[Svrilist] UK Victims Of Rape, Especially Children, Failed By Lack Of Referral Centres And Experienced Doctors

svrilist at mrc.ac.za svrilist at mrc.ac.za
Wed May 17 08:27:49 SAST 2006

UK Victims Of Rape, Especially Children, Failed By Lack Of Referral
Centres And Experienced Doctors

Article Date: 15 May 2006 -

A study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Clinical Forensic
Medicine examined the availability of Sexual Assault Referral Centres
(SARCs) in the UK and compared their services with each other and with
non-SARC police victim examination suites. A SARC is a model service
established to address the forensic and therapeutic needs arising
following sexual assault.

The study was set up by Mary Pillai, a Consultant Gynaecologist and
Forensic Sexual Assault Examiner at Cheltenham General Hospital, and
Sheila Paul, a Forensic Physician for Thames Valley Police and general
practitioner, after learning from concerned colleagues that services to
complainants were becoming increasingly disparate across the UK. The
organisation of a forensic medical examination following a complaint of
sexual assault has traditionally been a police responsibility with the
main focus being the forensic element and varied attention given to the
medical needs arising for complainants. There are however, other
therapeutic considerations at the initial examination and subsequently, if
physical and psychological sequelae are to be minimised and recovery

The results of the study showed that complainants of sexual assault in the
UK, especially children, face wide differences in forensic and medical
services between SARCs and non-SARC facilities. It also revealed that
there is a severe shortage of experienced doctors willing to do this work,
and in many no, some areas only male doctors are available. Some areas,
including those served by SARCs, have so few doctors that they cannot
provide a rota, or 24/7 cover for examinations, resulting in long waits
for an examination. For children identified acutely following a sexual
assault there is virtually no service available.

Although there was some variation in services between SARCs, all offered
better all-round services to complainants than non-SARC facilities,
providing attendees with all the forensic and medical care they need,
under one roof in most cases or being able to easily refer on for such
care if not In the non-SARC services, lack of co-operative working with
local health services, lack of equipment, and lack of formal medical
follow up arrangements is the norm The lack of health funding and
facilities to address the health consequences of sexual crime is most
extreme in the non-SARC services, with many areas relying on the good will
of a small number of doctors to provide a comprehensive service under less
than ideal circumstances, often with great difficulty and often without a

Ideally, any complainant would be served by a SARC offering 24/7, full
holistic forensic and medical care, working closely with the forensic
medical examiner and the police. Nevertheless, in 2005 there were only 13
SARCs in England and Wales for more than 60,000 sexual offences recorded
by police, of which 14,000 were offences of rape

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