Reporting to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC)

What is a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC)?

A Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) is a special facility, independent of the police, where recent victims of rape or sexual assault can receive immediate help and support. This includes access to a forensic medical examination, which is carried out by an experienced and qualified doctor or nurse, and the opportunity to speak to the police about what has happened. SARC clients are also offered help and advice from a crisis worker who can also support them throughout the process.

You can find your nearest SARC by calling the NHS 111 non-emergency service, speaking to your GP or the Accident & Emergency (A&E) department of your local hospital, or by visiting the NHS Choices website. 

The SARC in Cornwall is called the Willow Centre and is operated by an organisation called First Light in Truro. Click here for more information: First Light

From the moment you contact the SARC, a crisis support worker will be available to give you the support you need. A crisis support worker can:

  • explain the various options that may be available to you and then support you in whatever decisions you make;
  • provide emotional and practical support;
  • help you get the best support according to your needs and work with you to achieve this, whether or not you want to report it to the police and take legal action; and
  • provide an Independent Sexual Violence Adviser (ISVA) who will attend pre-trial visits and court hearings with you, if you choose to report the assault to the police.

What is the time frame for using a SARC?

It is advisable to go to a SARC straight away following the rape or sexual assault.

If you think you may want to pursue justice, now or sometime in the future, it is beneficial for as much forensic evidence as possible to be collected. Time is an important factor in this. If you can, you should try to go to your nearest Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) or the police straight away, or at least within 72 hours of the rape or assault, where a forensic examination can take place.

If the abuse has happened within the last 12 months the SARC is still able to offer you support with reporting the incident to the police through the Independent Sexual Violence Advocacy (ISVA) service.

If the abuse has happened more than 12 months ago and you would like more information about reporting the incident to the police, or provide anonymous intelligence, you can also access support from the ISVA service.

If you self-refer to the SARC, you can remain anonymous and have the time you need to think about how to involve the police and what to do with any evidence samples. Crisis support workers can help you decide whether or not to involve the police.

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