Sometimes right after an assault you may not feel pain, but this might gradually increase over the next few hours. This might be because you are in shock and can be normal reaction to what you have experienced. If in doubt, seek medical help.
What is the Forensic Medical Services Act and what does it mean for survivors?
The Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Act 2021 is a change in the law which came into effect on 1st April 2022, that changes the way that survivors can access Forensic Medical Exams (FMEs) after a rape or sexual assault.
An FME is an examination performed by a specially trained healthcare professional to collect forensic evidence after a rape or sexual assault. You can usually access an FME for up to 7 days after the assault(s). After this window, it is unlikely (but not impossible) that evidence could be gathered.
What’s changing for survivors?
As of 1st April 2022, anyone aged 16 and over that has been raped or sexually assaulted can self-refer for FMEs, meaning that you don’t need to make any immediate decisions about whether to report to the police.
The window for collecting forensic evidence is short, but we know that making the decision about whether or not to report a rape or sexual assault can be really difficult. Self-referral means that you can make a decision about reporting when you feel ready, whilst also capturing any potential evidence.
How to self-refer for an FME
The ‘Dunnock Suite’ is the named Forensic Medical Suite housed in a building near the entrance to the grounds of Wishaw General Hospital.
You can access an FME through the NHS at your local Sexual Assault Response Coordination Service (SARCS). You can refer yourself to SARCS by calling their dedicated number, which is available 24/7 and free from landlines and mobiles. This number and more information can be found on their website.
A specially trained nurse will be with you throughout your appointment, and you can bring someone with you for support. As well as your FME, this service will also seek to meet any other immediate healthcare and wellbeing needs, such as providing emergency contraception, and referring you to support services like Rape Crisis.
What happens next?
Any forensic evidence collected will be stored securely by the SARCS for 26 months from the day of your FME. This evidence will not be reviewed or analysed unless you decide to report to the police. SARCS is a confidential NHS service, meaning that the police and other agencies will not know unless you decide to tell them. In certain circumstances, a healthcare professional might have to tell them if you or others are at risk of further harm, but they should speak with you about this and keep you informed.
If you decide not to report before the end of the 26 months, you can choose to have your evidence destroyed or for certain evidence (such as personal items or clothing) to be returned to you. After the 26 months, your evidence will have been safely destroyed, but you will still have the option of reporting to the police.
Detailed information can be found here:
More information and support
Rape Crisis is here for you, no matter what.
Rape Crisis advocacy workers can talk you through your options and what to expect if you’re thinking of reporting.
If you’re looking for support, our Contact Line is available Mon – Thurs 9am – 4:30pm, and Friday 9am – 4pm.
LRCC Contact Line: 01698 527 003