Sexual assault is a terrifying, humiliating and traumatic experience and we understand you will probably be feeling afraid and confused about what to do next. If unsure, you can telephone us for advice before making a decision as to what to do.
We understand that there are circumstances that can lead to you not being able to remember some, or all of the events. This can be because assaults are often traumatic and shocking, but also alcohol and/or drugs may have been involved which can affect your memory. This is nothing to be ashamed about, and it does not mean nothing happened or that it was your fault. Under the law a person can only consent to sexual activity if they choose to do so.
Immediately after an attack:
It is important that you are safe – if your health is at risk, or you are in danger, then call the emergency services on 999, and if you are able, try to go to a safe place.
If you choose to report the crime to police (Police referral):
If you decide you want to report the crime, notify the police immediately. Reporting the crime can help to ensure your safety and the safety of other potential victims.
A specially trained officer (Sexual Offence Liaison Officer) will bring you to The Meadows to ensure you receive support in an anonymous environment and you will be offered a forensic medical examination which will be carried out in a sensitive and respectful way by an experienced doctor. The examination will take place only with your consent and will include a ‘head-to-toe’ examination to check for injury as well as collecting forensic evidence such as swabs, urine and blood samples. A friend or relative can stay with you during the examination if you wish.
It is important that the medical examination is carried out as soon as possible after the assault to help capture any forensic evidence. If you do choose to undergo a forensic medical examination it is advisable not to shower, bathe, wash, or brush your teeth until after the examination, and to preserve any clothing worn at the time of the assault.
The doctor will then be able to advise you of any medical treatment you may need afterwards, including advice on sexual health screening, as well as provide post exposure medication and emergency contraception.
Following the examination you will be offered a shower and a change of clothing.
The specially trained officer will also take a comprehensive account of the offence when you are ready to do so.
You will be offered specialist rape counselling appointments, a sexual health screening appointment, and the support of an independent sexual violence advocate.
If you choose not to report the crime (Non-police referral):
If you are unsure, or do not want to report the crime to police, you can call The Meadows to discuss the options open to you. You will be offered all the services of a non-police referral (see details above).
Forensic Medical Examination
If you choose to undertake a forensic medical examination all evidential samples will be stored confidentially at The Meadows in the event that you later decide to report the assault to police. (These samples will be stored within The Meadows for a period of 6 years and will automatically be destroyed after that period).
If you do choose to undertake a forensic medical examination, to preserve as much evidence as possible we advise the following:-
- Try not to wash, bathe, shower, or brush teeth prior to examination
- Keep and do not wash any clothing and underwear worn at the time of offence, or shortly afterward. Put them in separate bags if possible.
- Try not to go to the toilet, or if you do need the toliet keep any used toilet tissue if possible
- Keep any sanitary protection worn at the time of the incident
- Keep any discarded condoms used during the incident
- Keep and do not wash any bedding used in the incident
- If the attacker drank anything, keep the unwashed glass / cup
- If the attacker smoked cigarettes or chewed gum, keep any cigarette ends (bagged) or discarded gum (store bagged in fridge)
If you’re able to do any of these things, even though they may be difficult for you, the evidence you can preserve is likely to be of great help if you do eventually decide to report to the police at a later date.
You may decide to anonymously provide details of the assault to the Police through The Meadows. This may help with the prevention of future attacks on others. We will do this for you – you do not have to speak with the police directly, or be identified.
Counselling is available to survivors of sexual assault who live in the County Durham and Darlington area.
We can offer up to 12 counselling sessions, which are usually held once a week, with each lasting approximately 50 minutes.
The counsellor at The Meadows can help you deal with your feelings after a sexual assault or rape and aims to help you understand how the assault has affected you, and how to cope and adapt to life afterwards. The counsellor listens to you in a supportive way, and will not criticise or judge you. She can offer information and other support, depending on what you want.
Counselling is 'client led', which means that you remain in control of the sessions. Sometimes you may feel upset and vulnerable during or after sessions. If you are experiencing feelings that disturb you, you can talk to your counsellor about it.
The counselling service at The Meadows is confidential. However, please note the following important points:-
Counsellors sometimes discuss their work with colleagues, but without revealing a client's identity. They do this in order to improve their skills and help make sure the client gets the best service.
If the assault results in a legal case, there is a rare possibility that the judge may order counselling notes to be given to the court.
Information may have to be passed on if a child is at risk of harm. This will be discussed at the first counselling session.
Sexual Health Screening
We can offer you a sexual health screening appointment to return to either The Meadows or your local hospital GUM department where any tests can be carried out and any concerns can be discussed with a Sexual Health Advisor. This appointment will normally be at least 14 days after the assault, but in certain circumstances this must be done within 72 hours (Please call for advice).
Even if you do not telephone or visit The Meadows for support, we strongly recommend that you visit your local hospital GUM Dept for health advice within 72 hours of the assault.
If you attend for a forensic medical examination and you meet the criteria for post-coital contraception (the morning after pill) this can also be provided at The Meadows.
If you choose not to attend The Meadows, emergency contraception can also be obtained from most Chemist shops, your G.P., or GUM Department and should be taken as soon as possible after the assault, normally within 72 hours.
Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA)
The ISVA is a specialist support worker who can assist and support you in the weeks and months after an assaualt. She will help you through the court process from start to finish. She will support you, find out information for you, ask questions about the progress of any legal action and will be there for you in court.