British Association for Sexual Health and HIV. National guidelines on the management of adult and adolescent complainants of sexual assault. 2011. (accessed 10 November 2021)

Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians. Recommendations for the collection of forensic specimens from complainants and suspects. 2021. (accessed 9 November 2021)

NHS England. Strategic direction for sexual assault and abuse services lifelong care for victims and survivors. 2018-2023. 2018. (accessed 9 November 2021)

NHS website. Help after rape and sexual assault. 2021. (accessed 10 November 2021)

Women’s Aid. What is domestic abuse?. 2021. (accessed 9 November 2021)

World Health Organization. Sexual health human rights and the law. 2015. (accessed 10 November 2021)

An insight into the work of sexual assault referral centres and the role of the forensic nurse examiner

09 December 2021
Volume 30 · Issue 22


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.

Register now to continue reading

Thank you for visiting British Journal of Nursing and reading some of our peer-reviewed resources for nurses. To read more, please register today. You’ll enjoy the following great benefits:

What's included

  • Limited access to clinical or professional articles

  • Unlimited access to the latest news, blogs and video content