Since I made a comment on twitter about having a forensic examination, I have had quite a few messages about it and so I have decided to write this. Just in case someone who might happen across this page needs it.
I’m not sure I’m going to be able to put much emotion in to it – I think it will be more of a narrative of what happened as I’m still going through emotions.
I haven’t put this anywhere as I haven’t felt up to it but one of the people who originally attacked me did so again last week. It was my fault, I was naive in my actions of actually speaking to him again and so can’t really say anymore than that.
The one thing I have slight regret over the initial attack was that I never had any proof of it. In retrospect, I think I would have done the same thing in that particular scenario (just due to some other factors) but it has always been a niggle at the back of my mind. So when this happened, I did pretty much the opposite.
Firstly, once I had composed myself (took a good few hours), I called a local sexual assault referral centre (SARC) and said I had been attacked and didn’t know what to do. It was late at night and the woman who answered was very nice and said there was a crisis worker there but she was just with someone but would call me back as soon as she could.
Within 10 minutes, I got a call back and again the woman was very nice and explained my options and asked what I wanted to do:
- I could go in around 2am and see a doctor for an examination
- I could wait until the morning and make an appointment for the next day
- I could go to a local a&e
- I could go to my GP the next day
Personally, I knew I wouldn’t get any sleep and also wanted to go somewhere specialist to try to keep the pain (emotionally) to a minimum and so I decided to take the middle of night appointment.
When I arrived, I was met by the woman I spoke on the phone to. She was very calming and gentle and non-intrusive. She took me in to a nondescript room with some chairs and a table and we went through a form she had to fill in. This was just basics like name, gp name, any disabilities etc – I did mention at this point about the PTSD and my involvement with the cmht (didn’t see any point in withholding this info).
Once she had done that, she explained she was going to get the doctor who would want to ask a few more questions and explain what they could do.
The doctor was really nice as well and her opening words were ‘i’m sorry we are meeting under these circumstances’. Now I know this is probably something they are taught but it did make me feel like I wasn’t being patronised. She explained to me about the confidentiality and that if she thought someone or myself was at risk, then she would have to tell the relevant people – but she would inform me of this first.
Then the Dr. asked a few of the same questions as before but asked for a bit more detail (eg about my ptsd). She kept asking if I was ok and if at any point I wanted a break to just tell them. I was shivering (even though it was really warm in the room) and she said it looked a bit like shock. And then once the easy questions were out the way, the bit I had been dreading…….”so in your own time tell me what brought you here tonight”. She prompted me for certain information telling me that it was needed because if she was going to examine me, she would be able to be guided.
It was incredibly difficult and I actually surprised myself at how little I remembered – I felt a complete failure for this – how could I have forgotten??? She assured me it was normal and not to worry.
Next came the options of what I wanted to happen next:
- Have an examination to make sure everything was ok (both externally and internally)
- Access the after care support system, and leave with the morning after pill but no examination
- A full forensic examination – this would consist of a top to toe external exam and an internal
I honestly didn’t know what to choose. I really didn’t feel in a place where I could make a sound decision and so went for option 3 based on the logic that I could decide never to use that evidence but if I didn’t have it then the option was gone completely (ok, so it was logical in my head). I was assured it was a good decision but never once was I felt pushed or coerced in to it, it was all me!
The Dr then went away to prepare the room and I sat with the crisis worker for a few minutes. She asked if I was ok, that she couldn’t offer me a drink but if I needed anything else to ask. I told her that I felt bad that I hadn’t sat crying when I was asked about it and felt guilty that I wasn’t in pieces (like you see on tv programs). She said it was one of the biggest myths that people come in like that and she saw more people like me and there wasn’t a right or wrong way to react and so shouldn’t feel guilty over that.
Then the Dr came in to say she was ready. And this was the clinical part – we went in to the room with the examination bed, curtain, light and other medical stuff. I immediately tensed up and thought what am I doing here, putting myself through this after what has happened. I was asked to strip to my underwear and put the paper gown on (this was behind the curtain not in front of them) and then given a blanket to wrap around me as well.
And then the methodical examination started. 2 swabs were taken in my mouth (with like a large cotton bud, nothing to be worried about) and then I was asked to take 2 saline solutions in my mouth, gargle and spit it back in to a container. Next it was my scalp and head that was examined and then I had an injury on my neck which was measured and again 2 swabs taken of the area (also of the other side of my neck where there was no injury so it could be compared)
Then I was asked to take one arm out of the gown at a time and any marks were noted, measured and swabbed. Then my back, legs, and tummy. It was all done in a very humane way – in that my dignity was being preserved in as much as is possible in the situation.
The next part was the bit I had obviously been dreading, the internal. I was asked if I wanted to take a break, but I just wanted it over and done with. The crisis worker moved to the top of the bed and asked if I wanted to hold her hand – I said no thanks. The Dr. explained everything she was doing and said it was just like a smear but as soon as it started I just started to cry. It was over very quickly and both of them were extremely encouraging and nice about everything.
And that was it. All in all, the examination part took around 20 mins. I could get dressed and they got me a glass of water (apparently I wasn’t allowed to drink in case it contaminated anything in my mouth). I then sat with the doctor again who explained what would happen with the samples (they would literally just be stored and not allowed to be used without my consent for around 7 years and then they would be destroyed). I was also given the morning after pill and told that due to my ptsd background and the fact I lived alone, she was going to notify the safeguarding team about me. I had no idea what that is and at that point didn’t really care – I just wanted to get home. (I spoke to my cc about it today and she said she would get a call from them and not to worry, she would deal with it – it’s not something I am willing to engage in and so why she has never mentioned it to me before now).
Overall I was there for about 2 hours and I was given names and number of helplines and sti clinics and told someone would call me within the next week to see if I wanted to access the counselling services but in the meantime if I needed anything to call them.
I guess the point of this post (because trust me, it hasn’t been an easy one to write) is to say there really isn’t anything scary about going for a forensic examination – they treat you with a lot of respect, never question you in terms of belief and make you feel as at ease as possible given the circumstances which you are there. So please, I really hope you don’t find yourself in this position – but if you do, go a long and get the help that is available!!
If this helps just one person, then it is worth the pain of writing it!!