Questions about assessments after a recent sexual assault

How do I get an appointment for an assessment after a recent sexual assault?

You can access our services in many ways:

  • Ask the Police to refer you
  • Ask your GP, Family Planning Clinic, or Sexual Health Clinic to refer you
  • Ask the Hospital or 24 Hour Surgery to refer you
  • Ask Oranga Tamariki (previously known as CYFs) to refer you
  • Phone the Sexual Assault Support Service Canterbury (SASSC) 24/7 support line on 03 377 5402 24
  • Ask the Safe to Talk sexual harm hotline to refer you to us
  • Phone us at the Cambridge Clinic on 03 366 0067 or complete the online callback request form (Please note this service is only monitored during office hours)

    The quickest way to get a medical examination after a recent sexual assault is to contact Christchurch Police urgently on 03 363 7400 and discuss your options with them. 

    First you can talk to the police about what’s happened and about your choices. The police will then arrange an appointment at the Cambridge Clinic for you. If you want it, a police investigation may follow. But you can also decide you don’t want further police action.

    Someone else can phone if you can’t. We accept phone calls from anybody. You can phone us yourself, or any person you choose can contact us.

    Our service spans the Canterbury and West Coast regions. If you are outside of these regions, there are similar services operating throughout New Zealand, the SAATSLink website will help you find your nearest sexual assault medical service.

What are your choices after a recent sexual assault?
  • You can choose to have a forensic assessment and talk to the police about your options
  • If you don’t know whether you want to talk to the police, but want to leave your options open, that’s OK. We can do a forensic assessment, but instead of giving this evidence to the police we can safely store it for you until you have decided what you want to do.
  • You can choose to have a medical assessment only, but not involve the police.
What services are available at an assessment after a recent sexual assault?
  • We can perform a forensic assessment (gathering evidence for the police)
  • We can give you emergency contraception
  • We can screen and treat you for sexually transmitted infections, and offer preventative treatment
  • We can help with immediate crisis support (refuges/safe accommodation)
  • We can help you arrange counselling
  • We can refer you to other support services (support groups, court support services and ACC)
Who can be seen for an assessment?

At the Cambridge Clinic we will see anybody 13 years old and over, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability or residential status. (For children age 12 years and under other services are available)

When will the assessment take place?

We provide a 24 hour on-call service for urgent medical and forensic assessments following a recent sexual assault. We will work out when is the best time to see you and offer you an appointment time.

Where will the assessment take place?

It will happen at the Cambridge Clinic on Bealey Avenue, Christchurch. Our clinic is set up specifically for providing sexual assault medical services.

Who will be present at the assessment?

There will be a specially trained doctor and nurse at appointments. Currently all of our doctors and nurses are female, but are equally comfortable dealing with both male and female victims. We can also arrange for a support person from Sexual Assault Service Canterbury (SASSC) to attend, but it’s up to you if they are present during the examination. The police won’t be present during the assessment.

Can I bring someone to the appointment with me?

It is often easier to talk openly with as few people present as possible, but you’re welcome to bring someone with you for support if you wish (friend, relative or member of your whanau). If you don’t want them there during parts of the assessment, that’s fine.

Do I need to bring anything with me?

Bring along any clothing you were wearing when you were assaulted. Often we will collect your clothing when we do a forensic assessment, so you may want to bring a spare change of clothing with you. However, we also have new clothes at the clinic we can give you.

What happens at an appointment after a recent sexual assault?

The doctor will usually start by asking about your medical health, treatments you are on, contraception, and your menstrual and sexual history. The doctor needs this information so they can look after your health needs. But they won’t pass it on to the police, even if you decide to report the assault to them. They will also ask you about any symptoms you have.

The doctor will ask you about the details of the sexual assault. However, they don’t need to know every detail, just enough to help decide what sort of examination they need to do.

Then, if you are comfortable, the doctor will examine you. Not everybody needs the same sort of examination. The doctor may suggest performing an examination of your body including your genital area. They will make sure you feel safe and keep everything as private as possible. You can stop at any time you wish.

During the examination the doctor may collect evidence. This can include swabs taken for semen and saliva, urine and blood tests, clothing and hair samples. The police will collect this evidence and scientists will examine it and provide the results and a report to the police.

The doctor will then, if possible treat and provide advice on any injuries you may have. However, if you have any serious injuries such as broken bones and head injuries you may need to be assessed and treated at hospital. The doctor will help with any concerns you have about pregnancy and infection (chlamydia, gonorrhoea, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, syphilis). The doctor give you information on how you can get counselling and help from other support services.

Can I have an assessment done if I'm sure I don't want any police involvement?

Of course. The doctors at the Cambridge Clinic will be happy to deal with your medical and psychological needs and not perform any sort of forensic assessment.

How long will the appointment take?

Appointments can take different amounts of time. They are usually about one to two hours, but may be longer

Is there anything I can do to protect forensic evidence before an assessment?

The sooner you are seen after a sexual assault, the more likely it is that we’ll be able to collect forensic evidence to help with a police investigation. However, we understand that people are often don’t want to get help straight away. We often see people for a forensic assessment up to seven days after. If you do wait, there are some things you can do to make sure we get as much forensic evidence as possible:

  • Avoid washing, showering or bathing
  • If you need to urinate press your underwear to your vagina or penis before going to the toilet and avoid wiping afterwards.
  • If you have been anally assaulted, and need to poo, press your underwear to your anus before going to the toilet and avoid wiping afterwards.
  • Keep the clothing you were wearing at the time of the assault and don’t wash it.

Even if you haven’t done this, there may still be some forensic evidence and it’s still worth being seen for an assessment. Also, remember we offer services other than just forensic assessment.

Will I be seen again after the appointment?

You will be offered a follow up appointment at the Cambridge Clinic or you may prefer to see your own family doctor/GP.

If examination was normal does that mean a sexual assault didn't happen?

No. Many people think that there are always injuries to the genital or other areas after a sexual assault, which the doctor will be able to see. But this isn’t necessarily the case. There are several reasons why you may not have visible injuries after an assault. For example:

  • The type of contact that happened, for example touching, kissing, doesn’t cause injury.
  • Your genital tissues are stretchy and allow things to go inside without necessarily causing an injury
  • A small injury happened, but it healed by the time you were examined.
Does the Cambridge Clinic keep my information confidential?

If you are reporting to the police then the doctor will need to give them some information. This will include what you told the doctor about the events of the sexual assault and any relevant examination findings. The doctor will not give the police the other information you provide about your medical health, contraception, menstrual, and sexual history. This information is only for the doctor, so they can look after your health needs.

With your permission, the Cambridge Clinic will send a brief letter to your GP.

We will keep all information about you confidential, unless you give us permission to pass information on. We are required by law to disclose information if we have serious concerns about your or somebody else’s health.