During a forensic medical examination (FME)

Phoning the sexual assault self-referral phone service

You can phone the sexual assault self-referral phone service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 0800 148 88 88. Calls are free from landlines and mobiles.

You can expect to be at the sexual assault response co-ordination service (SARCS) clinic for 2 to 3 hours, but much of this time will be spent talking you through what each step will involve and answering any questions you may have.

When you talk to the healthcare professional at the SARCS ahead of your appointment, they can give you more information about what to expect.

Remember that you can stop or pause the examination at any time, whether you want to end the process altogether or need a short break.

You can choose to consent to some parts of the examination and refuse others.

Throughout the process the healthcare professionals will ensure that you are fully informed and in control, and you’ll be made as comfortable as possible for the entire process.

What happens during a forensic medical examination (FME)?

The healthcare professional at the SARCS will discuss the examination procedure with you. They’ll be happy to answer any questions you have in your own time.

There are a number of steps in an FME. You can consent to some or all of these steps.

First, you’ll be asked for details of what happened to you in order to ensure the most appropriate physical evidence is recorded. The information will be noted down by the healthcare professional. They’ll give you the time and space you need to give as much information as you feel able.

Next, there will be a physical examination. During your examination, the healthcare professional will make you as comfortable as possible. If you feel uncomfortable at any time during your examination, or need a break, you can let them know.

Both intimate samples and non-intimate samples can be taken during an examination. If you don’t want a sample to be taken, you can say no.

Intimate samples are taken from your genitals (vagina, vulva, penis, testicles, or anus).

Non-intimate samples come from other parts of your body, such as your mouth or fingernails.

If you have any physical injuries (bruises, for example) these will be documented at the start of the examination.

The FME will include the collection of a number of samples. This may include:

  • a urine sample
  • skin, hand and fingernail swabs
  • mouth swabs
  • a mouth rinse
  • any clothes you’ve been advised to bring to your appointment
  • any pads, tampons, or condoms you’ve been advised to bring to your appointment

During the examination photographs and measurements of injuries may be taken.

After the examination any health related follow-up appointments or care required will be arranged for you.

Samples will be stored for 26 months from the date of your FME. This is called a ‘retention period’.

Your forensic samples will remain securely stored and untested in the SARCS for the retention period unless you contact the service to dispose of them sooner, or you choose to make a report to the police.

Learn more about the retention period

Last updated:
27 February 2023