What is the Forensic Medical Services Act and what does it do?
The Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Act 2021 is a change in the law which came in to effect on 1st April 2022.
The Act changes the way that survivors can access Forensic Medical Exams (FMEs) after rape or sexual assault.
What is a Forensic Medical Examination (FME)?
An FME is an examination performed by a specially trained healthcare professional to collect forensic evidence after a rape or sexual assault. You can usually access an FME for up to 7 days after the assault(s). After this window, it is unlikely (but not impossible) that evidence could be gathered.
Self-referral. As of 1st April 2022: Survivors over the age of 16 can self-refer for FMEs, meaning that you don't need to make any immediate decisions about whether to report to the police.
How to access an FME: Forensic Medical Examinations (FMEs) can be accessed through the NHS Sexual Assault Response Coordination Service (SARCS). You can refer yourself to SARCS by calling their dedicated number, free from landlines and mobiles. 0800 148 88 88 (available 24/7). SARCS will also meet your other immediate healthcare needs, such as emergency contraception, and refer you to support services like ours.
Why is self-referral so important?
Making the decision about whether or not to report a rape or sexual assault can be really difficult, but forensic evidence is time-sensitive. Self-referral means that you can make sure forensic evidence is captured and wait to make a decision until you are ready. For many years, survivors - including the Survivor Reference Group - as well as organisations such as Rape Crisis Scotland, have campaigned to improve forensic responses to rape and sexual assault. We want to pay tribute to everyone who has made this change possible.
Remember: No one should ever pressure you in to reporting to the police. Rape Crisis advocacy workers can talk you through your options and what to expect if you're thinking of reporting. We're here for you, no matter what. Our helpline is open 5pm - midnight, every night. Call: 08088 01 03 02. Email: [email protected]. Text: 07537 410 027.
More Information on the NHS SARCS service can be found at www.nhsinform.scot/sarcs