Medical and forensic examination – what to expect
If you have been raped or sexually assaulted at some point in the last 10 days, you will be offered a forensic and medical examination. The most important reason for this is to make sure you are OK and assess any health and wellbeing risks you might be facing because of the incident. But this will also be used to collect evidence that may be used in an investigation into your abuse.
You will always be offered a medical check-up if we think you need it.
Going for an examination
You will have already spoken to a Crisis Support Worker who should know all the important details about your incident. They will be with you every step of the way during your time at our centre and will also be with you for the forensic and medical examination. A specially trained doctor, your Crisis Support Worker and the police officer who came with you will work with you to decide the best course of action for you. The police officer will have to remain at the centre during your examination, but they will not be in the room while you have it.
We will normally start by asking about your medical history. This way, we can find out important details about your health and any medication you might be taking to help us know how to look after you properly. There will be medical screens available to give you privacy. We will not ask you to undress in front of anyone as we know this can be stressful. Some people can get nervous before the forensic and medical examination and this is completely normal. Everyone who you see during your visit will be well trained and experienced in helping people just like you. If you are feeling nervous, remember these things:
- We will not do anything that you do not want us to do or that you feel uncomfortable with
- We will explain everything that we are about to do before we do it AND we will tell you why we want to do it
- We will go at a speed you are comfortable with and we will not rush you into doing anything you are not ready for
- We will respect your wishes at all times and always respect your privacy
- We will listen to your concerns every step of the way and we will do our best to deal with your concerns
We will do our very best to make you feel comfortable every step of the way so that we can give you the help and support that you will need now and in the future.
What happens during the examination?
You will be given a head to toe examination where we will check you carefully for injuries and we may collect some samples if the incident was recent. This will be performed by a trained Sexual Offences Examiner, a paediatrician (a doctor for children and young people) or sometimes by a combination of both. The most important thing is to check you for any injuries you tell us about and to give you the treatment that is needed. The doctor will be taking notes on these injuries and will be taking notes throughout the examination, but this is completely normal and they will let you know at all times what they are making a note of and why. These notes could be important later on as they will give a record of any injuries that may have been from the incident.
For the forensic side of your examination, it is very important that we do not miss anything. We will be checking each part of you, one part at a time. This is so we can go at a speed you are comfortable with and so you don’t have to expose lots of your body at the same time. The details of what happened to you will have been given to us by your Crisis Support Worker, so you don’t have to keep giving difficult details. This will also help us to decide where we should collect samples from. There is nothing to worry about and this will mostly include things like:
- Taking swabs, which will involve rubbing certain areas of your body with a cotton bud and water to collect possible evidence
- Taking samples from your fingernails
- Collecting hair combings
- Collecting anything that you brought along with you that might be used as evidence (bedding, clothing, urine samples)
- Taking samples from your clothing if we have not already checked your clothes for evidence
- Intimate swabs from private areas and collection of samples, such as blood or urine
- We may have to inspect your private parts with something we call a ‘colposcope’ – this is the proper name for a magnifying torch that will allow us to check any areas that may have been involved in your assault
We realise that taking intimate samples and looking at your private parts may be uncomfortable or distressing. Just remember, all our doctors are specially trained to help you in these situations. You can even ask for a male or female to carry out your examination if it would make you more comfortable, although this may not always be possible.
After you leave the centre
Before, during and after your examination, we will be listening carefully to your concerns and involving you in these decisions. After the examination we will discuss with you any follow up care needs you may have for example referral to sexual health services, other health services or support with how you are feeling and with what is happening for you. These appointments will be close to home.
We will give you our contact number so if you have any questions in the days following your examination please contact us, we will contact you in the first week.
But remember, your medical examination is not the end of our support for you. We will work with you from the moment you get in contact with us and will not stop helping you if you still need us. For more information about all the aftercare that we offer, please click the box below.
After you leave the centre
Information for Children Under 13
We’ve written a guide for children under the age of 13 which explains what happens when you come to the centre.
The guide is available as a PDF, so you can view it on your computer or print a copy.