What is a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC)?
A SARC is a specialist centre for people who have been raped or sexually assaulted, which provides forensic services as well as help and advice. They offer forensic examinations to capture and store any forensic evidence and can also give you a medical welfare check. A crisis worker can also offer emotional support and can help you access other services such as Victim Support or OSARCC.
Who can use a SARC? How can I access their services?
Anyone can self-refer to a SARC. This means that you can go to the SARC independently and do not have to involve the police, or anyone else if you do not want to. If you self-refer in this way, you will need to contact the SARC in advance to book an appointment. If you have self-referred it is up to you whether any evidence which is collected is passed on to the police. If you do decide to report, the evidence will still be at the SARC.
In most cases, your trip to the SARC will be kept completely confidential. The only exception is if there is a serious risk of harm to you or to others. You can ask for this to be explained to you before you make any decisions if you are concerned.
If you are reporting a recent rape or sexual assault to the police in the Thames Valley area, it is likely that the police will take you to one of the local SARCs. If this happens, any evidence collected will form part of the police investigation and you will not be able to choose to keep it confidential.
What will happen if I visit a SARC?
A crisis worker will support you throughout your visit and explain your options to you including the forensic examination process. If you decide to have the examination, this will be carried out by a qualified and highly trained doctor, known as a Forensic Medical Examiner. The procedures should be fully explained to you, and you can ask for the examination to be stopped at any point. You should be treated with dignity and respect throughout.
The crisis worker can also offer your further support around issues such as mental health and housing, as well as putting you in touch with other services who can offer you longer term care and support.
Where is my nearest SARC?
If you are in Oxfordshire, the closest SARCs are in Bicester, Slough and Swindon. You can find out more information:
Bicester and Slough SARCs web: www.solacesarc.org.uk phone: 0300 130 3036.
Swindon SARC web: www.swindonsanctuary.co.uk phone: 0808 168 0024.
If you are outside Oxfordshire, you can find your nearest SARC here: www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Rape-and-sexual-assault-referral-centres/LocationSearch/364
If you think you will have trouble reaching the SARC, you can phone them and discuss your options.