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Sexual Health and Pregnancy

The immediate hours and days after a sexual assault can be traumatic, distressing and chaotic, and we appreciate that you may be feeling emotional, distracted and numb. However, it is our job to ensure you’re safe, well and healthy, so it’s very important to seek advice about emergency contraception, sexual health treatment and pregnancy.

If you have a forensic examination, the doctor will provide emergency contraception, if applicable. Your Crisis Worker will arrange a follow-up sexual health appointment at the Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) Clinic, or a referral to the Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVA). If you are too scared to report a rape or sexual assault, it is still very important that you consider emergency contraception and sexual health treatment. There are a number of ways that we recommend you do this:

  1. Contact your GP. You do not have to provide a history or disclose the assault. However you should stress the importance of an early appointment
  2. Contact us. Ask for an ISVA who will arrange an appointment with your local Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) Clinic using our fast-track referral system. She can also attend the appointment with you if required
  3. Contact your nearest GUM Clinic yourself. If you prefer to do this, you need to provide them with the following information:
    1. Tell the receptionist you are a client of the SARC (this is a discreet way of informing the receptionist that a sexual assault has occurred)
    2. Ask for a 30 minute appointment
    3. Ask for a Health Advisor to be present
    4. Ask for a female doctor (if preferred)

Please note: All visits to the GUM Clinic are completely confidential, and treatment, including medicine, is free. There is no need to tell your doctor about your visit.

Please do not ignore these very important issues. It is far better to put your mind at rest than it is to worry about ‘what might be’.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Following a sexual assault, it is imperative to undergo a sexual health screening to treat potential sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STI’s are a major cause of ill health if undiagnosed and untreated.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms vary between STIs and some have no symptoms at all. Where there are symptoms, these may include unusual discharge from the vagina or penis, heavy periods or bleeding between periods, pain or burning sensation when passing urine, rashes, itching or tingling around the genitals or anus.

Most STIs can be easily diagnosed and treated at your local the GUM Clinic.  An Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) can facilitate an appointment for you at the local GU clinic if you wish . You can also self refer by following the instructions above. The service is completely confidential and you don’t have to go to your nearest clinic if you don’t want to.

What to Expect

Tests for STIs vary. Some involve taking swabs from the cervix or tip of the penis. Others involve taking a blood sample.

Counselling is usually offered before testing for HIV so that the patient is prepared for the implications of the test result if it is positive.

The doctor may screen for any (if applicable, all) of the following infections:

Screening for STIs, though embarrassing for some people, should not be ignored. It is far better to put one’s mind at rest than it is to worry about ‘what might be’. The GUM Clinic is a discreet, non-judgemental and sympathetic place in which to seek advice and treatment regarding ones health.

 

How might I feel after an assault?

If you have been a victim of sexual violence, you may be experiencing a wide range of emotions and reactions that can be very upsetting. This is quite normal for someone who has been through such a traumatic experience. You may feel:

  • Shock and numbness
  • Shame and humiliation
  • Distress
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Guilt and self- blame
  • Helplessness

What is consent?

What is consent?

Consensual sex is when both parties, being of legal age, agree to engage in intercourse by choice and they have the freedom and capacity to make that choice. This is agreeing to sexual relations without fear, coercion, force or intimidation. Giving consent is active, not passive. It means freely choosing to say ‘yes’. You can also choose to change your mind at any time.

If you were excessively drunk, drugged, asleep, ill or detained against your will, it is unlikely that you had the capacity to consent. It is also a crime to pose as a person, such as a doctor or for your partner to trick a person into consenting.

Examples:

“I said no and he tried to talk me into it. Then he started shouting and getting angry. In the end I went along with it. I was too scared to say anything.”

“I was in a pub. This guy asked me to have sex. I didn’t respond, and escaped to the loo. He followed me in, pushed me into a cubicle, and raped me.”

“I told him I was too tired to have sex. I went to sleep, and woke up to find him starting to have sex with me. He refused to stop.”

None of these people consented.

If you are worried about someone

If you are worried about someone: Supporting a friend or family member experiencing Domestic Abuse

If you know or suspect that a family member, friend or work colleague is experiencing domestic abuse, it can be difficult to know what to do. It can be very upsetting to discover that someone you care about is being hurt or abused.

Your first reaction may be to intervene or want to help them to leave, but this can be dangerous for both you and the person experiencing the abuse. However, that doesn’t mean you have to ignore it because there are things you can do to help.

Encourage them to contact First Light and speak with a fully trained member of staff who can assess the risk, discuss safety planning and offer emotional support and advice about the person’s available options.

You can support your friend or family member by talking through the advice they have been given and discuss ways to keep safe, for example:

  • Agree a code word or action that is only known to you both so that they can signal when they are in danger or are in a situation where they are unable to access help for themselves
  • Don’t make plans for her/him yourself, but encourage them to think about their safety and that of any children more closely and focus on their own needs rather than the needs of the person hurting them.
  • Remember, that leaving is the most dangerous time and so this should be done in a safe planned way if possible.
  • Find out information about local services, support groups, and refuges.
  • You can offer to keep a spare set of keys or important documents, such as passports, benefit books, in a safe place for them so that they can access them quickly in an emergency. Perhaps keep a small amount of money available to help them in a crisis, or offer to care for their pets if they want to leave.
  • Keep your own phone charged and on your person in case you need to use it in an emergency. If you are concerned for someone being in imminent danger, do not hesitate to dial 999.
  • Input numbers for the police and support services into your mobile via speed dial if required in an emergency
  • Think about keeping a diary of what you see and hear. Offer to take photographs of any injuries that you are shown. This may be helpful to this person at a later date.
  • Remember to try not judge this person and to reassure them that the abuse is not their fault. Show them they are supported and believed by you.
  • Look after yourself while you are helping someone through such a difficult and emotional period. Ensure that you do not put yourself in danger; for example, do not offer to talk to the abuser about the situation.

If you want to talk through your concerns, please contact us for further support and advice if you are worried about someone who is experiencing domestic abuse.

Older Generation

Ensuring that stereotyping older people is to be avoided, experience shows that some older people may feel less able to access services; they may be less able to access services; they may be less aware than younger people of the services and options available to them; or they may believe that services are only for younger people, or people with children.

The ‘self-help’ model familiar to younger people, and the possibility of calling a stranger to discuss personal or family problems may also be unfamiliar to some older people. The age profile of users of many domestic violence services tends to veer towards younger people.

Older people with no formal education or economic resources are also likely to be more economically vulnerable and more likely to be financially dependent on their abuser than younger people. They may have suffered abuse for many years in a long-standing relationship and feel shame or embarrassment from years of accepting abuse without apparent complaint.

Older people are likely to have grown up in a time where the home was a private domain, and it would not have been deemed socially acceptable to discuss matters that occurred behind closed doors

It could be extremely difficult for some older people to accept help – they may need more time, more reassurance and more confidence in what might happen and the services available, before they disclose abuse and accept help to move forward.

Also, when older people are seen to be injured, unhappy, depressed or have other difficulties, these may be assumed to be the result of health or social care needs if individuals are stereotyped using their age. Professionals should take great care to assess older people in a holistic way which avoids a rush to judgment based on their own expectations of the needs of older people and the services they require.

Although there is no widely accepted prevalence data for this age group, it is estimated that in 2015 approximately 120,000 individuals aged 65+ have experienced at least one form of abuse (psychological, physical, sexual or financial)

A six-point plan for tackling this abuse

  1. Do not assume that because a person is older they cannot be experiencing domestic abuse or because their partner is frail they cannot be a perpetrator of such abuse
  2. Be aware of the different types of abuse and how domestic abuse may differ from abuse in institutions
  3. Be aware of how to undertake a sensitive enquiry that does not put the person being abused at more risk
  4. Ensure you have local policies in place for identifying incidents of domestic abuse and take a team approach on delivering appropriate support
  5. Know what support services are available and how to access them
  6. Ensure pathways for greater coordination exist between the full range of professionals that provide regular services with older people, to ensure that domestic abuse concerns are not lost in the ‘umbrella’ term of safeguarding.

Frequently Asked Questions – Independent Sexual Violence Advisors

Q: How long is each appointment?

A: On average, an hour is set aside for each appointment, although on some occasions we recognise that you may require more time and this is accommodated.

Q: Do you provide an outreach service?

Yes, if you are unable to travel to us due to illness, disabilities or age, we will visit you at home (or a mutually convenient location). You will initially be offered three appointments after which, your needs will be reviewed again.

A: How long will I be able to see my advisor for?

Your advisor will support you throughout the entire criminal justice process, from reporting the crime to your trial and will even help you with a criminal injuries compensation application after the trial (if applicable). It is difficult to gauge how long any investigation will be but you can be assured of their support for as long as it takes.

Q: What is criminal injuries compensation?

A: The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is a government body that awards compensation to victims of crime. You must have reported the crime to the police but a conviction is not always necessary. Some clients are awarded compensation even if no further action is taken with the case. Your advisor will help you with an application to the CICA but will advise you to seek legal advice if you need to appeal a CICA decision. There are many tariffs for compensation so it is difficult to estimate how much money you will receive.

Q: I haven’t reported the crime to the police yet, will you help me?

A: Your advisor will discuss the process of reporting an incident to the police and answer any questions that will help you to reach a decision. If you decide to report to the police, your advisor will contact a specially trained officer and arrange a meeting at a time and date convenient to you. Your advisor can accompany you to any interviews or appointments as necessary.

Q: I’m scared that no one will believe me.

A: Almost all victims of sexual crimes fear this very same thing. Please be assured that your advisor will believe everything you say and will never judge you or condemn you.

There have been many rumours about the police and their attitudes towards victims of sexual assaults. We have a very good relationship with the police and have direct access to a specialist unit with officers that have been highly trained to support victims of sexual crimes. It is the police’s job to investigate a crime – not judge you – and it is our job to make sure that you are treated with dignity and respect whilst in our care.

Q: How will I know what has happened to my attacker?

A: You will be regularly updated by your advisor or Sexual Offences Liaison Officer on all aspects of your case including the whereabouts and actions taken against your perpetrator.

If they are released on bail, you will be appropriately notified. Likewise, if they are remanded in custody, you will be informed of any forthcoming court appearances.

Q: Will my attack appear in the newspaper?

A: Not without your involvement. Sometimes the police have a duty to protect the public, especially in situations where they believe a dangerous person is at large. Equally, there may also be witnesses that can strengthen your case and sometimes the media can help track them down. You will never be identified as this would be a breach of your human rights. You should be informed and consulted before any press release is made.

Q: How long will it be before I go to court?

A: It is likely to take some time before you are given a trial date. Sometimes it can even take 12-18 months. It is important, leading up to the trial, that you access the support of your advisor as they will ensure you are updated regularly and will even arrange a pre-court visit to familiarise you with the court process and surroundings.

Q: Will I have to give evidence?

A: Victims of sexual offences are granted ‘special measures’ to assist them with giving evidence in court. These can range from special screens that prevent the witness from seeing the defendant; video recorded evidence recorded before the trial and live TV links – allowing a witness to give evidence from outside the court.

Q: Who will see me?

A: As part of the ‘special measures’ the judge can also order that the public gallery of the court is cleared – so that evidence can be given in private. In this instance, only the defence and prosecution barristers, police officers, court staff and jury members will be present.

Q: Will I be able to speak to my barrister?

A: This is often difficult to arrange. It is an area that we are trying to improve; however the current situation often means that a client is unable to speak to the barrister until the day before, or even the morning of the trial.

Q: How long will the trial go on for?

A: Again this is very difficult to answer. Depending on the complexity of the case it can be anything from one morning, to a week, to a month. Often, legal arguments can delay the start of some cases and in these circumstances your advisor or Sexual Offence Liaison Officer will keep you updated. There are rooms within the court that you and your family will be able to use (away from any of the defendant’s representatives); where you will be able to rest and have refreshments.

Going to Court

The strength and bravery it takes to tell someone about your abuse is undeniable – The courage it takes to seek justice is simply immeasurable.

Too many abusers rely on the silence and fear of their victims to shield them from justice. They underestimate your power and strength.

The Government is committed to combating sexual offences, appalling crimes that devastate the lives of victims and their families and inspire fear in our communities.

Specialist counsellors are funded to ensure that your needs and safety is the top priority for all agencies throughout the Criminal Justice process so that you can live without fear of future violence and access the services you need.

Across Government they are working to improve the investigation and prosecution of sex offences and want to send a strong message to perpetrators of these cowardly and sickening crimes that they will not be tolerated.

By improving the standard of care, information and support available to you, more people like you will have the confidence to come forward to report crimes and most importantly, have the support to work with criminal justice professionals to bring perpetrators to justice.

 

The court process explained….

Either the Crown Prosecution Service or the police will decide whether or not your case goes to court.

The decision is based on two questions:

  1. Is there enough evidence for a ‘realistic prospect of conviction’? If the CPS or police do not think there is enough evidence, or it is not the right kind of evidence, the case will not go to court, no matter how serious the crime is.
  2. Is it in the public interest for this case to go to court? If the crime is serious, the CPS or police will usually prosecute unless it would clearly not be in the public interest for them to do so.

Case heard at Crown Court

If your case goes to Crown Court, it will be heard by a judge and jury. There will be barristers to represent the prosecution (CPS), and a barrister to represent the person charged with assaulting you. When the jury have heard all of the evidence, they will decide if they believe the person charged with assaulting you committed the crime.

If you have to go to court

If the defendant pleads not guilty, it is possible that you may have to go to the Crown Court and appear as a witness. The two barristers will ask you questions.

If you do have to appear in court, there are ‘Special Measures’ that can be put in place. These have been introduced to make it easier for you to give evidence and can be explained to you by your specialist officer or counsellor.

The Crown Court Witness Service can offer you support and advice, for example, visiting the courtroom before the trial to ease your concerns about going there.

Media coverage

The media (newspapers, television, radio etc.) are not allowed to use your name or give any details that would make it clear who you are. They are allowed to report anything that is said in your evidence, apart from details that would give away your identity.

Child Abuse

When a Child is abused

When a child or young person is sexually assaulted or abused it can have a devastating impact on the family unit. Some find that the distress and anguish experienced by parents, siblings and loved-ones continues long after the child is safe and receiving support. Though you may feel helpless and despondent now, a happy and healthy lifestyle is achievable after abuse. it may not be the same again, but life can, and will get better with some specialist help and support.

If you are a parent, you may find the Support for Parents page very useful.

If you or your child is seeking justice through the courts and have concerns about how this will impact on the family, please contact our Independent Sexual Violence Advocacy (ISVA) Service. An ISVA can support you and your child through every step of the journey; explaining the criminal justice process whilst helping you to seek some ‘closure’ on this upsetting and unforgettable experience.

What to do if you think a child has been sexually abused…

It is your legal obligation to report any suspected or known child abuse to the police or social services.

If your child, or a child you know, discloses any form of sexual abuse, call the police immediately and ask for the Child Protection Unit. They will send out a specialist officer (normally not in police uniform).

Make sure the child is safe and healthy. If you suspect an injury, take them to the hospital or your local GP. Child Protection Procedures will be applied upon your visit.

Give the child a safe environment in which to talk to you or another trusted adult. Encourage the child to talk about what he or she has experienced, but be careful to not suggest events to him or her that may not have happened. Guard against displaying emotions that would influence the child’s telling of the information.

Believe your child. Commend their bravery for telling you. Reassure them that they did nothing wrong.

Keep Calm. Many children have been convinced that they are to blame or that some harm will come to a loved one now that they have told someone. Reassure them that everyone is safe and supportive. They did the right thing to tell.

Do not get angry or let anyone around the child display signs of anger. The child could mistake this anger as disapproval directed at them. Do not make promises that you cannot keep i.e. that you will not tell anyone or that nothing will happen to the abuser. Reassure them that they are safe and that you will do everything in your power to keep them out of harms way.

Do not be dissuaded by the child’s attempt to ‘take back’ the disclosure. This does not mean that the child was lying. It is a very common behaviour for a child who has been abused. They may be testing the water to see how you react. They may have mixed feelings about the abuser, especially if the abuse is a member of the immediate family. Many children have been sworn to secrecy. Taking the disclosure back is their way of keeping the secret safe.

Finally, look after yourself. Hearing the details of abuse on a child can be very distressing. Make sure you talk to someone, perhaps a friend or professional so that you can be strong and supportive for the child.

Court Support for Children and Young People

We have specialist advisors for children who have significant experience of supporting young people and their families through the criminal justice system.

Children and Young People are entitled to a range of special measures to help them give evidence in court – these can be explained to you by your dedicated advisor.

We can help facilitate access to specialist aftercare services so that you have the best chance of embarking on a positive and healthy future. We will work with our partner agencies, including the NSPCC to make sure that you or your child receives the highest level of care and support.

What can you expect from our Children’s Service

  • Compassionate and Independent Service
  • A dedicated female advisor
  • A safe, comfortable and child friendly place to meet
  • Full explanation of the Criminal Justice System
  • One to One support & Guidance through the Investigation and Court Process
  • Daily/weekly Telephone Support
  • Attendance as your representative at Interviews & Court Appearances
  • Pre-court visits & introduction to Witness Care Staff
  • Assistance with Criminal Injuries Compensation
  • Information and support to help you report a crime to the Police/Social Services
  • Fast-track referral pathways to supporting agencies
  • Coping skills for family members
  • Liaison between you, the Police, CPS, Social Services, NSPCC and Barristers etc
  • Signposting and referral to other specialist agencies
  • A bespoke care plan just for you

Young Witnesses

For a child that has been abused, giving evidence in court can be very distressing. Our independent advisors provide child-focused support that prepares and guides children and their loved ones through the court process and witness testimony.

Our advisors can help children in their role as young witnesses to be more confident and better equipped to give a full and accurate account in court.

They will make sure that your child is:

  • prepared and able to answer critical questions
  • able to understand, and not feel intimidated by, the courtroom and legal process
  • able to understand the words or phrases being used in court
  • able to relax, keep calm and reduce anxiety & fear
  • aware of the time scale involved and prepared for any long periods of waiting
  • knowledgeable about the special measures that are in place to help young people give evidence in court i.e. video-link
  • able to access materials such as the NSPCC/ChildLine Young Witness Pack, model courtrooms and the NSPCC/ChildLine video, ‘Giving Evidence – what’s it really like?’
  • able to take advantage of a pre-court visit so that they can familiarise themselves with the court room and staff

During the Trial

Your child will be supported by an independent advisor. However, special permission will need to be granted from the judge for your advisor to be present. The support your children will receive will include:

  • sitting with your child in the TV link room or near them in the courtroom subject to agreement of the court
  • staying with the child during breaks in evidence and help them to remain as calm as possible.

After the Trial

Your advisor will:

  • help the child and their carers understand what has happened at court, including dealing with any confusing feelings about the outcome of the trial
  • refer children to therapeutic treatment services to help them overcome the long-term effects of abuse. Our overall aim is to reduce the distress experienced by young witnesses and help them give their evidence as clearly as possible.

Our overall aim is to reduce the distress experienced by young witnesses and help them to lead a happy and healthy life long after the court case has ended.

Support for Children and Young People

We have specialist advisors for children who have significant experience of supporting young people and their families through the criminal justice system.

Children and Young People are entitled to a range of special measures to help them give evidence in court – these can be explained to you by your dedicated advisor.

We can help facilitate access to specialist aftercare services so that you have the best chance of embarking on a positive and healthy future. We will work with our partner agencies, including the NSPCC to make sure that you or your child receives the highest level of care and support.

What can you expect from our Children’s Service

  • Compassionate and Independent Service
  • A dedicated female advisor
  • A safe, comfortable and child friendly place to meet
  • Full explanation of the Criminal Justice System
  • One to One support & Guidance through the Investigation and Court Process
  • Daily/weekly Telephone Support
  • Attendance as your representative at Interviews & Court Appearances
  • Pre-court visits & introduction to Witness Care Staff
  • Assistance with Criminal Injuries Compensation
  • Information and support to help you report a crime to the Police/Social Services
  • Fast-track referral pathways to supporting agencies
  • Coping skills for family members
  • Liaison between you, the Police, CPS, Social Services, NSPCC and Barristers etc
  • Signposting and referral to other specialist agencies
  • A bespoke care plan just for you