When someone is raped or sexually assaulted, it is always their decision to have a forensic examination and/or report to the police. Evidence can be collected and stored without having to go to the police and a support person like a friend or family member can be present during the examination if wanted. It's fine to request a female or male doctor to do the examination.
Some people have concerns about their health following a recent sexual assault. These could include injuries, fear of pregnancy or of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STI). It is normal to have these concerns.
There are Sexual Assault Services located in most major hospitals across NSW to provide support and medical care.
For other states or territories, consult the state government health website for information.
Sexual Assault Services provide free services including medical care and forensic examination, crisis counselling, information, ongoing counselling and support for anyone who has experienced sexual assault. Sexual Assault Services are open 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
The medical examination: what to expect
This can be done at any time, including at the same time as a forensic examination. Medical examinations can be provided to people without reporting the sexual assault to the police.
A medical examination allows the person to discuss their health concerns, like pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections with a doctor or nurse.
If the person wants to, a physical examination can be carried out to identify and treat any injury or address physical concerns.
Doctors at the Sexual Assault Service can provide a medical examination, or some may prefer to visit their own doctor for some general tests and an examination.
If the person has experienced more serious physical injuries it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible, or call ‘000’. Examples could be:
- significant physical pain;
- having been hit on the head or lost consciousness;
- where there has been attempted strangulation.
This is a specialist medical examination that can only be done by a trained doctor or specialist nurse at a Sexual Assault Service.
A forensic examination is done to identify and collect physical evidence to use as evidence in criminal proceedings.
Individuals who choose to have a forensic examination will be supported by a sexual assault counsellor who will remain with them during the process. The counsellor can answer any questions and provide support. People accessing specialist sexual assault services may also be able to request the gender of their doctor. If wanted, a family member or friend can also attend during the examination.
In order to collect evidence it is important that the examination is performed as soon as possible after the assault. Usually within 72 hours is best, but sometimes evidence can be gathered up to a week after the assault. The doctor or nurse will let you know if evidence can be collected later.
The evidence is collected in a Sexual Assault Investigation Kit (called a SAIK for short). In the forensic examination, the doctor or nurse will conduct a physical examination and record details of the assault and any injuries in the SAIK. As clothes can also carry evidence, they may be kept and stored in the SAIK.
Having a forensic examination does not mean the assault must be reported to the police. If unsure, the Sexual Assault Service will hold on to the Sexual Assault Investigation Kit until the person has made a decision.
The SAIK is only handed over to police with the person's signed consent. If they decide not to report to police, the Sexual Assault Investigation Kit will be destroyed.
The person who has experienced the sexual assault always has the right to decide whether to have a forensic examination. They can also choose whether to report to the police. The sexual assault service will respect their decision.
Concerns about pregnancy
Many women fear they may become pregnant. The ‘morning after pill’ is available for prevention of pregnancy without a prescription from pharmacies. It is also available free from a Sexual Assault Service or Sexual Health Clinic. To be effective it must be taken as soon as possible after the assault.
If it is too late for the morning after pill and the person would like to discuss ending a pregnancy, our counsellors are available to talk through the options. Other places to discuss decisions about a pregnancy include GPs, local Women's Health Centre or Family Planning NSW.
Family Planning provide a helpful booklet about the range of pregnancy options. You can access this online here.
Concerns about sexually transmitted infections
Sexually transmitted infections (sometimes called STIs) are a common concern after sexual assault. It is best to seek medical advice from a doctor, local sexual health clinic, a Women's Health Centre or Family Planning NSW. NSW Health sexual assault services can do any tests for STIs, prescribe prophylaxis (medicine to prevent STIs) and arrange follow up care.
You can find details of your local sexual assault service in NSW here. If you are in another state or territory, please check the government health website for your location.
Remember, you can always speak to our counsellors for support and information.