Frequently Asked Questions

Please find below a list of frequently asked questions. Open the category to take you to a list of the most frequently asked questions.

Crisis service questions

1. How long will the examination last?

When you arrive at SARC, you will be met by the SARC doctor and counsellor. You will be taken to a private room where the doctor and counsellor will tell you about the services they can provide. The doctor will take a medical history and ask you about the sexual assault. You will have time to talk about this at your own pace. The doctor will provide you with medical care and undertake a forensic examination, if this is what you want. The duration of an examination is dependant on a number of factors such as the number of samples required or the number of injuries to be documented. After the examination you may want to have a shower and change your clothes.

The majority of people are at SARC between two and four hours.

2. Who will be present at the examination? 

The SARC doctor and counsellor will be present throughout the examination. The doctor has a medico-legal responsibility to provide medical care and undertake a forensic examination. The counsellor is there to provide you with support.

3. Can a friend or family member come into the examination with me?

The counsellor’s role is to support you during the medical and forensic examination as they are trained to understand what is happening and when. You will find this very reassuring as the counsellor will explain the procedure to you and make sure you are comfortable to continue. The counsellor will intervene on your behalf if they believe you need a break or you can ask them to intervene if you don’t think you can do this yourself. 

If you are very upset, you may want a friend or a family member to be with you during the initial period when you talk about the incident, however it is usually easier to talk about these matters when those close to you are not present.

Family and friends are not usually allowed into the medical and forensic examination unless you are under 16 years of age or you need special support because you have a disability.

4. Does the examination hurt?

No, the examination should not be a painful experience. As with any intimate examination it is more uncomfortable than painful and is similar to having a Pap smear. We understand how upsetting it is to have an internal examination and we try to carry out this part of the examination as quickly as possible. 

If you are in pain or do not want the examination to continue, you can tell the counsellor who will ask for the procedure to stop. You are always in control of the examination.

5. Will you tell my family?

No, the decision to tell your family is entirely up to you. 

However, if you are under 18 years of age, under Mandatory Reporting laws, the SARC doctor is required to make a report to the Department for Child Protection. No further action will be taken unless it is believed that you are at risk, in which case your parent or guardian will be notified.

6. Can I choose to have a male or female doctor or counsellor?

All SARC doctors are female, however the counsellors are male and female. 

All of our counsellors are trained psychologists or social workers who understand how difficult this experience may be. They will support you in a professional and caring manner. However, if you are not happy with the gender of the counsellor, you can advise the duty counsellor when you telephone and we will try to locate another counsellor.

Counsellors do not ‘watch’ the medical examination – they are in the room to provide you with support.

7. When will I get the results?

A SARC doctor or nurse will contact you within two weeks of your visit to let you know about the results of blood tests for infection.

8. Can I take a shower after the examination?

SARC has a private bathroom attached to the examination room where you can have a shower and wash your hair. Toiletries and towels are provided. The facilities are appropriate for people with disabilities.

If possible, it is a good idea to bring a change of clothes with you. This is because the clothes you were wearing when the assault occurred will be kept for forensic analysis. SARC is able to supply you with underwear and clothing if required, but these will not be as familiar or comforting as wearing your own clothing.

9. Do I have to tell the police?

If you have already reported to the police, they provide SARC with a special form. The SARC doctor is then required by law to hand over any forensic samples that are taken.

If you have not yet reported then it is entirely your decision whether or not you report to police. SARC doctors can take forensic samples and keep these for up to three months to give you time to decide.

If you decide when you are at SARC that you want police involved, we will help you to contact the Police Sexual Assault Squad.

If you definitely do not want police involved, we will not tell them or try to encourage you to report. Reporting is entirely up to you.

10. Can you use my report to lay criminal charges?

No. Only you can make a report to the police. You can do this by calling the Police Sexual Assault Squad on (08) 9428 1600.

11. How will I know if my drink was spiked?

The most common substance used for drink spiking is alcohol. This may make it difficult for you to be able to tell yourself. If you think you may have had a drink spike, SARC can test for foreign substances up to 72 hours after the spike. We are more likely to get a result the sooner you are seen – preferably within the first 12 hours.

You can prevent your drink being spiked by: 

  • Not leaving your drink unattended
  • Watching if someone else pours your drink 
  • Drinking from cans or bottles that have not been opened
  • Staying close to your friends and leaving together

If someone you are with has had their drink spiked, stay close to them and take them to a safe place. If they are unwell, you should take them to the closest hospital emergency department.

12. I can’t remember what happened – will you be able to tell me if I’ve been sexually assaulted?

The female genital area can heal very rapidly and in most cases there are no signs of sexual activity having taken place. The SARC doctor will tell you if they see anything that might indicate that penetration has occurred, but unfortunately this is rarely the case. At SARC we can screen for sexually transmitted infections and provide prevention against some infections and unwanted pregnancy. Our counsellors will also ensure you are well supported emotionally.

13. Can I wait and see if there is any forensic evidence and then report to police?

No. You must make a report before the SARC doctor can hand over forensic samples to the police for analysis.

Counselling questions

1. Is there a waitlist?

SARC provides counselling from outreach centres throughout the Perth metropolitan area. Sometimes there is a short delay before you will be offered your first appointment. The delays are dependant on the demand in the individual centres but could be up to several weeks.

You will be prioritised if you are 16 years of age or younger or if you are very distressed and waiting for an appointment would not be in your best interests. When you contact SARC, the duty counsellor will ask you a number of questions and this will help us decide how soon you should be offered an appointment. It will also help us to determine whether your needs are best met by SARC or whether you should be seen at another service.

2. How many times do I need to see a counsellor?

SARC provides up to 12-15 counselling sessions with a social worker or psychologist. If it is determined that you should be seen by a clinical psychologist, you could be offered up to 25 sessions.

Some people chose to see their counsellor for every session and some chose to finish the counselling after just a few sessions. Generally people continue with sessions until they feel they have resolved the issue which prompted them to seek counselling.

3. Do I have to talk about things I would rather keep to myself?

No. It is your right to choose what you do or do not want to talk about in counselling. You will not be pressured to reveal information you choose to keep to yourself. It is important that you give your counsellor feedback during sessions. If you are not comfortable talking about a particular topic, then you can tell your counsellor.

In counselling you can talk about the issues that are affecting your life. Your counsellor will encourage you to look at your strengths and work with you to identify better ways for dealing with issues that are concerning you. It is not always relevant to explore what has happened in your past.

4. I have never spoken about this before. Will I have to tell the police?

No, you do not have to report to the police. This is a personal decision that only you can make.

Many people who attend counselling do not initially want to take legal action against the abuser, but sometimes they change their mind. The counsellor will support your decision whatever this may be.

5. Does seeing a counsellor mean I am a failure because I can’t solve my own problems?

No. Seeing a counsellor means that you have the courage and determination to address your problems. Everyone experiences problems from time to time and needs help to resolve them. Some may need to discuss their legal problems with a lawyer or address their dental problems through a visit to a dentist. Seeing a counsellor is no different.

General questions

1. How do I make a referral?

If you have experienced a recent sexual assault, ring the 24-hour SARC crisis line on (08) 6458 1828 or freecall 1800 199 888. You will speak to a duty counsellor who will ask you some questions, tell you about SARC and make a time for you to come to SARC to see a doctor and a counsellor.

If you want to access counselling, you can ring SARC on (08) 6458 1828 between 8.30am and 5.00pm Monday to Friday. The duty counsellor will take down your details and ask you some questions about yourself. The referral will then be discussed at a meeting and you will be notified, usually the following day, if you have been accepted for counselling at SARC.

2. Can I make an appointment for my son/daughter/partner?

Parents and partners, with the best of intentions, want to make an appointment for someone close to them because the person has either been sexually assaulted or because they want to help the person overcome a problem through counselling. The duty counsellor will always ask to speak to the person concerned because it is important to find out if they really want to come to SARC. Sometimes people are not ready to address their issues and it is important to let them make their own decisions about counselling. Counselling will not ‘work’ if the person does not want to be there.

If you need support around the best way to help someone who does not want counselling, even if it appears to you that they need it, our counsellors are happy to speak to you about this. The duty counsellor will ask questions to determine how best to help the person or whether SARC is the right service for them.

3. How long will it be before somebody contacts me?

Outside of business hours, the SARC crisis line is answered by an answering service. Your name and telephone number will be requested. This is sent to the SARC counsellor on duty and they will return your call as soon as possible.

During business hours, two duty counsellors are available to respond immediately to telephone calls.

4. Do I have to pay for the service?

No. All SARC services are free.

5. I am worried that someone will see me come into the building. Is it confidential? 

SARC is located in a confidential building. The name is not displayed outside so people who see you go inside will not know your reason for doing so. SARC also offers a confidential service to its clients. This means that our records are confidential and cannot be accessed by anyone outside of SARC, unless you give your permission.