female?
All of our nurses are female.


Can I be tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) at the SARC?
We strongly recommend that clients who have been raped or sexually assaulted have a full STI test. We do not carry out testing at the SARC but we can make an appointment for you to attend your local sexual health clinic or we can provide you with their details if you wish to arrange this yourself. If you need help getting to your appointment your ISVA can help with this and can support you during your time at the clinic.


Will I be able to change my clothes?
Yes. If you have reported the matter to the police it is sometimes necessary for us to take the clothes you have been wearing as evidence as part of the investigation. If you are able to bring a change of clothes please do so or we can provide clothing for you.


Do I have to report to the police?
You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. You can access all of the services at the SARC, including a forensic medical examination with or without police involvement. You may feel able / want to make a report to the police at a later stage. Our staff can support you with this and tell you what’s involved.


If I do report to the police how long will it take to get to court?
Not all cases proceed to court for a number of reasons; however, if the case does progress it may take 6 – 18 months.


Will I get help during the court case?
Of course, one of the key roles of the Independent Sexual Advisor (ISVA) is to support you throughout the criminal justice process. They will keep you informed of what’s happening in your case and if it goes to trial they can arrange for a pre-trial visit to the court so you know what to expect on the day. They will also support you at the trial if this is what you would like.


Can I receive compensation?
You may be entitled to criminal injuries compensation. Your ISVA will discuss this with you and help you complete any necessary forms where appropriate.