If your sexual offences examiner and crisis worker think it is the right thing to do, they will ask you if you want a forensic medical examination. This is a special check-up to collect evidence which may help with the investigation of the assault.

But it is your choice whether or not you have one. You can also agree to do some parts of the examination but not others. You can stop it at any time.

It is best to have one as soon as possible after an assault as there is a better chance of finding evidence that can identify the person who did it.

So, although it may be the last thing you may feel like doing, it’s best to get it done straightaway.

What happens when I arrive?

You will meet a crisis worker and a sexual offences examiner (specially trained doctor or nurse). All of our sexual offences examiners are women.

The crisis worker will guide you through what happens at the Havens. They will take down your personal details and talk to you about your options, such as whether to have a forensic medical examination to collect evidence from the assault or to report what has happened to the police.

But these are all your choice. They will only happen if you say they can.

You can also talk about having counselling. This will help you to cope with and understand how you’re feeling after the assault and get through the following weeks and months.

The sexual offences examiner will carry out a forensic medical examination if you decide to have one. She will also offer you any treatment you may need, such as basic first aid and emergency contraception. She may discuss other treatment such as vaccinations or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to reduce the risk of HIV infection.

She will give you an appointment to come back for follow-up care such as tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or make other arrangements for you if you want to go somewhere else. She cannot do these tests at this time because it is usually too early for an infection to show up.

What does it involve?

You have the medical examination in a private room with your doctor or nurse. Your crisis worker will also stay with you and explain everything that’s happening. You can have a friend or a family member with you as well, if you prefer, and an interpreter if you need one.

Your doctor will check you from top to toe. She will check you for any injuries such as cuts and bruises, and make careful notes of where they are and what they look like. She may also examine your genital area (private parts).

She may take samples, using cotton wool swabs, from your skin and from the areas involved in the assault, such as your vagina, anus or mouth. The police may send these samples to be tested for DNA or other evidence. Your doctor may also ask you to give samples of your blood and urine.

The clothes that you were wearing when you were assaulted may need to be kept as evidence and sent to the police laboratory for examination.

How long will I be at the Haven?

Your appointment at a Haven may last for two to three hours. Most of this time is talking and listening to you, to ensure we give you the help you need. The forensic medical examination itself is only a short amount of this time. 

During the examination, the doctor also needs to be very careful that they don’t miss anything and to make a note of everything they find.

You can take the examination at your own pace and ask them to stop at any time. 

What happens next?

The doctor will explain her findings to you and you can ask her any questions you have.

You can use our private bathroom facilities if you’d like a shower and freshen up. We can also give you new clothes if your own have been taken for evidence. 

What happens to the evidence?

This depends on whether you come to the Havens directly or with the police.

Direct to the Havens

If you come to a Haven without first contacting the police, you decide what happens to the forensic evidence samples.

You can agree to give the samples to the police: we can give them the samples without telling them your name. They are identified only by a reference number. If the police decide to test the samples and this produces results, we will let you know and help you to decide what to do next, such as reporting the assault to the police.

You can ask us to store the samples at the Havens: if you are not sure what to do, we can store the samples until you have decided.

With the police

If you come to a Haven with the police, they will keep the samples taken during the examination for their investigation. Any information you provide and the results will be police evidence. The police will then talk to you directly about their findings.