Publication - Advice and guidance

Forensic medical examination following a rape or sexual assault: information

Published: 10 Dec 2020

This leaflet sets out what people can expect during and following a forensic medical examination (FME).

6 page PDF

902.6 kB

6 page PDF

902.6 kB

Contents
Forensic medical examination following a rape or sexual assault: information
Forensic Medical Examination (FME): Information about a FME following a rape or sexual assault

6 page PDF

902.6 kB

Forensic Medical Examination (FME): Information about a FME following a rape or sexual assault

What is a Forensic Medical Examination?

A Forensic Medical Examination (FME) is part of the healthcare process following a rape or sexual assault. Every effort will be made to ensure you feel as comfortable as possible by staff who are trained to understand and take account of the trauma you have experienced.

The forensic medical examination (FME) is carried out by a specially trained doctor who can collect evidence that could help any subsequent police investigation. A specially trained nurse should be in attendance to support you through the examination and to assist the doctor where required.

The staff will explain what will happen during the examination and why they are carrying this out.

What's the purpose of a FME?

The staff are on hand to take care of any medical, emotional or wellbeing needs that you may have. They will also organise any necessary follow up healthcare or support, including checking for and treating sexually transmitted infections and providing emergency contraception.

The staff will also check for any injuries and any other effects of the assault. An FME might include an internal examination. A special camera which provides light and magnification may be used for this.

In terms of collecting evidence this may include body fluids, DNA or other samples, like hair that belongs to the other person, that have been transferred to you or your clothing.

The doctor carrying out the examination will explain all of this to you carefully, so that you can decide whether or not you want to go ahead.

Where does it take place?

A specially trained police officer, called a Sexual Offence Liaison Officer (SOLO), will arrange your FME at a Sexual Assault Response Coordination Service (SARCS).

The FME will take place in the nearest SARCS to you.

A SARCS is an NHS service and the SARCS you attend may be within or near to a hospital.

You will NOT be asked to go to a police station for the FME.

Things to remember:
It is your choice whether to have an FME.

You are encouraged to ask questions before deciding to go ahead. You can choose to have someone else with you as well if you wish, such as a friend or relative.

You are in control.
It is normal to feel anxious about having an FME but it is important to remember that this is your examination - you can ask the doctor to stop at any time.

Timescales:
If you choose to go ahead then you should have the FME as soon as possible after the assault.

Normally an examination should take place no later than seven days after the assault, but it may be helpful in some cases to have an FME after more than seven days. The doctor will be able to advise you.

What can I expect when I'm at the SARCS?

When you arrive at the SARCS, you will be taken to a comfortable room where you can talk to the staff about what will happen next. The staff are there to support you throughout your examination; to talk through the choices that you have and to help ensure that your individual needs are met as far as is possible.

You can ask for a female doctor and every effort will be made to make this happen.

The examination itself will usually last around an hour, but it can be shorter or longer depending on the circumstances. You can expect to be at the SARCS for two to three hours, but much of this time will be spent explaining what each step will involve, answering any questions you might have and checking that you are content to proceed.

The doctor will ask you to consent to each part of the examination. You can choose to give your consent for some parts but not others (for example, you may not want to provide a blood sample).

You may experience some discomfort. The doctor will be as gentle as possible, and you can ask them to stop at any point during the examination. The staff will do everything they can to make sure you are as comfortable as possible.

The staff will explain how any information taken from you will be used and they can answer any questions you may have about this.

After the examination

After the examination you will be offered some clothes and toiletries and will be able to shower if you would like to. You will also be offered something to eat or drink.

A nurse will be there to answer any questions you may have and to coordinate any follow up appointments or referrals you may require and to help you access other forms of support such as Rape Crisis Scotland if you would like to.

When you are ready to leave, staff at the SARCS will make sure you have somewhere safe to go, ideally supported by a family member, friend or carer.

Things to remember:
You will not be rushed into making any decisions. If need be, the staff can ensure that you have the support you need to decide. You can have a trusted family member or with you, before, during and after the examination if you wish.

What will the police do with the evidence collected?

If the police think that there is enough evidence to prove a crime has been committed, they will submit a report to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

The COPFS will decide if there is enough evidence to prosecute the person. You will be contacted by the Victim Information and Advice service which is part of COPFS, who will let you know if the person will be prosecuted, as well as other important information about the case.

Anything else I need to know?

If you are involved in prostitution or being made by someone else to provide sexual services, please come forward. You will be taken seriously and will be supported to contact organisations that can help you if you wish.

No matter how long has passed, it is important that you speak to someone about what has happened to you to find out what help and support is available. You can talk to a specially trained police officer, Rape Crisis Scotland or a trusted family member or friend.

Things to remember:
Sexual violence is traumatic, and it is very important that you try to rest and take good care of yourself in the weeks to come. It is very common to feel isolated, angry and upset as you begin to process what has happened to you. Support is available - you do not have to go through this alone.

Useful helplines and websites

Rape Crisis Scotland
08088010302
www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk

Samaritans:
08457 90 90 90 (24 hours)
www.samaritans.org

Breathing Space:
0800 83 85 87

Victim Support Scotland:
0345 603 9213
www.victimsupportsco.org.uk

Scottish Women's Aid
0800 027 1234
helpline@sdafmh.org.uk

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Domestic Abuse Project:
www.lgbtdomesticabuse.org.uk

LGBT Health and Wellbeing:
www.lgbthealth.org.uk

Amina – Muslim Women's Resource Centre:
www.mwrc.org.uk

Survivors UK National Helpline Webchat – support for men who have been raped or sexually abused:
www.survivorsuk.org

NHS Open Road – support for men involved in prostitution:
www.nhsopenroad.org

Shelter Scotland – support for housing issues:
0808 800 4444
https://scotland.shelter.org.uk


Contact

Email: WEBSITE@gov.scot