SARC emergency services

In most situations, what happens after a sexual assault is your choice. You can choose to see a doctor, to go to the Police or to do nothing. However, it is a good idea to see a doctor as soon as possible to make sure any medical issues, such as sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancy (for females) or injuries are addressed. The doctor will be able to provide better care if they know about the assault, but you can choose how much detail you want to tell them.

People coming to SARC after a sexual assault are seen by a SARC doctor and counsellor in a confidential and safe setting. An average length of time spent at SARC is between two and four hours. This allows time for people to talk about their experience at their own pace. The services we provide are carefully explained and people are supported in choosing the services which are right for them. SARC also encourages the support of partners, family or friends at this time.

More information on confidentiality at SARC.

Emergency service (available up to 2 weeks after a sexual assault)
The emergency service is available to people over 13 years who have been sexually assaulted in the past 2 weeks. To access the emergency services, clients must telephone SARC.  Emergency services for people under 13 years are provided by the Child Protection Unit at Perth Children’s Hospital on (08) 6456 0089.

A sexual assault can be extremely traumatic for the survivor. They can experience a range of emotions and find it difficult to make decisions in the short term. However, timing can be extremely important. For example, immediate action can be very important for treatment of injuries, testing and treatment of infections, emergency contraception and gathering of forensic evidence (if this is wanted by the patient). In some cases, forensic evidence may only be available for 24 hours after the assault- so it is important to contact SARC immediately.  After 2 weeks, it is highly unlikely that forensic evidence can be collected.

More information on contacting SARC in an emergency following a sexual assault.

Medical care

Two women in a counselling session

SARC doctors provide free testing, advice and treatment in relation to

  •  the risk of pregnancy
  •  emergency contraception
  •  sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  •  blood-borne infections such as HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C

Forensic care 

SARC doctors DO NOT work for the Police. However, they can perform a forensic examination if the client wants to involve the Police. A forensic examination involves collecting samples of physical evidence (biological, toxicology and clothing). These items can be used in any future court proceedings. Evidence can be collected and stored for 6 months if the client is unsure if they want to report to Police or not. After 6 months, SARC will contact the client to find out if they have made a decision about reporting to Police.

More information on reporting to Police.

Counselling support at emergency appointments

A SARC counsellor is present to support the patient throughout any medical and forensic examination carried out by SARC doctors. Ongoing counselling is also offered following an emergency consultation. Ongoing counselling aims to assist the patient in dealing with the psychological impacts of sexual assault including the symptoms of post-traumatic stress. 

SARC can provide the support of an Aboriginal worker for Aboriginal people and their family, if this is wanted by the client.
Contacting in an emergency after a sexual assault

You can telephone SARC at any time of the day or night following a recent sexual assault.

Telephone (08) 6458 1828
Telephone 1800 199 888 (free call from landlines)

A woman talking on the phone at her workstation

After 4.30pm, your call will be answered by an after-hours service. They will ask your name, contact number and some basic details. If the situation is an emergency, a counsellor will call you back on the number you have provided. During this phone call, you will be asked about the safest way for SARC workers to contact you. If you believe you may be put in danger by receiving mail, phone calls or emails, it is important that you tell the SARC workers so this can be avoided. Client safety is extremely important to SARC.

If the situation is not an emergency, you will be asked to call the SARC office after 8.30am the next day.

If the situation is an emergency, you may be asked to meet a doctor and a counsellor at the SARC building in Subiaco (this includes night times and evenings). The address will be given to you over the telephone. If you are injured  (for example, if you have head injuries, loss of consciousness, significant genital bleeding), you may be asked to go to the Emergency Department of a hospital and the SARC workers will meet  you at the hospital. SARC workers can also see people in inpatient mental health facilities. Further details on finding SARC.

If you are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, SARC workers will arrange to see you at a time when you are sober and coherent. This is for legal reasons- people under the influence of drugs/alcohol cannot legally give consent to receiving a service or treatment.

It is your choice whether you choose to report the sexual assault to Police. You can access SARC services whether you choose to report to Police or not. SARC workers can assist you to report to Police if this is what you would like to happen. You may be unsure if you want to involve the Police or not- you can talk this through with SARC workers if you choose.

More information about SARC services.

A comfy chairA comfy couch and paining on the wallA water cooler

A SARC emergency waiting room.

Reporting to Police
You may decide you want to report the sexual assault or sexual abuse to the police. This is an individual decision which only YOU can make. 

Some of the reasons why people choose to go to the police are:
  • To feel believed 
  • To feel empowered 
  • Because they don’t want it to happen to anyone else 
  • Because they want justice 
  • To let the perpetrator know that what they did was wrong

People also choose NOT to go to the police. This is a personal choice and the reasons for this may be because:

  • They think they will not be believed 
  • They feel humiliated or guilty 
  • They think it’s their fault 
  • They know the person who assaulted or abused them 
  • The person who assaulted or abused them has threatened them if they told anyone 
  • They are afraid to go to court 

You can choose the following:

  • You can choose to do nothing. 
  • If you are unsure about reporting, you can speak to the police informally, either on the telephone or in person. The police will tell you about your options, but they will not do anything unless you want them to. 
  • You can make an informal report. This means the police will write down what happened, however you sign a statement saying that you do not want the matter investigated. 
  • You can make a formal statement. This means a full report of the incident is typed and signed by you when you are satisfied with the contents. A report can take several hours to complete. The police will then investigate the incident. If you change your mind later you must tell the police as soon as possible. However, if the police have already charged someone, you cannot withdraw your statement. During the investigation the police might ask you to take them to the place where you were assaulted so they can gather evidence. They may also interview any witnesses to the assault. 

In Western Australia sexual assault and sexual abuse are ‘crimes against the state’. This means the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions decide whether they have sufficient evidence to prove ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that a crime has occurred. If you make a formal statement to the police, you become a witness to the crime. The police or the Director of Public Prosecutions decides whether they have enough evidence to ‘press charges’. If the police do not lay charges it does not mean that they do not believe you. Sometimes there is not enough evidence for charges to be laid. This can leave people feeling disillusioned and denied justice. It can help to talk about these feelings with a counsellor or advocate.

Going to court can make you feel empowered, but it can also be a confusing and frightening experience. You can talk to someone at Victim Support Services to get information about the court proceedings. Victim Support Services (external link) also have support workers who can go to court with you.

Trials usually take place in the District Court, unless the offender is under 18 years of age. It can take up to two years between the time of the initial report to the police and the trial. Some cases do not go to trial because there is not enough evidence. This does not mean that you were not believed.
Regardless of the outcome of the trial, people often feel better knowing that they were able to speak out about their experience, even if the verdict is 'not guilty'.

SARC staff respect and support ANY decision you make, regardless of whether you decide to go to the police or not.