Your options following sexual assault
Your options following an assault
As a survivor of a recent sexual assault or family violence assault there are various options available to you.
1. Support organisations
You can seek information, advice or counselling from a Sexual Assault or Family Violence Support organisation.
2. Medical examination
You can have a medical examination. This can include assessment and treatment of injuries and provision of emergency contraception and antibiotics for STI if needed.
3. Forensic Medical Examination (FME)
You can also choose to have a Forensic Medical Examination (FME). As well as a medical examination this will involve recording of injuries and collection of biological samples which can be used as evidence. You can have an FME without reporting the assault to the police.
4. Report to the police
You can report the assault to the police for information only (informal) or for investigation (formal). Learn about the difference on our reporting to police page.
5. Don't report to the police
You can choose not to report the assault to the police.
6. Any combination of the above
You can choose several of the above options to support you as a survivor of a recent sexual assault or family violence.
7. To do nothing at all
You can choose not to do anything.
Forensic Medical Examinations (FME)
What is an FME?
Forensic Medical Examinations are a free service provided at Royal Hobart Hospital, Launceston General Hospital and the North West Regional Hospital. All Tasmanian hospitals are able to refer you if you need help. An FME is done to document injuries and to collect evidence that may be used in a court.
FMEs are done by qualified Forensic Examiners, doctors or nurses/midwives who have been trained in the field of forensic evidence gathering. The FME record is kept separate from your medical records and only released with your consent.
A Forensic Medical Examination cannot confirm or deny whether a sexual assault took place.
What do I need to do?
If you have had a recent sexual assault and are going to have a forensic examination and/or report to the police there are some things you can do to make it more likely that evidence will be collected. If possible:
- Don’t wash or have a shower
- Don’t change your clothes
- Don’t eat, drink or clean your teeth
- Don’t go to the toilet
What happens at an FME?
If you choose to have an FME the Forensic Examiner will meet with you to explain what will happen during the examination. You will be asked to sign a consent form to proceed. Your consent can be withdrawn at any time, it is up to you.
The Forensic Examiner will ask you about the assault and what happened to you in order to guide the examination. They will then check your body for any injuries, and take swabs and samples if necessary. They will explain what they are doing at each step and you may decline any or all parts of the examination at any stage if you wish. You will be offered emergency contraception and STI treatment and follow up if required.
Will the police be involved?
A FME can be done with or without a report to the police. The samples will be stored until you decide whether you would like to proceed with a report. They will not be processed or released to the police without your consent.
Is there a time limit?
The sooner an FME is done, the more likely it is that evidence will be collected. Ideally an FME should be done within 24 hours of the assault. However, examinations can be done up to 7 days after the assault in some cases.
Even if you are unsure whether to proceed with a report to the police, having the FME done will give you more options in the future.
How do I get an FME?
If you choose to have an FME you can arrange one by contacting either the Emergency Department at any hospital, Tasmania Police, or one of the Crisis Support Organisations listed on our where to find support page.