An insight into the work of sexual assault referral centres and the role of the forensic nurse examiner
It is more likely than ever that healthcare staff of all grades and in all settings will encounter cases of sexual assault, so it is crucial that they know how to respond appropriately to support survivors. Health and social care workers engage with clients in a range of situations, which means that they are well placed for such disclosure. In some cases, particularly if the assault is a recent incident, time is of the essence to ensure that there is no loss of evidence that could be crucial in gaining a conviction. This article explores the role of a sexual assault referral centre (SARC), a service that few people know about or think they will ever need. The type of sexual activity that constitutes a criminal offence will be discussed and information presented that offers direction for those who want to involve the police, and for those who do not. Links to a range of organisations are also included that survivors of recent or historic sexual assault can access for support and advice.
The subject of this article is timely. Sexual violence and issues of consent and respect are frequently in the headlines as survivors find a voice and the courage to come forward. Events following the death of Sarah Everard in London earlier this year and the increasing number of survivors anonymously disclosing sexual assault via the ‘Everyone’s Invited’ platform cannot have gone unnoticed. Other high-profile historic sexual abuse offences, such as those perpetrated by convicted serial paedophile Barry Bennell and, more recently, Reynhard Sinaga, the 36-year-old PhD student convicted of 159 sexual offences against 48 men, run alongside reports of child sex exploitation, sex trafficking and drink spiking. Raising public awareness means that it is more likely than ever that healthcare staff of all grades and in all settings will have clients who will disclose a sexual assault, recent or historic, and it is crucial that they know how to respond appropriately to achieve the best outcome for survivors.
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