Sexual Advice Referral Centres

Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) are a specialised service with professionally trained staff who offer:

  • Forensic examination by a qualified practitioner
  • Emergency contraception
  • Post-exposure prophylaxis
  • Psychological counselling
  • Legal advice

Benefits of the SARC model include the collaboration of legal and medical agencies in one department, easing victim experience and allowing for collection of information with an intact chain of evidence. Victims can also decline police involvement and be treated anonymously.

However, SARCs are not equipped to manage acute injuries and illness. The primary role of the Emergency Department is to assess for physical injuries which require immediate medical treatment. Serious and life-threatening injuries take priority over forensic examination.

A patient should be encouraged to attend a SARC where possible, however if they decline to do so, staff in the ED should respect that decision and be able to manage risks such as emergency contraception and sexually transmitted infections.