Answers to common questions
What is a Forensic Medical Examination (FME)?
A Forensic Medical examination is offered to people who have been recently sexually assaulted (within the last 72 hours) and the person who has been assaulted wants to take legal action against the alleged perpetrator.
The Forensic Medical Examination will be conducted by a Forensic Medical Officer (FMO) who has special training for gathering evidence of the crime such as i.e. semen, skin and body fluids.
The FMO will explain what is involved in the examination.
– You have right to have a support person or nurse in the room while the forensic examination is conducted.
– You have the right to change your mind about having a forensic examination at any time before or during the examination.
The WestCASA Counsellor/Advocate can support you during this process and will advocate on your behalf with the FMO and other medical people who work in the hospital.
If I decide to take legal action what will that may mean for me?
If you decide to take legal action, it usually means that you need to make a statement to the police and need to have a Forensic Medical Examination (see above) by a Forensic Medical Officer who will be looking for evidence i.e. semen, skin, body fluids to support the legal case.
According to the nature of the crime, your clothes that you were wearing at the time may be kept as evidence. You will be provided with other clothes by the WestCASA Counsellor/Advocate.
At the completion of the legal action your clothes will be returned to you, however this may take up to a couple of years. Making a police statement will allow the police to assess if there is enough evidence to investigate the crime you have reported.
What are the common reactions to a recent sexual assault?
It is normal to have reactions to a traumatic event. Human beings process their information on 3 different levels; Cognitive (thinking), emotional (feeling) and sensory (body/physical). Therefore, it’s likely that you will have thoughts, feelings and physical reactions to the recent sexual assault.
The majority of people say that they froze with fear during their sexual assault experience. Even though this freeze/immobility response is a survival mechanism, it creates a lot of guilt among the sexual assault victim/survivors.
People may have other symptoms such as feeling shaky or jelly-like in their body, feeling anxious and hyper-alert. Some experience flashbacks, sleeping problems or nightmares. Please see trauma symptoms sheet.
Even though some trauma reactions are common to most victim/survivors, every individual response is different. The majority of victim/survivors say that their trauma symptoms change and subside over time.
What can I do to care for myself immediately after the sexual assault?
Give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling and experiencing.
Trauma creates changes in our body, mind and emotions. They are a natural response to the trauma. Seek help to understand these changes and ways to manage them.
Contact with WestCASA or a CASA in your region.
Many people think that they need to talk about their sexual assault in detail to recover. This is a myth and is not true. Counselling often means working on managing the trauma symptoms and regaining a sense of control.
Talk to trusted people and share your feelings.
Connecting to others may help you feel supported.
Give yourself permission to have ‘me time’ to recover; rather than ‘soldiering on’.
Care for your body.
If you choose not to report the sexual assault to police, your GP or CASA services, you can talk to the triage nurse from Melbourne Sexual Health Centre (03 9341 6200, 580 Swanston Street, Carlton)
You can be checked out for any internal injuries, STD’s, HIV or other diseases. Melbourne Sexual Health Centre provides a sensitive, non-judgemental and confidential service to individuals.