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What to expect at the SARC

This resource will explain the process for medical assessment following concern about sexual abuse or assault. We aim to make sure that children who may have been sexually abused or assaulted can be examined for any injuries and given the appropriate advice, aftercare and support. Forensic evidence can also be collected during the examination.

Information:

We understand this process is worrying. We aim to explain everything and listen to any concerns you may have. Please do not hesitate to ask us questions.

Planning your visit

It is usually best to be seen as soon as possible. You may be advised that your child should not bath or shower,  wash or clean their teeth before coming to see us.

The police may want to collect as evidence the clothing that your child was wearing at the time they were assaulted. If they are still wearing this when they come to the sexual assault referral centre (SARC) new clothing will be provided, or if you prefer you may bring spare clothing with you.

You will be supported by a specialist children’s doctor (paediatrician) and a member of our nursing team. All of the staff working in the SARC are women.

Who can consent?

Consent in healthcare means that you agree or give permission to have the assessment, examination, tests and treatment. We will give you the information you need to help you decide what you agree to.

Consent can be given either by your child (if they are over 16), someone with parental responsibility, or both.

Anyone with parental responsibility can give consent. This could include:

  • mothers and usually fathers
  • adoptive parents
  • special guardians
  • others, for example a social worker if the child has a care order.
Information:

You and your child can say no to any part of the assessment process and change your minds at any time.

On arrival

When you arrive you will be greeted by a member of our nursing team, who will accompany you and your child to the waiting room. The room has a bubble tube, TV and Xbox. We will offer you and your child food and drink once the doctor has checked it is ok for them to eat and drink.

What does the medical assessment involve?

Each stage of the medical will be explained to you and your child.

The first part of the assessment is to gather information.

First the doctor will speak to the police offer or social worker attending with you. They will tell us what happened, so you do not have to repeat too much.

The doctor will then speak to you and your child. Sometimes this is done together and sometimes separately. When appropriate all children, and particularly teenagers, will be given the chance to speak to the doctor alone.

Before your child’s examination

Some children choose to have a parent or carer with them for the examination and some children choose to be examined alone. Your child will get to choose.

The nurse and doctor will be wearing a disposable gown and gloves to make sure they do not affect any evidence they collect.

Your child will also need to wear a gown, as will you if you come into the examination room.

The room is very plain. This is deliberate and makes sure we can clean it thoroughly and make sure any samples we take are as good as possible. We are collecting DNA evidence so need to make sure the environment is DNA free before we start.

The medical examination

We aim to examine your child fully to look for any injuries or health concerns. This includes a full body check, but we will not do anything without you and your child agreeing to it.

We usually need to examine your child’s genitalia and do an intimate examination. Again, we will make sure that you and your child understand and agree to this beforehand. Your child is able to change their mind at any time, stop the examination or say no if they are upset or uncomfortable.

Although it sounds scary, this is something the doctors and nurses here do often and they have seen lots of children and young people in similar situations.

As part of the examination the doctor may want to take:

  • photographs or video during the examination. These will always be kept securely and video footage is password protected without your child’s name or date of birth on it. They are not shown to the police or social workers.
  • forensic samples to support the police investigation. These might include urine, swabs, a blood test and others as required in each case.
  • medical samples to look for infection or pregnancy. Again, these might include urine, swabs and blood tests.

The doctor will explain which samples are needed.

After the examination

After the examination your child can have a shower if you or they would like to, and we have new clothes available if needed.

We will tell you what we found on examination and which tests we have done.

We will offer you other support services if your doctor thinks you need them. They might include:

  • treatment for any injuries
  • emergency contraception
  • treatment to prevent infections such as hepatitis B and HIV
  • follow up for any other health problems

How long does it take?

From when you arrive to when you leave can take around 3 to 4 hours.

This is to make sure that we have listened to you and your child and done our best to make sure we have the best possible evidence for the police investigation and for your child’s health.

Follow-up with SARC

Some children need to be seen in the SARC again. We will tell you if this is the case and explain why.

Aftercare

If needed, we may refer your child to additional support services. These include the Children’s Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (CHISVA), Psychological support and local sexual health services.

If they are not already involved we may suggest that a referral to early help or social care is needed for further support.

Can you tell me the results of the forensic samples at my follow up?

Unfortunately, doctors do not have access to this information, but the lead police investigator will be able to keep you informed regarding any updates.

Further information

For more information, please visit the Understanding medical examinations for child sexual abuse concerns (The CSA Centre) video

If you have any questions or concerns, please call us on 0114 226 7803.

Is something missing from this resource that you think should be included? Please let us know

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Disclaimer

Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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NHS

Western Bank
Sheffield
S10 2TH

United Kingdom

Switchboard: 0114 271 7000

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