Immediately following a sexual assault, survivors are encouraged to seek medical attention.
The idea of seeing a doctor may seem unpleasant but it can be important for your physical health. In most areas you can see a doctor specifically trained to work with people who have been sexually assaulted and remember that you do not have to go alone. You have the right to take a support person such as a whanau member or friend with you. If you would like to take another support person with you, contact your local specialist agency who may be able to organise an advocate to accompany you.
If the assault is recent and you choose to report the incident to the police, or would like to keep that possibility open, there are things you do to preserve evidence before a forensic medical examination.
- Eating, drinking or smoking
- showering, bathing or washing
- brushing your teeth
- biting your fingernails
- brushing or washing your hair
- going to the toilet or disposing any tampons or sanitary products
- removing or washing any article of clothing that you were wearing before, during or after the assault
Make sure that your doctor explains the procedures to you before the examination so that you have an understanding of what will be involved. You have the right to interrupt or refuse any part of the examination that you do not agree to.
Many survivors feel isolated in the aftermath of an assault. To reduce those feelings, reach out to people within your support network. Contact a friend, family member or specialist agency for support, information, resources or just to talk.
The Police will explain the purpose of a forensic medical examination to you and provide you with information to help you make your decision about whether or not you wish to proceed with this.
In addition to collecting any evidence for the Police case, you will also receive general health and medical care.
This includes checking that you are okay, arranging for treatment of any injuries as required, giving you medication for preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (if wanted/relevant), gathering relevant and sometimes important evidence for Police and providing expert evidence at any later court hearing.
You can change your mind at any time. This means you can ask to just have the medical care or you can ask for the evidence collection part of the process to be placed in storage for a period of time to give you more time to think about your decision.
The examination is done in New Zealand by doctors who have all had special training from Doctor for Sexual Abuse Care (DSAC). In most areas there will also be a specially trained nurse as part of the team.
These doctors and nurses also provide specialist medical care for child and adult survivors as required, regardless of whether they report to the Police or not.
Information provided by DSAC.