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Frequently Asked Questions – Sexual Assault Referral Centre

What Happens at the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC)?

First Light has two SARC’s – The Cove in Plymouth and the Willow Centre in Truro.

1. How long will an examination last?
2. Who will be present at the examination?
3. Can a friend or family member come in with me?
4. Does the examination hurt?
5. Will you tell my family?
6. Can I choose to have a male or female doctor/nurse/police officer?
7. When will I get the results?
8. Can I take a shower after the examination?


Q. How long will an examination last?

A. We appreciate that an examination is something that most people will want ‘over and done with’, and every effort is made to make sure that the actual examination is as efficient as possible with no unnecessary delays. The duration of the examination can depend on the number of factors including the quantity of samples required, injuries, medical history etc.

Before the examination, there may be a wait for a doctor (not an employee of First Light) to arrive and after the examination you may wish to use the washroom; all in all, you can expect to be at the SARC for a few hours, however the actual examination itself is usually the least timely (Approx. 30 – 40 minutes).


Q. Who will be present at the examination?

A. Usually you will be supported by a trained crisis worker, employed by us. The crisis worker is independent of any other agency and is there to make sure you receive the best possible care. If you have reported the incident to the police, you will also be assigned a specialist Sexual Offence Liaison Officer (SOLO) to support you during the investigation. The doctor or nurse (not employees of First Light) will conduct the examination, usually with the support of the SOLO (placed behind a screen) and the crisis worker (to support you, if desired).


Q. Can a friend or family member come in with me?

A. Your crisis worker will support you during the examination as they are trained to understand ‘what is happening and when’ – you will find this very comforting during the examination as she will talk you through the entire procedure and make sure you are comfortable to continue. If you are very upset and don’t want to go through with the examination without your friend or family member, we can try to arrange for them to support you; however they would need to replace the crisis worker as space is limited.


Q. Does the examination hurt?

A. No, the examination should not be a painful experience. As with any intimate examination, it is more uncomfortable than painful. Whilst every effort is taken to preserve your dignity we do understand how upsetting it is to have an internal examination – we therefore make sure that this element of the examination is carried out as quickly as possible. The implement for taking swabs is very similar to a large cotton bud so you should feel very little discomfort. If, at any stage during the examination, you were in pain or did not want to continue; your crisis worker will call a stop to the procedure. The examination is always in your control.


Q. Will you tell my family?

A. No, the decision to inform your family is entirely up to you. If you want us to make any calls, or write any letters on your behalf, we will be happy to do so.


Q. Can I choose to have a male or female doctor/nurse/police officer?

A. Every effort is made to accommodate your wishes. If you are not happy with the gender of the doctor or police officer, you will be given the option of waiting until we are able to accommodate your wishes.


Q. When will I get the results?

A. The purpose of an examination is to retrieve forensic evidence that will strengthen your case. If there is an inconsistency in the account from the offender, the samples will be sent to the laboratory. If the offender admits to the crime, there is no need to submit any DNA evidence. Your SOLO will keep you updated of any progress in the investigation, including any results from the laboratory. They will also return any items that assisted the investigation (e.g. phones, clothes, shoes etc.) once the investigation is complete. Please note that some clothes can become damaged by the laboratory when being tested for DNA evidence.


Q. Can I take a shower after the examination?

A. Yes. The suite has a private washroom with your own toiletries, towels and bath robe. Your crisis worker can also supply clothes, underwear and footwear if required. All of our facilities are disability friendly.