You might be feeling anxious or worried about the thought of having a medical examination but our crisis workers and doctors will do their best to put you at ease. They will take time to explain what the medical examination will involve and you will always be in control of what happens.
The forensic examination is different to a normal doctor’s examination. The sexual offences examiner collects evidence by taking swabs and documenting any injuries. She will be able to give you advice and answer any questions you have regarding risk of pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections. You can have a pregnancy test and we can also give you emergency contraception.
You can take the examination at your own pace and ask them to stop at any time.
A Sexual Offences Examiner (SOE) conducts the Forensic Medical Examination and her job is to look for evidence that supports your report of sexual assault and may help to identify the assailant.
You have the medical examination in a private room with your doctor or nurse SOE. 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 SOE 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. Your SOE may also ask you to give samples of your blood and urine. Any samples taken are carefully collected, labelled and stored and can be used in court as evidence. The SOE will explain her findings to you and you can ask her any questions you have.
If you are attending Treetops with the police, these samples then belong to them. They may send these samples to be tested for DNA or other evidence. Any information or results obtained from the samples is police evidence and does not come back to the Treetops Centre.
The clothes that you were wearing when you were assaulted may need to be kept as evidence and sent for examination (if the case goes to court). They will be kept as evidence until after the trial.
The police may also ask you if they can photograph any injuries that you have sustained.
Your appointment at Treetops may last for three to four hours. Most of this time is talking and listening to you, to ensure we give you the help you need. The medical examination itself is only a short amount of this time. During the examination, the SOE also needs to be very careful that they don’t miss anything and to make a note of everything they find. Any information given at the forensic examination can be presented if your case goes to court.
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.
The examination that takes place at Treetops SARC is conducted as part of the police investigation into a criminal offence. The police may also need to gather other evidence. This might come from where the assaulted took place. If the offender has been apprehended they may take medical evidence from them or any other relevant people or places.
The police may also want to interview you in order to take a full account of what happened and under what circumstances.
As a self-referral (i.e. the police are not involved) you will be given other options about what can happen to your samples. You can ask us to store the samples at Treetops, if you are not sure what to do, we can store the samples for up to two years until you have decided what you want to do. You will be able to discuss this with your Crisis Worker and Sexual Offenses Examiner.