Getting help for sexual violence and abuse

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Health Assured team

04 February 2022

Please note that this article covers the sensitive topic of sexual violence and abuse 

Sexual abuse and sexual violence awareness week is just around the corner. So we wanted to take the time to acknowledge the people who have experienced this devastating assault.

If you’ve been through this, remember that you’re not alone. There are many different support options out there, which we offer a little more guidance on below. It might feel really tough right now but know that these feelings won’t last forever. The tips below should help you navigate this difficult time. 


Medical help

It’s important to seek medical help as soon as possible as you might be at risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The quicker you get a screening, the better. These infections can have a big impact on your overall health.

When these infections get found sooner, treatment can begin straight away. If there’s a risk you might have HIV or Hepatitis B, then Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) treatment can reduce the chances of you contracting the viruses. However, treatment must start as quickly as possible after the attack, so remember to seek help as soon as possible. It might feel like a difficult step to take, but it’s essential you take care of yourself right now. 


Sexual assault referral centres 

There are Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC) across the UK, which offer practical, medical, and emotional support to anyone who’s been raped or sexually assaulted. You can find your nearest centre on the NHS website

At the centre, you can speak to a range of professionals, specially trained in dealing with cases of sexual abuse or assault. You can speak to a nurse or doctor to get medical help, pregnancy tests, tests for sexually transmitted infections and emergency contraception. There is the option to have a forensic medical examination here too. You don’t have to have one, but it can provide useful evidence if you think you might go to the police. Some of the centres also offer emotional support services like counselling and aftercare services. 

The clinic is confidential (unless there’s a concern that you or someone else is at risk of harm). However, if there’s a criminal prosecution or investigation into the assault, information could become disclosable in court. You don’t have to report anything to the police unless you decide you want to. 

At the centre, you’ll be able to speak to people who know what you’re going through. So this can be useful, especially if you aren’t yet comfortable telling your family or friends about what’s happened just yet. 


Getting the support you need 

Gaining mental support is just as important as getting physical support. Rape and sexual violence can happen to anyone, and it can leave you feeling isolated, fearful, confused, and shocked. People deal with trauma like this in different ways, there’s no right or wrong way to react to what’s happened. Sometimes it can help to speak to someone who understands.

There are many different sexual abuse and violence helplines out there offering support from specialist mental health professionals. We’ve provided links to these different helplines below, but this isn’t exhaustive. And there are other routes to counselling support too. You can access counselling services through your GP or via the NHS talking therapies service


Charities that can help

Many different organisations do incredible work raising awareness around sexual abuse and violence. Their continued support is available, and it can help you work through any difficult emotions you might have. 

Rape & Sexual Abuse Support Centre – provides a national freephone helpline and free counselling. They have lots of information on dealing with rape, sexual abuse and childhood sexual abuse. 

Rape Crisis – provides specialist support at centres across the UK, a live chat helpline and information on coping. 

Support Line – provides a confidential helpline aimed at those who are socially isolated, vulnerable and victims of any form of abuse. 

Victim Support – provides help on coping with the impact of a crime, advice on going to court and peer support groups.

Survivors UK – provides support to male victims of self-abuse including a national online helpline, Independent Sexual Violence Advisors services and group work. 

Women’s Aid – provides support to women suffering from or have suffered from domestic abuse. They offer a support worker service, a survivor’s handbook and a community forum. 


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