A sexual assault is any sexual act that a person did not consent to, or is forced into against their will. It is a form of sexual violence and includes rape (an assault involving penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth with a penis), or other sexual offences, such as groping, forced kissing or child sexual abuse.
If the rape or sexual assault happened in the last seven days, you can go to Devon and Cornwall Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC) for a medical and forensic examination.
You don’t have to have a forensic examination, but it can provide useful evidence if you choose to report the crime to the police and the case goes to court. SARCs won't pressure you into contacting the police and they will store the results until you make your mind up about reporting. If you’d like to have a forensic examination, try to keep the clothes you were wearing at the time and don’t wash them, and avoid showering if possible.
If you want the crime to be investigated, the sooner a forensic medical examination takes place, the better the outcome. After 7 days forensic evidence can no longer usually be gathered, although SARC can still help you in other ways.
You can report the assault to police by calling 999 or 101. A specially trained officer will speak to you about what has happened and will arrange for an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) to support and guide you through the prosecution process. Sexual assault is traumatic and it can sometimes take a while until you feel able to talk about it. Even if the assault happened a long time ago, you can still report it.
You can also access counselling, support and guidance from:
If someone you know has been raped or sexually assaulted, it can be a very distressing and confusing time for you both. You can help to support the person who has been assaulted by:
Try not to feel upset if they don’t want to talk to you about what has happened - sexual violence can be very difficult to discuss, even with someone you trust.
It is important to support them to take whatever action they want to take, which might be nothing, in their own time as they feel able to do so and not to rush them into getting help.